Friday, April 28, 2017

Homemade Baby Food Tips for the Working Mom

Being a mama is a full time job. So when you have another full time job on top of that outside of the house, plus what I would deem another full time job just in keeping your house together, well you can see where I am going with this...the work is never done. That being said, in being a working mama, there are a few things I told myself I would try my best to give my little man despite the fact that I wasn't able to be home with him each day. A lot of these things revolve around food - as it is something I still feel that I can "control". Thus, as many a working mama does, I spend my days sitting in my luxury "pumping suite", aka a closet, so that he can continue to receive breastmilk and it's benefits when we are apart. In addition to that, it was my goal once he started solid food a few months back that because real, nutritious food is something that is so important to our family, that I would dedicate myself to finding ways to ensure little man could still receive nutrient rich foods each day, no matter whose care he was in. While I will admit, the task of preparing all homemade food was a little overwhelming at first with all of the other "jobs" I was trying to juggle, over time, I have developed a system that works for our family, and seeing that little guy of ours navigate and even enjoy such a variety of new tastes that nourish his body each day make it all worth it.

I have had a variety of questions lately about how we feed Asher, what resources I have used, favorite things, etc. and so I thought I would take some time to share a few of these things in this post, along with a few lessons I have learned along the way, particularly as a working mom, to make this process work for us.

Tip #1: Buy this book. But seriously, if not this one, then get something to give you some ideas that maybe you wouldn't have thought of on your own, and let's be honest, that just give you an idea in general so that you don't have to think so much. I found "The Big Book of Organic Baby Food" by Stephanie Middleberg to be helpful because she shares how to prepare everything from first foods to baby smoothies and even which spices to pair with each dish.

Tip #2: Stock up on little belly-sized jars. These are the best to send food ready-to-go to daycare. My favorites to start were the little white topped Ball baby jars pictured above, and as Asher started eating more food, we moved to some of our smaller pyrex dishes so we could pack a bit more in for lunch. I still used the baby jars for sending snacks to daycare like cut up/freeze dried fruit, etc. (Note: Even if your daycare doesn't except food from home, these are still great for travel or throwing things in the fridge for the next morning/evening.)

Tip #3: Keep a list (like the one pictured below) of foods that you've given your kiddo successfully. I initially started this as a place to document "approved foods" as we would feed Asher a new food only every three days in an effort to give his body time to adjust to it and for us to monitor for allergies. Each time we introduced a new food successfully, I would add it to the list. Now, I am grateful I did it, as it also serves another purpose, similar to the book above, as a place for ideas for meals that I already know he has enjoyed.

Tip #4: Make your efforts worthwhile and make things in "bulk". If you are a get it all done in a day meal prepper, go for it. If you prefer to spread it out and go little-by-little, that works too. I generally pick a few things each week from the store that I am going to make for the little guy to keep up our supply and make them in large batches throughout the week generally while the hubs and I are making dinner. That way, it doesn't seem so much like something "extra". Many times, I will just buy extra of what we are having and while we are washing and cutting our own food, we just add his right in the mix.

Tip #5: Let your blender and ice cube trays be your best friends. This is probably not a new one to those of you who have researched anything on homemade baby food, and I stand by what all the other mamas have to say on this one. We purchased a Vitamix shortly after we got married, and it has been a Godsend for making Asher's food along with a million and one other things. Once the food is blended (and you can do anything from super smooth to chunky - which is what we rock these days), then just go ahead and slop it into your ice cube trays - trust me this doesn't have to be pretty. My favorite ice cube trays are these ones by OXO with a silicone top as I can easily stack them and keep anything else from getting in the food as well.

Tip #6: Buy stock in Ziploc freezer bags. These and a Sharpie marker are all you will need to store your hard work for the babe's future dining pleasure. I label all of my bags with the name of the food and the date that I added it to my stash. I try my best to use all cubes within 3 months (I think because at one point I had read that he should eat them by then - but don't quote me on that.)

Tip #7: Invest in a small (chemical free) frying pan. This has made my morning and evening meal prep a breeze when I am on a short time frame. When Asher first started solids, we would start with just one or two cubes of the same food, and we have gradually worked our way up. Now, I grab a few different types of food cubes from the freezer, throw them on our pan with some good fats (coconut or avocado oil and ghee are my favorites), toss in some spices and maybe a little breastmilk or bone broth if I need to add a little moisture and we are set. As everything literally just needs to heat up, I can throw it on and get other things accomplished while it heats up, and it is ready within minutes for the "boss" to enjoy.

Tip #8: Buy reusable food pouches for those "barely going to make it" kind of days. I will be the first to admit I have a love/hate relationship with these - they are convenient and relatively mess free (which I love), but I always prefer to let Asher explore and eat his food on his own accord. Alas, they do work really well in a pinch. I use these in the morning probably at least once a week on days where he sleeps in or we are running late, and as soon as I prep his food I simply toss it in and then bring it with us so he can eat it when we arrive at daycare. The nice part is it really requires no extra effort on our provider's part to give it to him, as sucking is his jam so he gets that stuff out like it's his job. Really, I think deep down she is thanking me for running late, as it keeps him entertained for a bit longer than normal upon arrival. My favorite reusable pouches are these from Weesprout.

Tip #9: Have some easy-to-grab foods that you don't have to mess with cooking at all on hand too. Similar to the pouches, these work particularly well for those extra busy days when heating up food (and then giving it adequate time to cool down) just isn't in the cards. Some of my favorites include avocado, hard boiled eggs, tofu, hummus, any fruit really, etc. I always try and have a few of these things on hand and ready to go. The nice thing is many of these foods can also double as snacks or a meal "top off" on those days when the little one is still asking for more.

Tip #10: Have meals together. If you take away anything from this post, let this be it. Trust me, I get it - with a kiddo that goes to bed around 6:30pm and wakes up on any given day with barely enough time for us to nurse and zip out the door, this one can be tough for us some days. However, whenever we can, we make it a point to eat along with Asher. This is so important as we not only serve as models for him as we eat our food, but also because we are showing him the value we place on family time and togetherness. Truth is folks, I could slave over preparing him the most nutrient rich meals with all the bells and whistles money could buy, and that still wouldn't even have a sliver of the impact on our little guy as our presence at the table.

What tips do you have for feeding your little one? Fellow moms (and dads) feel free to share - and happy feasting!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

DIY Craft Pegboard

There are a ton of these pegboard tutorials cropping up lately across blogs, Pinterest, etc. Seeing as my husband and I are people who follow directions really well, we are grateful to those individuals who put the hard work in on the front end to not only give us the idea but a clear path as to how to create it. Thus, I will not be spending a great deal of time in this post talking about how we made it - as there are plenty of ideas out there for that - rather, I will share that which took me the bulk of my time - determining how to organize the board and where to buy what I was going to put on it.

To create our board we more or less followed this tutorial from Ginger Snap Crafts (which I would highly recommend). The most important thing that I took away from her tutorial was that we needed to create a frame for our board first so that there was space between the board and the wall for the hangers to go. We went ahead and created our frame with the cheapest 1 X 2's we could find and then screwed the frame and the 4 x 3ft pegboard into the wall. From there, we added the trim while it was already hanging with a nail gun. In the tutorial, she painted both white after to ensure they matched exactly. To save time (and let's be honest, energy), we skipped this step, and I think it looks just fine. Here is a side shot of the board so you can take a gander at the different layers.

Building materials for the actual board are as follows:
  • 1 X 2's - Purchase at Home Depot or other home improvement store and cut to the length desired to frame the back of the pegboard
  • Pegboard - Like this one. (Note: We ended up purchasing a 4ft x 8ft piece as it was this size or 2 x 4ft (which was too small) that were available. We had them cut it for us to the size we wanted at Home Depot. That being said, we have some extra hanging out in our garage for future projects...)
  • Molding for the frame - We literally bought the cheapest white stuff we could find at Home Depot.
  • And then screws, nails, wood glue (if you choose), and paint (if you choose)
Once the hubs got the board on the wall, I set to my work of organizing. The process reminded me a bit of putting together a gallery wall (for those of you that are familiar with this), there is definitely an art to spacing and getting creative in getting as much up there as possible. Baskets, shelves and hooks were definitely my best friend.

Organizational items used for our pegboard and where to purchase them:
  • Metal buckets: Michaels (although I think you can get them at pretty much any craft store - just saw them at Hobby Lobby this past week as well)
  • 2 inch hooks for hanging buckets, twine, and heart punch/glue gun: Home Depot (packs come in a variety of different numbers)
  • Black baskets (come in a 3 pack of large, medium and small): Home Depot
  • Small mason jars: Target Dollar Spot for $3
  • Wood Shelf: We used leftover wood we had on hand and stained it with this.
  • 4 inch hooks for hanging shelf: Home Depot (packs come in a variety of different numbers)

  • Large Mason Jars: Target Dollar Spot for $3
  • "Today I Shall Create" Frame: Hobby Lobby (this frame was bare wood, and we stained it with the same stain as the shelves - it was a challenge for me to figure out how to hang this, but I ended up putting it up with 3M strips - fingers crossed it stays)

And there you have it friends. I will admit, I kind of "ohh" and "ahh" to myself each time I now walk in our office.  It's always nice when one's crafting dreams become a reality ;). Now on to our next project...

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Neighborhood Hot Chocolate Bar

Last weekend we hosted what I hope to be our first annual "Hot Chocolate Bar" for our fabulous neighbors. After moving in this past April, the wonderful folks of our lil ole' block have been beyond generous and welcoming to us and our new little man. They have gone out of the way to make our home and street feel like a place where we truly belong. Thus, we thought it was beyond time we gave back to them in a small way (and plus, it was a great excuse to get us all together to hang out during these cold months where we are all hibernating indoors.)

Prior to the holidays, I put together a few festive invites for each family on the block. My dutiful hubs then traipsed through the snow door-to-door delivering them (bless his heart) to get the word out. We thought it would be nice to wait until after the holidays and new year had begun as a) that time of year is always so incredibly busy and b) there is always a bit of a lull/let down after as everyone heads back to work/school, so we thought this may give us a little something to look forward to.

We prepared our hot chocolate in two crockpots for our 20+ guests using this recipe I would highly recommend from One Good Thing by Jillee. Friends, this recipe uses chocolate chips as the main source of sweetness which made the most rich and delicious treat my mouth has ever laid its lips on.

For the bar portion of our event, we grabbed a few mason jars and an eclectic mix of bowls and trays from our cabinets to set up all the fixins'. Our optional add ins included Heath bits, Butterfinger bits, Andes mints, Mocha Chocolates, Marshmallows, Pirouettes, a variety of candy cane flavors (which I may add you can find on sale after the holidays), caramel sauce, whipped topping and an adult beverage choice for those interested in an additional twist to their drink.

I also whipped up a little sign to frame and add the finishing touches to our table. Special thanks to Lilly Ashley at Make it Create for the wintery chalkboard digital paper freebie. A copy of the sign can be found here. I'd love for you to print it and create your own "local bar" for your neighborhood. Use it as an opportunity to connect through the long winter months, or better yet, make a connection in general, if you have neighbors that you haven't met yet! Enjoy!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Mail Carrier Holiday Sign

I have seen a few of these "Mail Carrier Holiday Signs" over the past few years, and each year I find myself thinking, "Gee, what a wonderful idea! I should do that."And then low and behold, the seasonal busy-ness gets the best of me, and I don't get around to it. 

This year as I saw another one of these signs come across one of my social media feeds, I told myself - no excuses. It is not hard to buy a few delicious snacks, draw up and print a sign and stick it out on our front porch. And I was exactly right. It took less than 20 minutes (minus the grocery part which I already needed to do for the week), and it will hopefully serve to bring just a little joy to the many men and women busily bringing packages day-in and day-out to avid online shoppers such as myself this holiday season.

Now I'll admit, many of the sign displays and treats I have seen provided by others, for sure outshine my valiant effort. However, given it is currently -20 degrees where we live, and I was trying to "work with what we had on hand", our options were limited. I snagged a potted plant holder and a wooden salad bowl we had on hand to hold everything, and purchased assorted chocolate bars for our treat. I decided it was either that or popsicles, because frozen granola bars and bottles of ice likely weren't going to cut it!

I'll admit I'm pretty pumped to set out our little treat basket over this next week as the holiday craziness reaches it's maximum speed. I would encourage you all to do so as well. Don't be like former me and think how nice it would be to do - do it! And to ensure you have even less excuses, I am sharing my sign with you here. All you need to do is print it out, rummage around your home for a bowl and chair, for that matter, and grab some snacks at your next grocery trip! I'd love to see what you come up with so feel free to post a photo to inspire others, and tag me @kristahapp.

Happy online shopping & Christmas card sending!

Monday, October 31, 2016

DIY "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" Costume

I just couldn't quite get my act together early enough this year and let's be honest, with a 5 month old, the only reason he was truly getting dressed up for Halloween was for mom to take a commemorative photo. That being said, this "super" mom pulled together a little something the day before that was quick, cheap and inspired by a children's book (which I mean that counts for extra points, right?)

I started out by perusing the little man's closet for an outfit we could pull off that we had on hand. While the color of the overalls may have not been perfect, they were free. While out grocery shopping that same day, I hit up the local craft store and snagged a piece of gray and pink felt for around $2. I cut a strip of the felt and sized it to our "mouse's" head and simply stuck a staple in to hold it together. I then cut each ear piece (no stencil just eyeballed it) and hot glued them to the headband. 

Finally, I cut out a large and in charge cookie from some cardstock and added a piece of twine we had on hand to tie this delicious paper goodie to little man's neck. And let's be honest, you know he dug in. 

This whole costume cost under $5, took less than 20 minutes to throw together and took all of 3 minutes for our guy to be completely done with.

Happy Halloween 2016!

Love, The Happs

Saturday, September 17, 2016

DIY Orb Light

We have been blessed with a variety of "beautiful" light fixtures throughout our home. Little by little we have been working to update these gems, trying to get as creative as possible, because well - light fixtures aren't cheap.

In our main hallway, we were graced with this one of a kind piece. I know what you are thinking - the gold, the glass, the twine pull chain, so charming right? Why on earth would we want to update this piece? Did I mention the gold, the glass and the pull chain?

In my hunt to determine a way to cheaply update this light fixture I ran across this original post from Lovely Etc. on how to update a similar fixture in her home by simply purchasing a metal orb. I was sold. I love the look of orb light fixtures, and if I could create one I was satisfied with, without spending a pretty penny - I would love the look even more. 

First, we ditched the glass box surrounding the lights. (Gotta love the two different types of bulbs we were rocking.) Then the mister took down the fixture and set to work with a can of our favorite colored spray paint. We have used this Rust-oleum Burnished Amber color for a variety of door knobs and handles around our home as well.

I found the above metal orb at Hobby Lobby for $16.99. Using a 40% coupon I was able to purchase it for $10 and some change. We painted it the same color as the rest of the fixtures, and once everything was painted and dried, it was as simple as pie to hang our orb on the hooks left behind and get our newly revamped fixture up on our ceiling.

Adios gold and glass. (And someday we will also get rid of that twine pull chain. Baby steps :).)

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Fireplace Remodel

One of our biggest projects to date in our home has been our living room. And one of the biggest projects to tackle in our living room by far has been our fireplace (and the wall in which it resides). This photo below was one I snapped of this wall of our living room at our final walk through a few days prior to moving in to our home. And yes, you can't miss me in that lovely mantle mirror.

And this is our fireplace (and the wall in which it resides) currently.

Just a little different, right? We like it. It was a labor of love, for sure. But well worth it, I'd say. 

So what did we change?

First things first, we ditched the mirror. In it's place, we put up a plank wall with barn wood that we purchased at Home Depot. (Yes, they sell that! And the hubs thoroughly enjoyed air nailing each one into place.)

From here, we took down all of those beautifully colored tiles and replaced them with some more neutral colored stones (also from Home Depot). Then we spray painted the fireplace doors and repainted all the trim to give them both a more updated look.

Low down on the mantle accessories:
Lantern: Hobby Lobby
White Vase: Thrifted
"H": Hobby Lobby 
Glass Mason Holder: Hobby Lobby
Chicken Wire Frame: Had on hand/Repainted & Repurposed

We also gave our built ins a little bit of a facelift. If you notice in the original photo, the built ins also had brick backing. To me, this was a bit of brick overkill and made them look kind of like shelves just thrown up on the wall.  Thus, we pulled off the "shelves just thrown up on the wall" and added a super thin piece of particle board (that we painted white) as a new backdrop. This was just the piece they needed to separate them more from the actual wall and class em' up a bit.

On the shelves we then added a mix of frames, trinkets and bins. My hope is to use the bins to store a variety of things that generally end up floating around our living room or coffee table (ie. the burp cloths you see below).  

Shelf #1 Accessories:
"Life gets too hard" sign: Hobby Lobby
Milk Jug: Had on hand/Repainted & Repurposed
Gray Frame/White Stand: Had on Hand/Repainted & Repurposed
Welcome Sign: Thrifted
Gray Lantern: Gordmans
Cream Bins: Target
Burlap Bow Frame: Hobby Lobby
Wood Blessed Sign/Stand: Hobby Lobby
White Metal Basket: Thrifted
Gray Bird: Michaels
Galvanized Jug: Gordmans

Shelf #2 Accessories:
Family Sign: Had on Hand
Ceramic Bird: Gordmans
Antiqued Frame: Had on Hand/Repainted & Repurposed (Chalk Paint/Antiquing Wax)
Bicycle Bookends: Target
Gray Frame/White Stand: Had on Hand/Repainted & Repurposed
Flower Tray/Flowers: Michaels
Cream Bins: Target

And there you have it. Stay tuned for "the rest of our living room" post coming up soon!

Check out the other rooms we have remodeled here: