Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Homemade Edible Fingerpaint

Seeing as it is now summertime I am always looking for ways to get us outdoors in the sunshine. Doing something creative while soaking in the the summer breeze is an added bonus.

I have recently been on the hunt for some non-toxic, edible (because Lord knows everything goes in his little mouth) finger paint for the little man as I thought it would fulfill the above requirements and provide him with a great toddler friendly sensory experience. Low and behold, finding this type of paint on the market is no easy feat. Thus, I elected to go the homemade route. I did find a couple different recipe ideas here and there out there in Pinterest-land, but they were limited and not exactly what I was looking for, so I tweaked things a bit to meet our needs.

As a base for the fingerpaint I used unsweetened coconut milk yogurt. Little man still doesn't really do much dairy, so that's why I elected to go this route. However, you could certainly swap for whole milk, greek or any other yogurt option. To make three small portions of paint, I used about a container and a half of the yogurt. 

For the color, I wanted to avoid artificial dyes and utilize all natural food sources that were not only bright, but nutritious. I opted for blueberries, beets and turmeric to do the job. 

You need very little beets to create a huge pop of reddish color. I would recommend pureeing them first, then mixing them into the yogurt. 

For the yellow paint, simply add dashes of turmeric until desired colored has been reached.

The blueberries were a little trickier to work with, but I ended up smashing them with a fork (thinking you could blend too) and then mixing them into the yogurt. I then strained the yogurt out, leaving the large chunks of blueberries aside. 

Then it was time for the fun to begin. I used a large foam board we had on hand for our canvas and just dumped the paint out and plopped the toddler on. (Oh, and I would definitely recommend this be a diaper only affair as these ingredients will leave a nice mark on any and all clothing, unless you have an impeccably neat toddler.)

He was definitely unsure of it at first. But once he dipped his fingers (and toes) in and mommy showed him how it was done, he was all in. 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

First Birthday Card Book

I am always grateful each year when my birthday comes around for the sweet and thoughtful cards my family and friends spend time picking out and filled with crafted messages of love and celebration. I may even hang several of them on our refrigerator for awhile afterwards to brighten my day as I pass by. But then I often wonder, what should I do with them after that?

Do I throw them up in our attic in a box to store to be looked at once every couple years when I am in the mood to either to a) reminisce or b) for a good purge session?

Or do I just go ahead and bite the bullet and recycle them immediately after I have read them as I know that is most likely their impending doom when I get into one of my minimizing clutter frenzies down the road.

When little man's first birthday rolled around just a few short weeks back, I was left with the same dilemma. That being said, the sentimental mommy in me felt like I just couldn't let go of these cards quite yet. They are a reminder of all those who celebrated this momentous occasion with us. So once I had made up my mind to save them, the real question came in to play - what to do with them? 

Instead of throwing them up in a box in the attic, I decided to repurpose them. Little man loves books and textures these days, both of which I could accomplish with our birthday cards. Not to mention the book content was nothing short of loving and personalized to the babe! 

Putting the book together was simple. I grabbed a large binder ring we had on hand downstairs and some left over ribbon from his party banners. I then created a cover page by modifying his party invitation a bit. I had DIYed his invites which made this simple, but you could really create a cover page any way you'd like. Finally, I hole punched the corner of each card and placed them on the ring. Within minutes we had a new book to add to our collection and an actual use for all of those birthday cards again.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, mister man is loving his new book.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Paleo Smash Cake Sesh

I pondered a great deal over what kind of cake to make for our little man's 1st birthday. I scoured Pinterest (as creating my own recipes is far beyond my baking skill level) looking for something that would be as nutrient rich as possible, while still tasty for his special day. I ran across this Coconut Blueberry Layer Cake from the Foodie Teen, and while not intended to be a smash cake, I decided it just might work.

The ingredients were on point with a coconut/almond flour base and the frosting created with coconut milk and maple syrup. No refined sugar or grain! It was a go. The original called for 3 cake layers, but seeing as our newly turned one-year-old toddler was the only one devouring it, we thought two layers would be beyond plenty, and it was.

As you can see, he was completely unsure of it to start. My little man who loves destroying anything in his path, delicately picked the blueberries off the top and sampled them while all of our eagerly awaiting birthday party attendees watched in anticipation of the big "dig in" moment.

I gladly took an opportunity to show him how it was done, and was pleasantly surprised - the cake was delicious! Little man, seriously you were missing out. He was eventually victorious in snagging his very own bite of actual cake, but the whole scenario was comically anticlimactic.

Until we decided to bust out the one piece we happened to save for our "cake smash" photo session the next morning. Apparently our child just isn't into showing off for a crowd, because he downed this piece like it was his job. Just picked it up whole like a champ and in it went. 

I have to admit I am glad that we got photos from both scenarios as they both give me a good giggle for different reasons. This kid never ceases to surprise me, and I can't wait to see all that we have in store for this next year. One thing is for sure, he did end up loving his cake - which was the ultimate goal - so it comes with the babe (and mama) stamp of approval for fellow first time cake smashers (and beyond). Snag the recipe again here.

Special thanks to my sister for her cake baking skills and Marissa K Webb photography for capturing these precious moments.

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!