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Watch: How To Make Homemade + Healthy Baby Food

homemade baby food

photo credit: Allen Daniel Photography

I’ve been making homemade baby food since Brooks was born. It’s easy, delicious, and extremely cost efficient.

Click below to get the details + a one-pot chicken recipe today on my YouTube channel:

Ingredients:

homemade baby food

photo credit: Allen Daniel Photography

  • 1/2 cup washed and sliced white part of a leek
  • 1 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 4 oz. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into chunks
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and sliced
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped
  • 1 1/4 cups chicken stock

DIRECTIONS:

homemade baby food

photo credit: Allen Daniel Photography

STEP 1: Saute the leek in the butter until softened. Add the chicken to the pan and saute for 3-4 minutes.

STEP 2: Add the vegetables, pour in the stock, bring to a boil, and cover. Simmer for 30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are tender.

STEP 3: Puree in blender to your desired consistency.

homemade baby food

photo credit: Allen Daniel Photography

homemade baby food

photo credit: Allen Daniel Photography

For more recipe inspiration, check out these baby food cookbooks: 

Top 100 Baby Purees By Annabel Karmel // Sage Spoonfuls By Liza Huber // Super Baby Food By Ruth Yaron 

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No-Carve Pumpkins

While carving pumpkins can be fun, it can also be dangerous. Any activity with a three-year-old should include avoiding sharp objects. I mean, that goes without saying! This year, Brooks really wanted to carve pumpkins but I decided to try a new approach.

There are so many ways to decorate a pumpkin minus the knife. No-carve pumpkins let you work more with your creativity and little ones can be involved during every step. They can be wrapped with ribbon, wrapped in gauze like a mummy, or painted. Since they are staying whole, they will last a lot longer, too!

Here are some pumpkins we made to give you a little inspiration:

Funny Face Pumpkin:

Materials
:

  • Various pumpkins
  • Acrylic paints
  • Paint brushes
  • Contact paper
  • Stencils
  • Sharpie

Steps

  • Choose your pumpkin. When painting, it’s best to pick the smoothest.

  • Adhere stencil or contact sheet stencil and either trace or paint using acrylic paints. I made my stencil by drawing a cut out face on a contact sheet.

  • Eyes should be white with black pupils, mouth black with white teeth, all other details in white. Small details can be added using a Sharpie.

  • Allow to dry
  • Return to add in details such as teeth, eyelashes, eyebrows, tears…see other examples

Mummy Wrap Pumpkin:

Materials:

  • Pumpkin
  • Gauze
  • Scissors
  • Glue gun
  • Googly eyes

Steps:

  • Cut the gauze in half, lengthwise.
  • Hot glue one end of the gauze to the pumpkin.
  • Wrap away! (This was Brooksie’s favorite part!)
  • Hot glue or tuck under the gauze when finished
  • Glue on googly eyes. Tucking them under the gauze a bit to have them appear to be peeking out

Glowing Glitter Pumpkin:

Materials:

  • Spray adhesive
  • Colored glitter
  • Craft paper

Steps:

  • Prepare work area by laying down craft paper on table. For less mess, lay some on floor as well.
  • Place pumpkin on paper and spray entire pumpkin with layer of adhesive
  • Sprinkle glitter on craft paper and roll pumpkin over the area
  • Allow to dry
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Back To School Essentials

It’s that time of the year again and my big boy Brooksie is headed to pre-school! They seriously grow so fast…can we slow down!? Since this is his first year, I wanted to make sure we had everything we needed completely covered. It can be a little overwhelming!

Here are some ideas to get you started if you are in the back-to-school shopping mode. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with making a fashion statement or two on the first day!

P’Kolino Mess Eater Monster Backpacks

When it comes to backpacks (especially for all the arts and crafts coming home) it’s all about space. These P’Kolino backpacks aren’t just cute as a button, they are also extremely roomy! PERFECT for a preschooler.

 

Ugg Australia Kids Casson Sneaker

Ugg Australia is making a SERIOUS statement with their kid’s line! Just like the boots we all know and love, their lace up sneakers are just as durable and comfortable especially for rough and tumble boys on the playground!

johnnie-O Button Downs

If you’re a momma like me, I take picture day extremely seriously. They are so adorable and I love to share them with family and friends. When it comes to dressing my little ones up, johnnie-O is always the cutest and most comfy!

 

Yoobi Back To School Supplies

When it comes to school supplies, Yoobi is all there is in my book! With so many vibrant and colorful choices to choose from, you can get all your supplies in a one-stop shop. For every Yoobi item you purchase, an item will be donated to a classroom in need, right here in the US!

Skip Hop Zoo Insulated Lunch Bags 

No matter what your child’s favorite animal is, Skip Hop has it. Unicorns, monkeys, cows, whatever. Zoo Bags also come in two different sizes for lunch and for snack time! These insulated bags are also super easy to clean, too! Brooksie is taking his cow on the first day of pre-school!

Curated Tee 

So, these shirts are super adorable but there’s a lot more to this company, The Curated Tee. Running as a t-shirt subscription, Curated Tee’s main goal is to expose children to different forms of art to help enhance their creativity. Each month a guest artist creates a design, which is accompanied by a lesson plan and fun games for your child. I’m OB-SESSED with this concept especially for an after-school activity!

Yoobi Pencil Cases

Um, how cute are these!? A case for pencils, crayons, erasers, etc. is essential for organization! And, let’s be honest…you might as well do it in style!

 

Eco Lunchboxes

These reusable lunch carriers are great for packing lunches (even for adults!) It’s the perfect size for a sandwich and some other snacks on the side. I love the brand as a whole because every product is plastic free, waste-free, bpa-free, and sustainable.

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Toddler Learning: Grocery Store Fun

I’ve always said that it’s key to make learning fun for toddlers. Engaging them in every day tasks is a great way to initiate understanding about life skills. Maybe it is the kid in me, but I really try to make things fun for Brooks. Our children only get to be littles for such a short time! Soon enough, they have to live in the “grow ups” world (what Brooks calls grown ups). Before we know it they will be heading off to college and I will be writing about the tragedy of empty nest syndrome!! HA!! Joking aside, I’ve just come to realize how much our children learn from modeling and that even with every day mundane activities we have great opportunities for learning.

Take our trips to the grocery store. Yes, I may have created a monster, because Brooks wants to go with us to the market every time he can but heck, there are worse places he can desire to go.

Now please don’t kill me busy #SuperMommas, I’m not saying this has to be your new method of shopping with your kids. I know that most times grocery shopping is a purely utilitarian experience where you need to get in and out with the least amount of fanfare as possible. I’m only trying to demonstrate how there are so many opportunities for learning in the day to day.

My little monkey is a sponge and wants to know the “why” about everything right now. I, as a parent, want to seize that moment and make sure I’m doing my best keep the learning train rolling!! Also as a busy Momma of two, I cherish those moments when it’s just Brooksie and me.

Here are my tips for grocery store learning fun… 

Make Your Grocery List Together

Part of learning is teaching a child what the entire process is all about. I sit with Brooks in my kitchen and we discuss all the items we are putting on our grocery list. We talk about his favorite meals and what items we would need from the grocery store we would need to make those particular recipes. Can I tell you, I can unequivocally say that my son eats MORE carrots as a result of making our grocery lists together.

Talk It Up

Call me crazy, but Brooks and I go over our grocery list again and again while we are in the car en route to the grocery store. It is our own little version of the game memory. Trust me when I say that it helps this Momma remember her grocery list.

All the Beautiful Colors of the Rainbow

Seeing the world through a child’s eyes is incredibly refreshing and most times very comical to say the least. The aisles of the market filled with so many bright and brilliant products. It is the perfect place to “find” colors. Like most toddlers, Brooks is pretty savvy on his colors and he loves seeking them out on the store shelves. “Brooks, where are the yellow cans?”… “Right there, Momma!” Speaking of rainbows, we had lots of fun making this fruit rainbow for St. Paddy’s Day.

I Spy

Another great way to tackle your grocery list (works particularly well in the produce section) is to call out what item we are looking for and ask your little’s help in locating it. Sometimes I have to drive-by said item a few times in order for my guy to find his prize, but it is worth it so see the smile of success on his face.

Counting Time

When in doubt, count it out! After we have located our items, when needed we count out how many of each thing we need. This is perfect for toddlers who are just learning to count. But I really have to watch out because; my little counting machine likes to add a few extra items to our cart!

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Seven Tips for Perfect Kid-Friendly Picnics

The weather is warming up my friends!  I couldn’t be happier to enjoy more time outside with my family. I’m truly looking forward to a summer filled with fun with my motley crew. Brooks and I are always game for a picnic. We love heading to the park or even as far as our backyard for a little fun in the sun.  Especially now as a extra busy #everydaysupermomma of two wonderful babies, I absolutely cherish the opportunity for some special one on one time with my little man. Below are my 7 top tips for fabulous kid-friendly picnics.

Sunny Days = Harmful Rays

Sun protection is a must!  Make sure you pack your sunscreen and bring a shade cover like an umbrella or something like this amazing A-frame tent I found on Etsy.  My Brooks is obsessed with fort making these days! We made our fort especially perfect by adding a Royal Velvet sheet making our space extra cozy and inviting.

Bring a little bit of home with you

Don’t let your picnic blanket be an after thought.  Ditch the dingy old blanket from years’ past in favor of something nicer. You don’t have to spend a fortune for a lovely blanket that is fabulous picnic worthy.  Like this beauty from Royal Velvet. Who says you can’t have the matching pillows, too?!?  Think about how nice it would be to have a little back support while you are lounging in style. Try adding a few pops of color to the picnic party with this cute galvanized bucket, which is perfect for serving snacks. I mean, who can resist one one of my picnic snack finger food favorites, fruit skewers.  What picnic is complete without a ball to bounce around?

Reuse and Recycle

There is NO reason to drag a ton of paper and disposable products into the park.  Be chic and earth friendly by using Melamine plates and cloth napkins like these from Royal Velvet. I’m also a big fan of stainless steel bento boxes. If you are in the mood for utensils, then these eco-friendly ones made from Birchwood might be exactly what you need. Your goal should be to leave your picnic space cleaner than you found it.  Give Mother Nature a hand by picking up a little extra trash! #EverydayEarthDay

Table for Two

For a mealtime picnic, add a little flair by delineating the space with placemats. This is especially helpful for toddlers who are learning table manners.  Not that I expect perfect manners on a picnic, but part of learning is the consistency and practicing. Working on the “please”, “thank you” and becoming familiar with table time rituals.  Make it fun and enjoyable so your little is engaged with the process.

Organization is Key

Be ready for any potential “Royal Moments”, like an impromptu picnic adventure by keeping your picnic basket stocked with your Royal Velvet favorites.  I keep my picnic basket in my car, so I’m always prepared for the fun!!

Game On

Make sure you bring activities to keep your pint sized crew properly occupied.  Keep the games simple.  There is no need to bring sand to the beach, but a little fun goes a long way.  I recently found a “bug house” at the craft store.  I paired it with some mini toy dinosaurs and created a game of hide and seek.  I hide the dinos (while Brooks pretends to not look) and then he goes on a dinosaur hunt, placing all of his ancient reptilian buddies back in the bug house. I’m not gonna lie, I much prefer this method over catching real bugs.   Or how about a kite? I have many fond memories of flying kites with my Dad growing up.

Simple Snacks

Keep it easy breezy and less messy by making finger foods.  Brooks loves a peanut butter and banana roll up and who doesn’t enjoy strawberries stuffed with Nutella?

A great trick I’ve found to serve watermelon is by using cookie cutters to make cool shapes.  I’m also a fan of making fruit skewers.  Just make sure you cut off the sharp tip of the skewer before serving to your littles.

Check out my stuffed strawberry trick below.  Super simple to make using a melon baller. Nutella is good for you, right?

Where is your favorite place to go for a picnic?  Do you have any picnic traditions?  Wherever your picnic may be, I wish you good times (those royal moments), great snacks and no ants. (or real bugs!!!)  

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DIY Toddler Fun: Fort Building

toddler fort

Part of the joys of being a parent is being able to revisit fond childhood memories through your children’s eyes. When I say “joy”, I really mean giddy, belly laughing fun like when we had our sprinkler party. Those are the moments that I live and die for as a parent.

Our latest “family bonding” extravaganza is Brooks’ love for making forts. It is literally something we do almost every day. Let no blanket, sheet or couch cushion go unused in our fort building activities for that would be a crime!

toddler fort 2

Dog beds are the ultimate fort building staple at our house. They are often the foundation of some of our very best forts. Luckily, we have three dogs, so Brooks has LOTS of material to work with. Occasionally, there have been some occupancy issues AKA Brooks wants to take over the dog beds while the puppies are enjoying their cozy napping dens, but our big sweet Lab, Duke, actually enjoys being part of the action and loves diving in with Brooks.

toddler fort 3

Fort building is probably one of the most inexpensive ways to enjoy time with your kids. And you couldn’t ask for a better stretch of your toddler’s growing imagination. I appreciate that the construction of forts tends to be low-impact and you can literally lie down on the job. This was especially appreciated toward the end of my pregnancy when I wasn’t as fast on my feet.

toddler fort 3

We are now beginning to expand our fort building talents to include tunnels (two chairs pushed together with a sheet over it) and snacks… You know Momma is always up for a picnic. Truth be told, fort building works up an appetite!

toddler fort 5

I guess the point I’m trying to make is that I have realized that kids don’t need the latest and greatest toy to make them happy.  Haven’t we all heard the story about the parent buying the expensive toy and the kid spending more time playing with box it came in?  If Brooks could read, he would NOT appreciate those last two sentences!!!

Joking aside, I do my best as a parent to make time to engage my kids and feed their imaginations. Who knows … maybe Brooks is going to be an architect or civil engineer. Stranger things have happened.

toddler fort 6

What I do know is that as much as my playtime with my son makes him happy… it makes my heart happy ten thousand million times more.  Brooks, Momma loves you to the moon and back.  I’m one lucky and proud wife and Momma of two.

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School Daze Here We Come!!

Where has the time gone?!?  I can’t believe Brooks is just about to start his two year old pre-school program next week.  It seems like yesterday that I found out I was pregnant.  I’m don’t know if I’m ready for this!!

If you ask Brooks, he’s full steam ahead and extremely excited for this new adventure.  As a parent who loves to be prepared, I’ve been researching, organizing and gathering all the necessities that my perfect angel will need to start school.  I’ve got my tips and tricks all lined up to share with you that will hopefully help you and your little ones initiate their school journey, too.

With most things in toddler land, it is good practice to explain to your little monkey exactly what the future holds. Many toddlers aren’t really game for surprises (unless they are covered in chocolate sprinkles) and school is no exception.  Give them the scoop on the upcoming adventure, explain the run down of how their day will flow and get them excited and engaged about the entire process.  I had Brooks pick out his school backpack, which made him very enthusiastic about heading off to “big boy” school. He wanted to wear his new dinosaur backpack for most of the day!

More than school supplies and back packs, I think it is SO important to feed our kids as healthy as possible so they are arriving to school on a full tank of gas ready to tackle the day.  I also plan on making sure his lunch is filled with easy to handle healthy foods that he loves, because Momma bear won’t be there to make sure he takes “one more bite”.  I actually have a bevy of yummy kid lunch ideas that I’m going to share with you tomorrow.  Brooks definitely loved the dry run of our lunch making expedition.  I love that he is always game to try new foods.

Beyond breakfast and lunch I want to make sure I’m giving my boy the proper vitamins and nutrients to build Brooks’ immune system.  They don’t call school the “germ factory” for nothing!!  Don’t get me wrong, not in a bad or scary way, just the increased exposure to runny noses, coughs, sniffles, and colds that are a regular part of life.   Brooks is very fond of the Omega-3 gummies from Nordic Naturals.

I’ve also been adding Dr. Schulze’s Super food plus to Brooks’ smoothies.  It’s an absolutely excellent way to get in the daily vitamins and minerals our little ones need to rock the playground. Two other great products to add to smoothies are the following: First Defense made by Childlife.  First Defense is completely safe for children of all ages and can be used either short or long term to increase natural defense responses.  The second item is also made by Childlife and is a probiotic with Colostrum.  Probiotics are amazing for intestinal health as well as full spectrum of antibodies and immune factors.

QUICK TIP:  Label anything you can: backpacks, clothing, lunch box, etc.  It will save you some headaches and time spent digging through the lost and found trying to find someone’s favorite blankie.  I’m really digging these personalized labels from Mabel’s Labels.

I know we are all going to be okay and I’m going to try my best to put on a brave face when it comes to dropping off Brooks for his first day of school.  I know it is so good for him but as his momma, it will be really hard to set a good example and not burst into tears as I head out the door.  Thankfully, Scott is coming with me and they allow parents to hang out a bit until the kids get settled and acclimated.

What are some of your back to school rituals and how did you handle sending your first child to school?  Was it harder on them or you?  Tell me Everything!!!  Remember, check in tomorrow as we tackle yummy healthy lunches for kids.

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#SuperMommaSecrets: How to Travel with a Toddler

As a parent, there are a few situations that you remember fondly as “BC” or before children. Traveling on a plane is definitely one of them.   BC, I was the red eye flight queen. I’d depart LA at almost midnight and wake up in NYC. I can’t even talk about the days of a long fight with a glass of wine and a huge stack of magazines to peruse.

Clearly, this is not an option now!! For the most part Brooks is a great little traveler, but I’ve honed my Super Momma skills to help keep air travel as painless as possible for my little family as well as all of those seated next to us.

Below are my tips and tricks for traveling with a toddler.

Involve your child

Talk about the trip ahead of time.  Make it sound like an adventure. Let them help you pack some of their toys into the carry on.  Find a fun book geared toward plane travel like this one. I am very lucky that Brooks loves anything involving planes, trains and automobiles.

Be prepared … for Anything

My husband makes fun of me for bringing everything AND the kitchen sink.  But he sure doesn’t mind the peaceful flights!  Make sure all of your electronics are charged fully before you depart.  There is nothing worse that trying to soothe the savage beast by putting on a Curious George DVD only to find the battery is dead.  For long flights and peace of mind, I have an external battery as back up.  I found this amazing portable charger that works with, iPhone, iPad and Android and it is priced nicely. I also pack a couple of large Ziploc bags for trash or diaper emergencies.  There are few smells worse on a plane than a dirty diaper. Speaking of diaper changes, I found that puppy wee wee pads are beyond excellent to use as a disposable changing pad. Totally absorbent top layers with a leak proof backing.

Bring favorite snacks

Peanuts from the plane will not satiate a toddler appetite.  I always bring a plethora of Brooks’ favorite snacks on board to make sure we keep his little belly happy.  Snacks they are familiar with and really like are key. Avoid overly sugary snacks.  You wouldn’t want your little one bouncing down the aisles while the fasten seat belt sign is illuminated. It goes without saying that a sugar crash meltdown in a confined space will have you wanting to sky dive out the emergency exit door. Here are a couple of Brooks’ favs that are super easy for toddler in flight dining.

  • Fruigees – Brooks goes bananas over all the flavors and they couldn’t be easier for on the go snacking.
  • Cliff Z Bar – Organic and made with whole grains, this is a perfect hand held snack.
  • Teensy Fruits – No high fructose corn syrup here! Perfect for little hands and much better for you than most of the fruit snacks out there.

Gift wrap small toys individually

I am not above bribery and you shouldn’t be either!  This does not have to be an expensive endeavor.  Hit the dollar store and get a bevvy of treats without breaking the bank.  Wrap each treat individually so they have something to unwrap about every 30 minutes or so.  This Matchbox car gift set is perfect for nine separate treats and the $9.99 price tag makes this momma happy!

The Magna Doodle 2-in-1 Doodle board is perfect for your little frequent fliers. With a triangular easy grip pen and a sealed gel painting surface, this double duty toy is the mess-free art project you need for the plane.  Brooks is really into stickers right now.  This colorform faces play set is perfect – it won’t create any permanent damage to your winged chariot but your kid will still enjoy all the good parts of stickers.

Lastly, and most importantly, try to keep calm. Children can smell fear!!  Be the captain of the ship … or this case the pilot!  If you feel a meltdown coming, do what every practiced parent does and redirect to the next activity. May the travel gods bless you with stress free flights!