Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Homemade Baby Food: Fruits

I didn't wait very long to introduce fruits. I know you often hear not to introduce fruits until baby has a good relationship with veggies because you don't want them to get hooked on the sweetness of fruits. Makes sense, I just did what felt right to us. After Evan had been eating veggies like broccoli, carrots and sweet potatoes for about 2 weeks, I let him have some fruit. I'll let you catch your breath. He's totally fine.

We serve a balanced amount of fruits an veggies through out the day. I think the trick is not to let them eat only fruit. I also am sure to start the meal with the protein and veggie and end the meal with the fruit, like a little treat. I use the same cookbooks that I did for the veggies and once I got comfortable, I struck out on my own path based on what we have on hand, what's in season or what our budget of time and money allows for.

The idea is the same as the veggies: they need to be soft so they can be pureed or cut up into cubes to be crushed by little gums. I also store them the same way I store the veggies. So, without further ado, here's the list of fruits (and how I prepare them) that I make for my baby boy:
  1. Apples. The sweeter variety. Peel, core and dice. Place into steamer until fork tender. Puree OR leave whole for baby to pick up. I also tried frying slices in butter with a bit of cinnamon (tried at 9 months) and he loved it....I love it, too. This works well with pear slices also. 
  2. Pears. Treat the same as the apple. I like the d'anjou pears best. If you let them get really ripe, you can just peel and slice as is. Evan and I often share a pear. I'll keep it whole and start taking bites out of it, then he'll take little bites out of it.
  3. Bananas. It's important that they are very ripe. No cooking required. Mash with a fork or cut into dices for baby to pick up. They are slippery and can frustrate the little one so dusting them with cheerio dust or even wheat germ helps the grip-ability. 
  4. Grapes. I waited until 10 months for these (with 3 teeth). Okay this is going to sound gross to some, but hey, it works. I just peel the grapes then give him the meat of the grape and he loves it. He does fine if I just cut them in half but, to me, that just feels like a choking hazard with the skin on and all. 
  5. Blueberries. He loves bb's. I started these at 8 months. Just cut them in half. You can squish them a bit if you feel like it. 
  6. Watermelon. Super easy for baby to crush. Just dice and let them have at it. 
  7. Kiwi. Peel and dice or slice into strips. The seeds never posed a problem for us. He thought it was tart but kept eating them. 
  8. Mango. Evan loved mango. Peel and puree, adding liquid if needed OR finely chop and spoon feed baby. I also mixed with finely chopped banana and that was a hit.
I use these fruits and methods as a base and then use my imagination for different combinations. It's also great to use fruit puree as a dip for toast or mixed into oatmeal or cream of wheat cereal. I admit I did cheat and buy a few jars of fruit (apricots, berry mixture etc) because sometimes the produce wasn't very tasty or not in season. Just remember: no need to add sugar and have fun!

Next up: Homemade Baby Food: Snacks and Desserts

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Haps

  • Today was the last lesson in Evan's first swimming session. He will stay at the platypus level until he reaches 13 months. He can kick his legs, back float, has fun jumping into the pool, goes under water and loves to splash. I had a blast too, so I think we are going to sign up for another round this summer.
  • Time for the play pen. E has been a wild man and makes me so nervous because he seems to have gotten careless about paying attention to his balance. He'll pull up on something and then lean back and fall. I'm not so worried on the carpet but we have a lot of tile and I am always right there to make sure he doesn't get hurt. The play pen allows me to get some stuff done while he plays nearby. 
  • Teething. Those darn top front teeth are trying to tear their way through my baby's gums and he is not happy about it. 
  • We are starting an experiment. We are hiring a cleaning company to help us out.
  • I'm thinking about starting another blog. More info to come!
  • Evan's giving the stink eye. Ha!

Have a good weekend.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

i'm a hothead

It's true.

I have a short fuse, at times, not all the time, but it's still there. Maybe I've had a bad day, too many people have tail-gated me, work was overwhelming, someone is not respecting my wishes, I haven't eaten in hours or aunt flow is planning her visit. Sometimes over the course of a few weeks little agitating situations arise and add up and then one day there is a little agitating situation that sends me over the edge. Then...I explode.

Since Evan came along, when my temper gets the best of me, I get quiet and deliberately don't say anything. I am not always successful but I am working toward being consistent. If I say something, I will say mean, sarcastic and hurtful things. I know myself. The point is that I am trying to work toward a healthier response to annoyances. I need to set an example. I recognize that my original responses are not the way I want Evan to behave. I need to work toward not slamming things when I am upset. To breathe and cool off. To walk away and gather my thoughts or change my focus and return to the issue with a clear head.

Life gets tough. It's helpful to step back and ask yourself whether it's worth getting upset about. And if it is....discuss it in a healthy and productive manner.

Tonight was tough. I came home from work in a fowl mood because I had been turned down again after requesting some flexibility in my schedule. John did one little thing to make me feel like my world was crashing in on me. One little thing added on top of all the other unhappy things in my day made me explode. Yet, I decided not to talk, I decided to do the dishes and run an errand. When I came back, I had cooled down and was able to state my feelings in a clear, respectful way.

Motherhood is wonderful and exciting and fun but it can also be stressful and demanding. Practicing these techniques will help me in the long run. Help me to keep my cool longer and be a better mama and role model.

How do you handle bad days or situations that send you over the edge? What works? What doesn't?

Sunday, May 22, 2011


Oh my my my. I am so tired. I just made Evan's food for the week and whipped up 7 items! I surprised myself. Here's what on his menu this week:

  • Broccoli and cauliflower with cheese sauce
  • Oatmeal
  • Fruited couscous
  • Rice pudding
  • Peas
  • Butternut squash
  • Pears and apples with cinnamon 
Of course this is just the make-ahead portion of his menu. I'll also throw in some toast with apple butter, yogurt, cheese cubes, eggs, whatever we are having for dinner and his little snack puffs. I started out taking a few pictures to show you how yummy it all looks but I got so tired, I just ran out of energy. I'll try again next time. I just ate a little bowl of the fruited couscous. Wow. I am impressed with the recipe. It's a bit of coconut milk, water, sugar and cinnamon boiled together and then stirred into the couscous, then once it has fluffed up, stir in chopped raisins and dried apricots that have been soaked in hot water. It's really good. 

Happy Monday.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Too Cute

Oh man, this is too cute not to share. Dad was messing with the camera during their Dad-Son day and caught the best smile EVER.

This smile makes me forget about my to-do lists. I'd rather play the day away with this guy. Who cares about chores and work when this boy is around!

Is there somebody that you'd rather play the day away with than work?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Homemade Baby Food: Veggies

After the initial introduction of solids, I moved into veggies for lunch and dinner. This happened at around 7 months. At this point I also started sending food to daycare. Like I explained here, I focused on thick purees for daycare and soft chunks for eating at home. By this time Evan's gag reflex had passed and he was really excited to try more things. He still had the same amount of breastmilk/formula intake, the veggies were added for exploration and experience. They also helped him feel satiated for longer (since he was actually getting the veggies down), so it helped him sleep through the night!

Since 7 months I have been making the same veggies and adding different varieties or preparing them in different combinations as he gets older. I refer to Cooking Light's First Foods baby cookbook often (for a bit more description check this out) . I also used From Animal Crackers to Wild West Beans which has a bunch of great ideas geared toward the vegetarian baby. At 7 months I followed the recipes, then started experimenting on my own at 8 months. I didn't let the book dictate what recipes I was "allowed" to make. Even if a recipe was listed in the 8-12 month section but I was cooking for my 7 month old, I adapted the recipe to fit his abilities. I like this cookbook because they provide recipes that are healthy and great for the whole family. Low in sugar and fats, they use seasoning and natural flavors to give the dishes taste. I love it!

Cooking for Evan has made me change my eating habits and try new things, too. When I prepare dinner, I don't want to make a dinner for Evan and a dinner for John and I just because we are eating something unhealthy. It's been eye-opening to evaluate what I've been eating!

Below I list the veggies I prepare. I use a pot of water and metal steamer to steam. I use the magic bullet or a potato masher to mush stuff up. For freezing purees, I drop cooled food into ice cube trays, freeze then transfer to a ziploc bag. For freezing chunks, I put them on a cookie sheet (to prevent a huge block of food from forming) and freeze then transfer to ziploc bag.

Here's a list of veggies (and how I prepare them):

  1. Sweet potatoes. Wrap tightly in foil, place on a cookie sheet and roast in a 400 degree oven for 1 hour. Let cool, remove skin and either puree add breastmilk/water as needed OR cut into chunks for baby to pick up. 
  2. Butternut squash/Acorn squash. Cut in half lengthwise, remove seeds, place face down in a pan with a half inch of water and cook in a 400 degree oven for 1 hour. Let cool, cut out flesh and puree OR cut into cubes. 
  3. Peas. Steam frozen peas for 6 minutes then puree, adding liquid if needed OR serve leave whole for baby to pick up. 
  4. Broccoli. Cut "trees" and steam until fork tender or soft. I never pureed because the built-in handle was so great for Evan to practice with. 
  5. Parsnip and apple soup. Peel, trim and dice the parsnip and apple. Place parsnip in boiling water, cover and simmer 15 minutes. Add apple and cook 10 more minutes. Drain and puree. 
  6. Carrot soup. Saute diced, yellow onion and a bag of baby carrots in a couple tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil for 10 minutes. Add a bit of chopped ginger and cook 1 more minute. Add a carton of chicken stock or vegetable stock (you could even do half a carton and a cup of water). Simmer 30 minutes. Let cool a bit then puree in batches or use an immersion blender. I eat this and it's yummy!
  7. Zucchini. Peel, cube, steam then puree OR leave whole for baby to pick up.
  8. Asparagus. Trim, cut into 1 inch pieces and steam for 10 minutes or until very tender. Puree adding liquid as needed OR leave the very tips (the softest parts) for baby to pick up.
  9. Mixed veggies. Steam some frozen mixed veggies (like peas and carrots or green beans, corn and carrots) until soft then puree OR leave whole for baby to pick up.
Of course, this is only a small portion of what I make. I use my imagination to combine veggies or pair with pasta, rice or couscous. You can't go wrong, really, just don't use salt! Also, don't underestimate your baby's taste buds, they want to explore this new world! 

Monday, May 16, 2011

Homemade Baby Food: First Bites

Rice cereal. Bland, boring color, blah. I'm sure that's what Evan was thinking when I first gave this to him at 6 months. He did not appreciate being underestimated like that. I tried many times with the rice cereal but he was much more interested in what we were eating. Of course! Color, smells, textures, fun! I abandoned the cereal and instead allowed him to explore food like mashed up banana, avocado and zucchini. I started with food that had a lighter taste and smooth texture.

My philosophy for introducing solids is a mixture of baby led weaning (BLW) concepts and traditional purees. Baby led weaning is a method of food introduction that allows the baby to be in control of the process. Basically you offer your baby (when he show signs of readiness, of course) chunks of food to inspect, play with, smell and gnaw on. He feeds himself from the start. It's brilliant. It facilitates hand eye coordination, meal/food enjoyment, appetite control and much more. In BLW you offer hunks of food in shapes and sizes appropriate for your baby. He picks up the food and gnaws with his gums. Blending this method with the traditional mashed food/purees was what was right for our family and we have been very happy with it.

Introducing solids isn't about anything more than getting baby used to texture and new tastes, in a word, exploration. Baby gets all the nutrition he needs from breastmilk/formula at this point. The focus is not to replace milk feedings with solids. Weaning (gradually changing from a breastmilk/formula-only diet to having no breastmilk or formula) can take 6 months or more to achieve. Once I understood that the early months of eating solids were not focused on the need for extra calories or vitamins and that how much he actually swallowed wasn't important, I calmed down and didn't stress out.

In the very beginning I held Evan in my lap (he didn't like his high chair until around 7.5 months but I would put him in it each day for a few minutes) at the table and he would take food off my plate. I made sure that what was available to him was soft/safe, of course. It was VERY messy but he enjoyed himself and quickly began reaching for every kind of food in front him. He gagged a lot in the beginning but it never discouraged him from continuing on. The reflex disappeared after a month. I was nervous about choking but I just watched him closely and if something wasn't sitting right in his mouth he coughed it out or put his finger in and moved the food to his cheek so his gums could mash it. The 6 month post describes Evan's intro to food-here.

Here's a list of foods (and how they were prepared) that Evan was introduced to in the beginning (6-7 months):
  1. Zucchini. Peel, cube, steam then puree.
  2. Avocado. A very ripe one mashed into a chunky consistency (added breastmilk if needed).
  3. Banana. A very ripe one mashed with a little breastmilk. 
  4. Butternut squash. Cut in half lengthwise, remove seeds, place face down in a pan with a half inch of water and cook in a 400 degree oven for 1 hour. Let cool, cut out flesh and puree (or cut into cubes) adding liquid if needed.
  5. Rice. Plain white rice (we used Jasmine rice because that's what we have on hand) cooked in a rice cooker or on the stove with regular directions (maybe add a bit of extra liquid).
  6. Cucumber. Cut into a thick finger. Evan just gnawed on this and was never able to bite off a chunk but I watched him closely. He like the coolness on his sore gums.
  7. Sweet potato. Wash, wrap 1 tightly in foil, roast in a 400 degree oven for 1 hour. Let cool, remove skin and puree flash adding liquid if needed.
I put the purees in ice cube trays and froze then store in ziploc bags for no longer than 3 weeks. These went with Evan to daycare for lunch or were dinner backups. I would hold Evan on my lap at dinner and he would grab food off my plate. Here's a list of things I let him eat off my plate:
  1. Rice
  2. Pasta sauce. He would dip his hands in the sauce and put the whole thing in his mouth.
  3. Angel hair pasta, cut up.
  4. Mashed potatoes.
  5. Shredded cheese.
  6. Finely crumbled taco meat. (Ground beef with taco seasoning).
  7. Bread/toast, no butter.
  8. Sandwich. He would put his mouth on the sandwich and pretend to take a bite. He never got much but he could still experience the taste.
  9. The flesh of zucchini and yellow squash.
  10. Soft cooked broccoli. The stem was a built in handle and Evan would gnaw on the crowns. 
  11. Thick stick of carrot. He would just gnaw on the them. They were great for teething. 
Getting used to his highchair

Wipeable bibs with pockets help control the mess. Or better yet, just let 'em go shirtless, foods wipes right off! Don't forget to have your camera near by for messy pics and videos!

Check out:
Homemade Baby Food: Veggies
Homemade Baby Food: Fruits

Friday, May 13, 2011

Evan's Food Journey

I make Evan's baby food. I really like knowing exactly what my baby is getting and it also expands the variety and flavor combinations that he gets. I do, on occasion, buy jarred baby food for convenience (if I've run outMom's 50th Birthday  of time to make it myself) or if I can't find the ingredients to make something (like prunes).  We have also been incorporating the baby led weaning method of introducing foods. This is where you allow the baby to explore food and feed himself real food no earlier than 6 months. Keeping this in mind, I prepare a range of foods that include chunky purees and soft chunks that he can pick up on his own.

I set aside some time each week to prepare food for the next 7 days. I like for Evan to have variety so even though there is food left over from the previous week, I still prepare more food to add to the inventory so that we have different options. Evan typically eats what we eat at dinner (we started this at around 7.5 months) unless we are running behind schedule, then he'll eat his own food that I've already prepared. So, when I cook for him for the following week, it's mainly his lunches and snacks.

I usually cook on Sunday nights or Tuesday nights after baby boy has gone to sleep. It takes about an hour to whip up 3 or 4 different things. I used the Magic Bullet to puree foods but any blender or food processor would work. They also sell baby food mills and specialty baby food blenders. To make a chunkier texture I use a potato masher. At around 8 months I simply chopped food into small cubes. After the foods cool, I put them in ice cube trays and freeze then transfer to a ziploc bag for storage. To re-heat, I place the food in a microwave safe bowl and warm for 30 to 60 seconds. I have found Cooking Light's First Foods to be very helpful. I really like how they focus on fresh ingredients and most of their recipes are for the whole family so you don't have to cook one thing for baby and another for the family. I really like how they explain the process of weaning and go into detail about the techniques and concepts of making baby food. I also like the Baby Led Weaning Cook Book. This is a European concept so you have to have an open mind about the recipes because they are often different from what Americans are used to. I have also found wholesomebabyfood.com to be a great source of ideas. Either way, I started out using the cookbooks but then just went down my own path using my imagination. Also, it's forced me to evaluate my own eating habits. If I want Evan to eat healthy, I need to exhibit that behavior as well.

Evan started solids at 6 months. We tried rice cereal but he just wasn't liking it even after many tries. We moved on to bananas and avocado. That's when he was hooked. On real food. He could always tell when he was eating something different from us and he would get upset! He demanded real food.  From 6 to 8 months I focused on chunky purees and finger foods to send with Evan to the sitter's for lunch. At dinner I would allow him to explore food by handling it himself or pre-loading a spoon. The idea was that he would be spoon fed (whether by the sitter or the sitter loading the spoon for him) at lunch, then I would use the baby led weaning method at home for dinner and on the weekends.

This approach has been successful. Evan loves to eat, try new things and likes most foods. From around 7 months he was eating spaghetti and other noodles. At 8 months he was eating taco salad and beef stew. He had texture earlier than most exclusively spoon-fed babies so he learned quickly how to use his tongue to deal with foods. He uses his fingers to move food over to the side of his mouth for mashing. He quickly developed his pincer grip motor skill, too. Plus, it helped to save money on baby food. For example, if I roast a sweet potato (cost $.50), I can feed Evan some during 5-10 meals (depending on how hungry he is). If I buy the sweet potato baby food for $1.75 and it feeds Evan 1-2 meals clearly it's cheaper to roast your own sweet potato. If I want to buy 5 meals worth of sweet potato baby food, the cost is $8.75. I'll take the extra few minutes to make my own thank you.

It's nothing against the makers of baby food, I just like cooking, saving money and having more options available. Soon I'll be posting foods that I have prepared for baby boy and how I do it.

Do you make your own baby food? What are your favorite foods to make?

Monday, May 9, 2011

DIY Media Center

We looked high and low trying to find the perfect (yet reasonably priced) media center that was around 20" tall and 82" long (we wanted to cover the outlets and cabling for a more polished look), but we were unsuccessful. The dimensions were hard to find. If it was tall enough it wasn't long enough, if it was long enough it wasn't tall enough and if we did find the right dimensions the price was outrageous.

After reading a series of posts from younghouselove.com regarding their DIY console table (here's their finished product), I was feeling inspired. I showed my husband and I immediately saw the wheels start to turn. He, of course, was enamored with the tools he saw YHLer John using. My John started sketching up ideas for his custom media center dream. Once he realized we didn't have to be limited by what's on the market, he let his imagination run wild with visions of cable management/concealment and organization/storage paired with his love of sleek simple pieces.

So, here's the story.... of a lovely media center:

John used google sketchup to bring his vision to life.

We let a couple weeks pass before moving forward with the project because we were timid on biting the bullet and buying the Kreg Jig ($140 at Lowe's). BUT I reasoned that we were going to attempt more projects (shelves, a desk, a console table etc) so I surprised John with it! As soon as he could, he went to Lowe's to find the wood and have it cut to his specifications (since we don't own a saw). He settled on using a combination of white wood and pine, purely based on price (wood cuts are listed below). He also picked up a Skil router tool that cuts edges and corners to make the piece more kid friendly.

He began by making the pocket holes with the Kreg Jig and then attaching the 2 sides to the bottom piece. At this point, he stood back with his fist by chin and his other fist supporting his elbow, and said he had some concerns about his design. So, we thought for a bit and I suggested having 3 sections in rather than 2. That we should have a center section to house the actual media devices with 2 sections flanking it. John agreed and adjusted his vision then headed back to Lowe's to get the additional wood needed for our changes along with some Kreg screws.

These are the wood cuts used:

2 pine boards for the top and bottom at 20"x 82"x 1"
4 pine side boards (2 outer and 2 inner sides) at 20"x 18"x 1"
4 white wood pieces to be used as facing attached to each of the 4 side boards at 20"x 2"x 1"
pine boards to be used as shelving in the center section at 20"x 18"x 1"
2 pine boards to be used as shelving in the 2 side sections at 28"x 18"x 1"

To prepare the boards, John used his router tool to cut the edges of all the boards that would be seen or touched by little baby hands. The facing pieces were attached to all of the boards that would be facing the television viewers. Here's the prepped wood:

First John attached the 2 side boards to the bottom piece, then attached the 2 inner side boards. He argued with himself about whether to attach the shelves by screwing them into the side boards or to use shelf pins and he chose the latter. The top piece was attached and then the shelf pin holes were placed and tested.

It was stained using Miniwax stain in ebony. In order to get the dark finish that we were looking for, the stain was left on for 15 minutes then wiped off. It was SUPER smelly so it was applied outside in open air with a mask. The next day the clear satin polyurethane finish was applied to protect the wood. After everything was dry, the shelves were placed felt feet were installed on the bottom to make it easier to move around on the tile floor and allow for any floor levelness issues.

Then, as John and I stepped back to admire his handy work, we envisioned baskets to help with organization and storage but still have a clean look. He headed out to Pier One after finding they were having a sale on baskets. We got 4 medium and 2 small.

Tah Dahhh!

I am so impressed with my husband I can't even tell you! He is not a carpenter or wood worker. This was his first project and we love it and really enjoyed the process as well. To add some finishing touches we'll be attaching some thick fabric (maybe canvas type?) to the back in order to completely hide the outlets and cabling and also adding some simple decorative grass in square vases on either side of the tv for some color. The baskets are holding the few DVDs that we own, controllers, remotes, Evan's toys and instruction manuals.

The finished product measurements: 22" tall and 82" long and 18" deep

Project cost (not including tools, since they'll be used in infinite projects to come):

wood $120
shelf pins $8
screws $5
wood stain $8
sponge applicators $2
polyurethane $8
felt feet $5

Total cost for a custom media center: $156
The boost in confidence: priceless!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


I am skipping dishes, Tae Bo and laundry to write this post. A few months ago I wrote about my feelings on contentment. After focusing on accepting my life the way it is, I still strive to find ways to be better, to get things closer to the way I want them to be. I'm not happy to stand by and accept things if those things don't make me happy. So, my contentment revision now includes "balance."

Having a nice blend of contentment mixed with inspiration and ambition will create a more balanced approach.

This idea is a result of me not feeling great about my career choice. I sit at my desk day in and day out wondering why I chose the field that I work in. For a while I focused hard on being content with the way things had come to be. It's not working. If I did that, I would be in a career that made me unhappy and unfulfilled for DECADES. No. I can't. Why should I sit there and accept this when I have the power to make changes? I think it's healthy to want things. To strive and move forward, to grow as a person by reaching for things like efficiency, knowledge and happiness. The key is to not get worked up about the limitations presented (after trying to surpass them, of course). For example, to be able to work within the limitations of the state of our economy, our schedules, our budgets or the space in our homes is the key. If you have a certain amount of income and are frustrated that it's not enough and you attempt to find a better job or get more education to increase that income but are not immediately successful then being able to accept the situation and find a way to work with it is where contentment comes into play. There is nothing wrong with striving for better.  It's when it consumes you that the ambition becomes a problem. I am upset that gas prices are outrageous. Instead of fuming about it and wasting my time and energy on something I can't change, I'll be content with it and adjust my usage accordingly.

I've been thinking about this for a while. So maybe I should scrap the focus on contentment and change my focus to balance. When I can, I practice yoga. When I am in a balancing pose (half moon, tree) I feel so good when I'm not wavering all over the room. These poses are a combination of focus on strength, breathing and acceptance of your body's limitations and working with it, not against it. I think I can apply that many situations in life. After all, becoming a mommy forced me to juggle a lot and every day is a balancing act.

Ah, the journey of mommyhood and growth as a human being.

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