Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Must-have Baby Items

I have a feeling that this is going to be a series post, as I can never make a comprehensive list in one try, but I have several pregnant or new-mom friends, and I keep referring them to the same products. I might as well compile them! Prerequisite every baby and every mom is different, blah blah blah, but these were my favorite or life-saving items with Shubu.

Fisher Price Rock and Play Sleeper
Shubu slept in this every night until she was almost six months old. I think the angle prevented reflux, plus the mesh sides made it almost like a snug little hammock. The only thing that I disliked about this was that I could not turn her head to one side or the other, and she naturally wanted to turn her head to the right. This led to the beginnings of plagiocephaly, but we carefully positioned her at other times and gave her lots of tummy time and baby-wearing time, and her little coconut is as round as can be today. I loved that this could easily be brought into the living room, so I could sleep on the couch with her if my husband needed more sleep.
Ergo Baby Carrier
I. Love. My. Ergo. I am very "into" wearing my baby. Although I somewhat agree with the philosophies behind attachment parenting, I really do it because I enjoy it. I love to bend my head and kiss her soft hair, or look into her eyes when we pass something exciting on the street. I'd rather have her stuck to my belly or back while I walk the dog or do errands than in another seat. That said, I have tried the BabyBjorn Air (gave me back pain), the Moby (jeez, not enough time in the day to get it wrapped- though nice for new newborns), and a Hotsling (loved it, till I lost 30 pounds and mine was too big). The Ergo is the most comfortable, even with a 20 pounder! The only drawback in my opinion, is that it is too bulky to be very portable. I can't just stuff it in my diaper bag like a sling.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

My Little Dr. Johnson

It has occurred to me that I am not being nearly obnoxious enough about my child's precocious vocabulary skills. At ten months, of course she says "Mama" (of course). But she is also spouting out many other gems, and she's quite the polyglot! Here's the current list:

Bah - short for "Bah, humbug"; she's quite the little curmudgeon
Pff - also indicates she is unimpressed by your offering
Fa - a long, long way to run
Oh - a noncommittal acknowledgement that you have spoken
Ew - a term of disgust
Oaf - she really doesn't worry about your feelings, does she?

Maman - Mama
Bas - low, like in "bas relief"
Eau - water
Oeuf - egg

I mean, honestly, have you ever encountered such a bright child in all of your days? She's a walking dictionary!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Board Game Covers

This might be on the anal-retentive side, but I did not like looking at the hodge podge of board game boxes on my living room shelf (ok, it is definitely on the anal-retentive side).

So I decided to cover the boxes with plain craft paper and put coordinating labels and ribbon wrapping on them. We also had some plain white boxes from Ikea that fit in our Expedit shelving system. The boxes were a bit boring, and frankly, too shiny for my taste. I covered the front facet with fabric and Mod Podge, and then attached the metal hardware. It was tough to pry off the metal that wrapped the handle-holes, but not too difficult to hammer them back on. I think the shelf looks much better with the navy and green accents. Sadly, I didn't take any "during" photos, but both of these projects are pretty easy to figure out without them.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Dumb and Dumber is NOT a Compliment

Did someone show my child Dumb and Dumber today? Because she's been making the most annoying sound in the world for three straight hours. Through bath time, dinner, and a one mile walk in an effort to distract her from doing this:

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Siren Song of Perfume Samples and Ten Tips to Please My Man

I have a total magazine addiction. I love glossy magazines and their bite-sized exhortations to tone my flabby thighs (and color them orange; no one likes vampire legs), to find a hidden, secret erogenous zone on my lover (hint: it's his penis!), to cook a simple eighty-five ingredient meal in my slow cooker, to finally organize my wrapping paper closet, or to get the most out of my infant's tummy time (try playing your iPod to drown out the blood-curdling screams!).

Even though few of the articles in my copious magazines have any bearing on my real life, I just love to curl up in bed with them. The shiny, slick pages full of attractive people have that terrific department store-cum-stationery smell, and I can pretend that I am so going to buy the $34 lip gloss they recommend. In fact, I might actually buy the $34 lip gloss, only to later realize that I don't actually wear lip gloss. Oops. Same goes for kicky little "shooties" (really, guys? Shooties?) or Oprah's Favorite tumbled organic ostrich skin iPad cover. I'm totally not the demographic for this stuff. But is anyone really buying it?
Wow, it was freakishly easy to find an image for Oprah + iPad + favorite

Currently, I receive Us Weekly, O the Oprah Magazine, Self, Marie Claire (two of these each month, don't know why), Esquire, and Glamour... and in six to eight weeks, Parenting: The Early Years. It was on Zulily for a song. At least that one won't tell me that I'm fat or convince me to buy anything; only that I am a horrible parent and my child is surely well below average, but hey, I already knew that.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

"It Changes Everything"

How does motherhood change you? Let me count the ways. I'm watching Curiosity: Life Before Birth, and the three week old embryo's poppy seed-sized heart beat and tiny limb buds made me tear up. Before motherhood, that would have totally skeeved me out.

Tradiiiiiiiiition! (Picture Me Singing that in a Shtetl)

Dinner, A Love Story is one of those blogs that I forget to check in on for a few weeks, then have an awesome marathon session when I get back to it. If I had to classify it, it's a food and meal-centered blog (duh), but the author, Jenny, also shares stories about her family and life. One of her little girls just turned seven, with the most amazing Japanese themed birthday party. Candy sushi? Ninja headbands and tagging games? I was never that cool as a kid.

Something that caught my attention was that they have several traditions surrounding birthdays, including a pass-the-parcel game played at parties, and an annual choosing-of-the-birthday-dinner-restaurant. One of the commenters asked when traditions should be started with kids. This is a question I have been asking myself since I was first pregnant with Shubu. I don't recall growing up with a lot of family traditions, and I'd love to have holiday traditions with my children. I'm also insanely practical, and I know that a lot of what happens in the next year or two won't be remembered. I didn't get Shubu an Easter basket this year (though someone else did), but we did dress up for Halloween, and in themed outfits for St. Patrick's Day and Valentine's Day. We will be spending Christmas at my sister-in-law's house this year, so should I start traditions now, like new jammies opened on Christmas Eve, or a special Christmas book read every night in December, or wait until we are doing it at our home when she is almost two?

I'm also thinking about her first birthday coming up in January. A big birthday bash would obviously be for the benefit of the adults, but I'm not quite curmudgeonly enough to just skip it. I've considered having a small party at our home with just relatives, take-out food, and a little cake (which Allergy Queen won't get to taste). Even that gives me the familiar wedding/baby-shower vibe that smacks of "buy us gifts!" But I'd like to start birthday traditions, and eating your dinner off of the red "You Are Special Today" plate and being spoiled by grandparents is definitely a family tradition.

What traditions do you have in your family? What will you be sharing with, or starting for your children?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Cooking for Baby: Vegetable Stock

I decided to make a baked potato soup in my slow cooker, and that inspired me to finally make a veggie stock to use in baby purees while I was at it.

First, I sweated a mirepoix in a little olive oil. Then I added chopped garlic and leeks, and about 2 quarts of cold water. I brought it to a simmer and cooked it for about 30 minutes. Unlike beef, chicken, or lamb stocks, it's generally not a good idea to cook vegetable stocks for a long time. Since it was for the baby, I didn't add any salt (blech; a little boring to taste while cooking).

Well. I think that it turned out well, and I made some butternut squash to puree with the stock. I thought, "Oh, fresh, homemade food! Shubu will be so excited!" To the contrary; she turned her head, blew raspberries, and refused to eat more than one bite. She also refused to eat her favorite jarred carrots, as well, so I'm trying not to take it personally. Maybe tomorrow she will eat with gusto. Otherwise... anyone want six cups of frozen vegetable stock?


The potato soup was much better received. I adapted a recipe from the Crock Pot Girls on Facebook. Super simple and delicious. Into the cooker for 4 hours on high:
8 medium peeled and cubed Idaho potatoes
32 oz chicken stock
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 slices of bacon, chopped
1 gob of butter (maybe 2 tablespoons)
1 crap-ton of salt and pepper (maybe that's just my preference) (that's a crap-tonne, if you're British)

After 3.5 hours, slip in some sliced leeks (or green onions).

When 4 hours have passed, add 8 oz of heavy cream and take your potato masher to the lot. I like to leave a few big cubes of potato, and then a handful of shredded cheddar. Absolutely divine. And totally heart healthy.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Well, They're No Schweddy Balls

I got a hankering to make cake balls the other day (really, this happens every time I get a cake pop from Starbucks), but I wanted something with an autumnal flair. I decided I wanted pumpkin cake balls, but I still wanted to use a mix. I rarely wing it while baking, since the time in ninth grade I tried to woo a boy with my homemade biscuits. Since I was out of baking soda, I just used baking powder instead. HARBLES! They were metallic little hockey pucks. Needless to say, no date.

I picked up a box of Duncan Hines carrot cake mix and a can of Libby's pumpkin. I used the pumpkin in place of most of the water called for with the mix, plus the listed 3 eggs and 2/3 cup oil. For good measure I added a splash of vanilla and a healthy 3 shakes of pumpkin pie spice.

Now, as a cake, this was moist and  pretty awesome. I would add a little sugar to this if I were going to do it just as a cake or cupcakes, but since I was planning to add frosting and chocolate, that would have been too zooky. For cake balls, I think it was actually a little too moist, and I would suggest omitting the splash of water that I threw in with the pumpkin.

Next, I crumbled the junk outta that cake. I cut it into 1" by 1" squares in the pan, then crumbled it with my fingers. I mixed in an entire can of cream cheese flavored frosting, and attempted to form balls. The cake and frosting mixture was so wet, I could just scoop out tablespoons and glop them onto my waxpapered cookie sheets, but they were formless. I stuck them in the freezer and hallelujah, when I pulled them out later, they were firm enough to roll into balls!

Here's where things get ugly. Literally. I melted white chocolate chips in the microwave to cover the cake balls (one cup for one minute on 80% power, then 30 second blasts afterwards; stir in handfuls of unmelted chips). This was so thick and gloppy, even when I added a couple of teaspoons of shortening, that it made giant, hulking cake balls. I also should have refrozen the balls after rolling them, because handling them made them a little squishy again (give me a second to get over the fact that I keep talking about handling warm, squishy balls).

Not too attractive. The taste, however, was divine! I have kept them in the freezer (along with uncoated ones; my husband liked them without the chocolate) and I guess if I call them truffles instead of cake balls, it works. Next time I would get the candy coating discs that are meant to be melted and make a thin coating instead of trying to get the chips to the right consistency. I also think that maybe adding sprinkles or a dark chocolate drizzle would disguise some of the ugliness from the lumpy coating. But the flavor? Is spot on.