Thursday, December 18, 2014

Friday Favorites

I'm linking up with MomfessionalsGrace and Love, and A Little Bit of Everything to share my Friday favorites!



1.  Dark Chocolate Covered Peppermint Joe Joe's
 
Oh my gosh.  I both love and hate my friend Stephanie for introducing me to these cookies from Trader Joe's.  Imagine an Oreo, except the white filling is peppermint flavored AND filled with pieces of candy cane.  Then, dip that Oreo in dark chocolate, and sprinkle MORE candy cane pieces on top.  Sooooooo good.  I refuse to look at the nutrition facts.  Get a box before they're gone for the season!
 

 2.  Baby Christmas PJs

 
Is there anything sweeter than a baby in footed Christmas PJs?  I think not!  C has velour Christmas PJs with Santas on the feet, similar to these (I think mine is last year's version - bought brand new at a resale store with the Carter's tags still on it!)  I can't wait to snuggle him on Christmas morning!
 

3.  Babies, babies, everywhere!


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I LOVE this season of life with babies being born, babies on the way, and baby playdates!  On Tuesday night, my first time moms group from church had a Christmas party with all the adorable babies AND some friends of ours welcomed their baby that night (and we found out it was a boy!! Another friend for C!!)  On Wednesday, C and I hung out with 3 friends and their littles, one of which has a 7-week-old I got to snuggle (was C ever that tiny??) and two of which are due with baby girls in early 2015.  Definitely made me miss being pregnant!!  AND yesterday I got a Christmas card from another sweet friend announcing that their second baby is on the way!  This year, and especially this Christmas, is the most fun!  I can't wait for the 6 babies (so far!) arriving in 2015!
 

4.  The Best Yes

 
Over the last month I've been reading Lysa TerKeurst's book "The Best Yes".  I'm not normally one for "self help" type books, but this one has been a great read, especially since I'm still new to balancing a baby and a job, and, now, the holiday season.. 
 
(From the author's website)
Lysa TerKeurst is learning that there is a big difference between saying yes to everyone and saying yes to God. In The Best Yes she will help you:
  • Cure the disease to please with a biblical understanding of the command to love.
  • Escape the guilt of disappointing others by learning the secret of the small no.
  • Overcome the agony of hard choices by embracing a wisdom based decision-making process.
  • Rise above the rush of endless demands and discover your best yes today.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Buy This, Not That: Vitamin D Supplement Drops


If you have an exclusively breastfed child, your pediatrician will instruct you to give your child a Vitamin D supplement everyday, because apparently breastmilk doesn't provide sufficient Vitamin D.  It comes with an eyedropper, and I find it easiest to add to a bottle.  You can also administer it directly by mouth using the eyedropper, but that always results in C spitting it out.  Locally, you'll only find one brand option; however, it's worth it to check out another option available online!
Good: Enfamil D-Vi-Sol Vitamin D Supplement Drops

Enfamil is a well-known brand, and this is the only brand of Vitamin D drops you'll be able to find at your local grocery store or pharmacy (although it can be hard to find there - depending on the store, sometimes it's with the children's medications, sometimes with the vitamins).  A bottle has a month's worth of doses and runs about $10 at my Target.

Better: Carlson Super Daily D Vitamin D Drops

You most likely won't find this locally, but you can get it from Amazon.  This stuff is more concentrated than the D-Vi-Sol, so you only have to administer one drop a day to give the same dose.  This makes it way easier to administer directly by mouth, since the baby doesn't have to swallow a whole mouthful of supplement drops.  Also, a bottle of this is less than $10 and has AN ENTIRE YEAR'S worth of doses.  So, it is significantly less expensive on an annual basis than the D-Vi-Sol, plus you won't have to remember to go buy another bottle every month (and hunt for it on the pharmacy shelves).  

Monday, December 15, 2014

From the Kitchen: Stacked Green Chicken Enchilada Casserole

This is a quick dinner that I made up on the fly to use up some leftover chicken and corn tortillas that we had sitting around...and we ended up loving it.  You could easily make this into normal enchiladas but I think it is much faster to make it into a stacked enchilada casserole - combining the technique of a lasagna with the ingredients of enchiladas!


Stacked Green Chicken Enchilada Casserole

Cook time: 30 minutes
Yield: 6 servings


Ingredients:

16 white corn tortillas
2 cups cooked, shredded chicken (I used leftover rotisserie chicken)
2 cans green enchilada sauce
1 cup grated Monterrey Jack cheese
1 10-ounce package prepared pico de gallo (I used Kroger's black bean and corn pico de gallo, found in the produce section near the bagged salad)


Directions:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 9"x9" Pyrex baking dish with cooking spray.

Place 4 corn tortillas in the bottom of the baking dish (they will overlap in the middle - that's OK).  Top the corn tortillas with 2/3 cup shredded chicken, 1/4 cup cheese, 1/4 cup pico de gallo, and 1/3 of a can of enchilada sauce.

Repeat another 2 times (making 3 layers total).  Top the 3rd layer with another 4 corn tortillas to form a "top" to the casserole.  Pour the 2nd can of green enchilada sauce over the top of the casserole.

Bake for 25 minutes.  Add another 1/4 cup of shredded cheese on the top and bake for another 5 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Friday Favorites

The blog has been put on the back burner lately....a month of sickness from daycare germs and the dreaded 4-month sleep regression have taken a toll on my sanity.  But I'm glad to have a few minutes to spare for the first time in way too long!


I'm linking up with MomfessionalsGrace and Love, and A Little Bit of Everything to share my Friday favorites!



1.  Christmas party season!!

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I love Christmas parties!  (well, parties of any kind, really, but there tend to be a lot of them at Christmas time!)  I especially love that both my company and Blair's have kept the semi-formal dress code that gives me an excuse to break out the cocktail dresses, which sadly rarely see the outside of my closet these days! (same for heels)  I'm excited that schedules worked out so that my in-laws are available to babysit on both the night of my and Blair's work parties, and the rest of our Christmas parties are baby-friendly, so we'll be able to make an appearance at all of them!  Also excited that I'm not pregnant this year....at all of last year's Christmas parties I was 8 weeks pregnant and fake drinking the whole time.  I can't wait for a glass of bubbly this year!!

2.  Aromatique 'The Smell of Christmas'

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My college roommate got me hooked on Aromatique's 'The Smell of Christmas' scent....and now it doesn't feel like Christmas until my house smells like it!  I love breaking out these candles each year and burning them for the whole month of December!

3.  This Scarf

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This scarf from the junior's department at Nordstrom is much cuter in person than it is on this model with the awkward facial expression....I love the cream and the taupe colors, and it's currently on sale for only $12.90.  It makes the perfect inexpensive gift for a sister, coworker, or girlfriend!  Or, for the random gift that you buy and wrap to keep under the tree as an emergency backup just in case someone you weren't expecting to give you a gift ends up giving you one...am I the only one who does this every year?  And, since they are so inexpensive, I had to buy myself one too :)

4.  Anthropologie Monogram Mugs

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I'm not cool enough to shop for clothes at Anthropologie (and they're not really my style), but I love their mugs!  I bought several of these monogram mugs last week to give as gifts (and one for myself....there may be a pattern here...), and I love them!  The shape and design on the mugs is so unique, and they are slightly imperfect/irregular so they have that artsy/handmade feel to them.  They're also pretty thin so they're lighter than regular mugs, too.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Buy This, Not That: Pajamas


Is there anything cuter than a baby in footed pajamas?!  They are sooooo snuggly!  My favorites are made by Carter's - they get softer with each wash!

Good: Zip-Up Sleep N Play Pajamas

I love one-piece pajamas; I feel like they keep C warm because the top can't ride up and expose his belly like it can with two-piece pajama sets.  We have a bunch of zip-up pajamas, which are nice because it's quick and easy to get them on and off.

Better: Snap-Up Sleep N Play Pajamas

However....we MUCH prefer snap-up pajamas to the zip-up variety.  Although this seems counter-intuitive (having to fasten all those snaps every time?!), the snap-up kind allow you to only un-fasten the snaps along the legs for middle-of-the-night diaper changes, leaving your baby's belly and arms nice and warm.  With the zip-up kind, you have to unzip the whole thing to change their diaper, which exposes their whole body to the cold air.  They're much more likely to wake up that way!  The snap-up kind makes it much, much easier to change a diaper without the baby fully waking up.  Also, you won't live in fear of catching your baby's delicate skin in the zipper!  Just make sure that you buy the kind that snaps up the FRONT - there are also footed pajamas that snap up the back, which are pretty much impossible to put on....and it also seems uncomfortable for the baby to have to lay with their body weight on the snaps.  


Monday, December 1, 2014

From the Kitchen: Honey Beer Bread

I can't think of anything I love more than warm, homemade bread.  I don't like beer, but a good beer bread is hard to beat!  It's thick, chewy, buttery, and just ever-so-slightly sweet.  I made this beer bread recently to go with soup and it was so, so good.



Honey Beer Bread

Adapted from Tasty Kitchen
Cook Time: 50 minutes


Ingredients:

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking power
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons honey
1 12-ounce bottle beer (I used Shiner Light Blonde)
1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted


Directions:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Use cooking spray to grease a 9"x5"x3" loaf pan.  

Measure the dry ingredients and mix together in a medium bowl.  Add the honey and beer, and stir into the dry ingredients using a wooden spoon until just combined (do not overmix).  

Pour 1/2 of the melted butter into the bottom of the loaf pan.  Spoon the bread dough into the pan, smoothing the top with the wooden spoon, and top with the remaining melted butter.  Bake for 50 minutes or until the top is golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean.

Serve warm with butter.  Enjoy!


Monday, November 24, 2014

From the Kitchen: Crockpot Chicken Tortilla Soup

Since I've gone back to work, the crockpot has gotten a lot of use.  I can't bring myself to spend time in the kitchen cooking dinner when I get home from work when I'd rather be playing with Carter!  This chicken tortilla soup is one of our staples. If you want a thicker soup (more like a stew), omit the chicken broth.  For a thinner soup, add a 32-ounce carton of chicken broth.



Crockpot Chicken Tortilla Soup

Ingredients:

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 - 15 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 - 10 oz can of red enchilada sauce
1 - 4 oz can chopped green chilies
1 - 10-oz can diced tomatoes w/ green chilies
1/2 white onion, diced
½ zucchini, sliced
½ yellow squash, sliced
1 cup frozen or canned corn
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Handful fresh cilantro, chopped
Optional: 1 – 32-oz carton chicken broth

Optional toppings:
Cilantro
Shredded cheese
Tortilla strips
Diced avocado
Sour cream

Directions:

      Put all ingredients (other than the toppings) into a large crockpot (mine is 7 quarts). Cook for 6 to 8 hours on low or 3-to 4 on high.  Remove the chicken breasts from the crockpot and shred with 2 forks; return to crock pot.  Serve, adding toppings as desired.

     If you want to make this ahead of time as a freezer meal, put all of the ingredients except the chicken broth in a zip-top freezer bag.  When ready to make, slightly thaw the bag enough to break the soup into large chunks.  Place in the crockpot, add chicken broth, and follow the cooking directions above.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Friday Favorites

I'm linking up with MomfessionalsGrace and Love, and A Little Bit of Everything to share my Friday favorites!


1.  My New 'Blardigan'



I've wanted one of these for months but couldn't justify the $90 price tag until my husband surprised me with it for my birthday last week!  Don't mind the Nordstrom model wearing it with lingerie - although you'll find it in the lingerie department, it can be worn as normal clothes or as loungewear (or both! in the same day!)  It is soooooo comfortable - true to its nickname, it's half blanket, half cardigan, and made of the softest material ever.  So warm.  So cozy.  I'm probably never going to take it off this winter.

2.  Crabtree & Evelyn Hand Cream



With the onset of freezing cold weather (since Dallas doesn't have a fall season), my hands are already dry - running the heat and washing bottles are a killer combo on my hands!  I love Crabtree & Evelyn's Hand Therapy Creams - they are the best moisturizer without feeling greasy. I love the avocado scent (which doesn't smell anything like avocados, but does smell delicious).

3. Peppermint White Chocolate Mochas

Peppermint Mocha

I had my first Starbucks peppermint white mocha of the winter season this week, and it was amazing!  Yes, I'm aware that you can order this drink year-round, but something feels wrong about drinking it before it's cold outside and served in a red Starbucks cup!  I like it best with nonfat milk and only 2 pumps of syrup in a grande size (it's too sweet for me full-strength).  I can't wait to try the new Chestnut Praline Latte this year!

4. Hue Wide Waistband Leggings


I love leggings and knee-high boots in the winter, and Hue leggings are the BEST!  After years of buying plain black leggings at Target or Old Navy, last year I bit the bullet and tried the Huge leggings.  Yes, they cost more than the $8 pair at Target (normal price $36, but currently on sale for $27 at Nordstrom!!), but they are much better quality.  I always feel like cheap leggings are see-through, but Hue leggings are completely opaque.  They wash well, and the wide waistband is both comfortable and flattering (no muffin top!)  I bought my second pair this season and they're both getting plenty of wear! In fact, Hue leggings and my blardigan are pretty much my new weekend wardrobe.

Buy This, Not That: Sound Machines


I wasn't sure on having a sound/white noise machine in the nursery, but our pediatrician recommended it, as well as the Moms on Call book, which I essentially consider my baby instruction manual.  I do think it helps C sleep; our pediatrician said using a white noise machine has something of a "Pavlov's dog" reaction where it actually helps them fall and stay asleep (and fall back asleep if they wake up during the night).  At the very least, it drowns out background household noise and keeps them from startling awake during daytime naps.


This plush sleep is pretty much the cutest sound machine on the market!  It has 4 different sound options (Mother's heartbeat, spring showers, ocean waves, whale songs) and can be set to run for 23 or 45 minutes.


This sound machine isn't nearly as cute as the Sleep Sheep, since it's not actually a baby product; it's just a normal sound machine.  However, it's better than the Sleep Sheep in several ways.  One, it can either run for an hour, or ALL NIGHT.  The key to a sound machine is that it has to run all night; otherwise, it doesn't help your baby fall back asleep on their own if they start to wake up during the night; secondly, sometimes the shutting-off of the sound machine can actually wake the baby up.  Secondly, this one has a true white noise setting, which the Sleep Sheep doesn't.  White noise is the ideal setting for drowning out other noises, because it is a constant background noise.  Heartbeats, rain, and ocean waves all have pauses between sounds, which decreases the sound machine's effectiveness at drowning out background noise.  Finally, the Conair sound machine has a power adapter, while the Sleep Sheep runs on batteries (the Conair has the ability to run on batteries too, which might be nice if you're traveling).  If you haven't learned yet, you will soon - avoid battery-operated baby products at all costs!  Those batteries always seem to run out at the worst times!!  And...for a bonus perk...the Conair sound machine is about half the price of the Sleep Sheep.




Tuesday, November 18, 2014

From the Kitchen: Kale Salad

Kale seems to be the "it" vegetable these days.  It has lots of great health benefits, but honestly I couldn't really get over the slightly bitter flavor and the "sturdy" texture...until I tried this salad recipe.  I took this salad over to a friend's house for dinner with another couple, and it changed all 4 of our opinions of kale (we were skeptics before)!  I think the key is massaging the dressing into the kale using your hands, and letting the salad sit, dressed, for at least 10 minutes before serving.  I actually dressed the salad before the 20 minute drive to their house, and it was perfect (whereas normal salad would be soggy by then!)


Pecorino Kale Salad

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients:

1 bunch kale, washed and dried
1/2 cup walnut pieces
1/2 cup dried cranberries
2 ounces pecorino cheese, grated
1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
Kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
Juice of half a lemon


Directions:


Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Place the walnuts on a cookie sheet and toast in the oven for 10 minutes, tossing once halfway through.  Allow the nuts to cool and chop.

Mix the panko bread crumbs on a foil-lined cookie sheet with 2 teaspoons of olive oil and a pinch of kosher salt. Toast in the oven for 3-5 minutes or until golden.

In a mason jar, mix together the white wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons and 1 teaspoon olive oil, and juice of half a lemon.  Add kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper, and shake the jar to combine the ingredients.

Prepare the kale; use a knife to cut the leaves off of the tough stem, and discard the stems.  Stack the leaves, roll them up, and use a knife to cut them into very thin strips (like you would chiffonade herbs).

Put the kale into a large salad bowl.  Add the grated pecorino cheese, toasted walnuts, dried cranberries, and dressing, and use your hands to "massage" the dressing into the kale and ensure it is thoroughly coated.  Allow the salad to sit for at least 10 minutes before serving.

When ready to serve, add the breadcrumbs and give the salad a final toss.

Since kale is so sturdy, any leftovers will keep for at least a day, even after it is dressed!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Friday Favorites

I missed Friday Favorites last week because I was busy spending my birthday sick with the worst. stomach. bug. ever (thanks, daycare germs).  I spent the entire weekend barely getting out of bed and didn't eat anything until Monday.  Not the best birthday...so I announced that last weekend did NOT count as my birthday (after all, what good is a birthday without cake or wine?!), and have declared this weekend "birthday do-over weekend".  Yay!

I'm linking up with MomfessionalsGrace and Love, and A Little Bit of Everything to share my Friday favorites!


1.  Free Stuff on Your Birthday


Anyone who knows me knows that I love free stuff anytime, but I ESPECIALLY love free stuff on my birthday.  I'm not one of those crazy people who drives all over town cashing in on birthday freebies at every place in town, but there are a couple that I always make sure to use (quality over quantity)!  One is my free Starbucks drink (for having a registered Starbucks gift card), and my other favorite is a free large pizza at Grimaldi's (for signing up on their email list) - cheap date night!  I know there are other birthday freebies out there -- am I missing anything good??

2.  Grimaldi's Butterscotch Toffee Cheesecake


Speaking of Grimaldi's....I love their Butterscotch Toffee Cheesecake.  I don't normally order dessert when we go out to eat (unless it's a special occasion or something), but I always order a slice of this cheesecake  when it's in season (in the fall - so basically, when I'm there to get my free birthday pizza!)  It is SO good.  I always order it to go and then enjoy it over the next several days :)

3.  Flannel Pajamas


Now that it's finally cold in Dallas (we skipped fall entirely and went straight for winter), I'm loving my flannel pajamas at night!  My favorites are the Dreamer Flannel Pajamas from Victoria's Secret; I love the boyfriend-style button-up top and the soft, warm flannel.  They always come in such cute prints, and I love that they sell tall/long length pajamas online (PJs never come in sizes for tall girls!!)  These make a great Christmas gift if you've already started shopping!

4.  These earrings


I got these earrings from Nordstrom in the mail last week and have already worn them several times - I love the color, which is somewhere in between mint and turquoise.  They are virtually identical to my Kate Spade studs, except for the part where these only cost $8 instead of $38 like the Kate Spade ones.  Score!  Another good Christmas gift item to stock up on for the girls on your list!  

Baby 101: How to Pump in the Car

Total game changer: learning how to pump in the car.

Since I leave for work before C wakes up (now that I get to work at 7:00 AM), I have to pump in the mornings.  I'm sure I'm not the only one who despises having to wake up an extra 20 minutes early to have time to pump before work.  I'd read online about pumping in the car during the commute, but it seemed logistically difficult; however, the lure of an extra 20 minutes of sleep each morning eventually won me over, and I bit the bullet and bought a Medela power adapter for my car's cigarette lighter.  Now that I've been doing it for a couple of weeks, I love the extra sleep and the feeling that I'm multitasking on my 20-minute drive to work.  Here are some tips based on what's been working best for me:

1.  Leave an extra 5 minutes early.

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It takes me 2-3 minutes to get everything "set up" before I start driving, and another 2-3 minutes to unhook everything when I arrive to work.  So I try to leave the house about 5 minutes earlier than I normally do.

2.  Hook/unhook everything while your car is in Park (safety first!)

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Do not attempt to set up your pumping stuff or unhook it while you're driving, or even while you're at a red light.  I set everything up while I'm still parked in my garage, and wait until I'm parked in a parking spot at work before I unhook anything.  When I'm ready to stop pumping mid-commute (because it normally doesn't take me the whole time), I'll just unplug the tubing from the pump flanges and let the pump continue to run (and leave everything else - the pump flanges, pumping bra, etc. - where it is).  This has a side benefit of allowing the condensation in the tubing to dry out by the time you get to work and turn the pump off. 

3.  Buy a car power adapter for your pump

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Obviously, a power adapter for your pump is a necessary part of the pumping-while-driving equation.  I bought mine at Babies R Us for $29.99, less a 20% off coupon.  Make sure you check the voltage on your pump - Medela pumps come in both 9V and 12V, so you need to get the right power adapter for your specific pump model.

4.  A hands-free pumping bra is a must

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It's not possible to pump and drive at the same time (safely, at least) without a hands-free pumping bra.  I use the Simple Wishes pumping bra, which I bought off Amazon; it zips up easily over whatever I'm wearing, and is sturdy enough to hold 2 full 8-ounce bottles in place.

5.  A nursing cover is another must

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Unless you're a pumping exhibitionist, you'll want a nursing cover to hide the whole pumping setup while you drive.  I've found it to work best if I put the nursing cover on AFTER I fasten my seat belt, so the nursing cover is on top of everything.

6.  Use large (8 or 9-ounce) bottles

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I normally pump into the 5-ounce Medela bottles; however, for pumping while driving, I recommend using 8 or 9 ounce bottles.  Since you're driving, plus wearing a nursing cover, it's more difficult to monitor how full the bottles are getting.  Using larger bottles means I don't have to worry about the bottles overflowing while I'm driving...especially since I'm normally pumping during my morning commute, when my output volume tends to be higher.

7.  Have a towel/napkins handy for drips

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Whenever we go to a drive-through or get takeout and end up with a handful of restaurant paper napkins, I always just put them in the console between the driver and passenger seats.  It's nice to have them nearby to clean up any drips when I'm unhooking all the pump equipment.

8.  Get everything organized before you start

I put my purse and the bag I keep all my pump stuff in on the floor on the passenger side.  Then, in the passenger seat, I put my pump, a paper napkin, and the Tupperware container (with the lid off) that I keep my pump parts in.  I also make sure to clear out my car's cupholders. 
When I get to work, I unhook everything with the nursing cover still on; I unscrew the bottles from the pump flanges and put them directly into the 2 cupholders until I get a chance to put caps on them (if I try to hold the bottles upright between my legs, I'm sure I'll end up with milk spilled all over my car).  I put the pump flanges directly into the open Tupperware container and put the lid on.  I screw caps onto the bottles and put them in my cooler.  Then, after I take off the pumping bra and nursing cover, I go into work and walk straight to our "wellness" room, where I put my milk cooler and Tupperware of pump parts in the refrigerator.