Fave 5: Preggo Picks

Happy Fave 5 Friday!  Christmas is just over ONE week away!  I love this season and am soaking up all the of the holiday spirit.  It's cooling off in Houston and finally feeling like winter (even if we get the occasional weirdly warm day in the 70s...it could be worse!)  Landon has really been getting into it this year from showing off our Christmas tree to singing his favorite carol, Jingle Bells, several times a day!

I just can't believe that once Christmas and New Year's are over, I'll only have about three weeks until Baby Girl's arrival (that is if she doesn't decide to come early)!  This pregnancy has certainly flown by mostly because I have been so focused on chasing a toddler.  It has been a whirlwind and the adventure is just beginning.  See below for a few of my favorite things that have made the last few months a little easier.

Fave 5 Preggo Picks.jpg

Clockwise from top:

Cake Lingerie Cotton Candy Bra:  This staple is supportive enough for everyday wear but comfy enough for prenatal yoga or even sleeping.  It's actually a nursing bra that I purchased at the end of my last pregnancy but this time I started rocking it five or six months ago.

Wamsutta Body Pillow:  It's so hard to get a good night's sleep when you're pregnant.  I tried the Snoogle and I honestly have no idea what all the hype is about.  It's too thin and I started referring to it as "the cobra" after about a week of use.  It was fun to wrap Landon up in it for a "pillow hug" but I ultimately sold it and I'm so glad that I traded up for this body pillow.  I sleep SO MUCH better with it!  I'm normally a stomach sleeper too so I needed something like this to keep me on my side with support for my (rapidly spreading) hips.  It's also less than half the price of most pregnancy pillows.

Honest Co. Organic Belly Balm:  This is one of my favorite gifts for newly preggo moms.  I love it just as much this time around as I did two years ago.  It smells like a spa.  I sampled other products but they were mostly too heavily scented and/or made out of some scarily unnatural ingredients.  This one is completely organic!  The oils are extra moisturizing but best to apply under absorbent pajamas before bed (since a little can come off on your clothes).  

MAC Matchmaster Concealer:  Speaking of organic...this is not.  I tried more "natural" concealers but let's be honest...those just don't do the job.  Pregnancy is tiring.  Pregnancy with a toddler in tow is exhausting.  Hide the evidence with this extra smooth, moisturizing, medium coverage miracle worker.  I use it as an under eye concealer every. single. day.  Plus, it's recommended by my personal makeup guru (and author of Binkies and Baubles)!

Lululemon Align Pant:  Ever since my brief stint in yoga teaching, I have been a Lulu junkie.  The quality can't be beat and almost all of their items are stretchy enough to last through pregnancy.  While most yoga pants are wearable through the first 6-7 months, something a little more supple and forgiving is needed when nearing the finish line.  The Align Pant has a high waist that acts like the panel of your favorite maternity jeans.  The Nulu™ fabric is super soft and has four-way stretch.  You really will forget that you're wearing anything.  They are that comfy!

 

 

Fave 5: 19-21 Months

 

I am completely overdue for a post and I really miss blogging!  Things have been crazy over the past few months but that is no excuse for letting my poor blog sit here.  I am finally catching up on my monthly Fave 5s and as many of you know, Landon is well past the 19-21 month phase but we have to start where I left off.  I miss having a baby around so it's a good thing Landon's little sister is on the way!  Baby #2 is coming in late January!  Stay tuned for more details, nursery updates, my takes on the latest baby gear and more.

My first thought when looking at this photo collage is, "Wow, that looks like preschool gear".  I can't believe that it is actually the truth and our little guy started preschool this fall.  He is only there for three hours a day but he certainly seems like a grown up toddler now that he is spending more time away from home.  Over the last couple of months, his love for building has grown along with his ability to color with regular crayons (as opposed to the egg-shaped baby version).  He runs around like a wild man in his new high tops and even recognizes all the letters in the alphabet.  Where is the time going!? 

Please chime in and comment with your favorites for this stage and age!  I love to pass along the info for other moms and the more ideas, the better.

Clockwise from top:

Tegu Blocks  This Target find is a fun way to introduce building to little ones while avoiding the frustration that can come along with trying to stack things for the first time.  Since the blocks are magnetic, they stick together in any combination (which is also helpful if they are with you in the car/plane etc.)

Pillowfort Industrial Kids Chairs (and table) - I love the look of this table and chairs set (chairs sold as a pair, table sold separately).  The metal construction is super durable and the little chairs are quite sturdy.  Landon uses this table as his coloring station.  It is easily wiped down which is a HUGE plus.  

See Kai Run Dane Sneaker - These are currently 20% off at Nordstrom and have been a hit for us.  I like that the high tops provide great ankle support.  They also look more like big kid shoes than baby shoes (which is bittersweet).

Classic Crayola 64 Crayon Box - This box of crayons brings me straight back to childhood!  All the great original colors are here and thankfully the crayons are washable.  My go-to is a paste of baking soda and water on the rough side of a sponge for wiping down the Pillowfort table (and a few other surfaces such as walls...for wipeable paint sheens, see here).  I even got a nice orange crayon scribble out of our living room sofa with a brush and some dish soap.  I chose some great roller shades for our house and some crayon even made it's way onto those.  Let's just say there is nothing like the miraculous Mr. Clean Magic Eraser.  Now we need to work on our coloring boundaries...

Plan Toys Preschool Alphabet  Another great Grandma gift!  These letters have traveled with us in their trusty little sack and have been so helpful for learning the alphabet.  Matching the letters to the associated cards/objects adds an extra challenge and was a great way to prep for preschool over the summer.

Hard at work on his coloring (20 months)

Fave 5: 16-18 Months

How is our little toddler already a year and a half old?  Just a few months ago, he was crawling, babbling, and eating purées.  Now he is suddenly a mini man on the run with a full fledged personality, a growing vocabulary, and a huge appetite for all kinds of foods.  Some days, Landon already seems like a typical two year old with the occasional tantrum and and a very clear desire to do things for himself.  While it is tempting to give him a helping hand and treat him like the baby that he still is in my eyes, it is also so rewarding to see just how proud he is of himself when he accomplishes new things each day.  

Lately, the biggest milestone is eating with utensils.  The biggest challenge at this age isn't a huge surprise...air travel has become a whole new world.  See below for the products that have been amazingly helpful for this age and stage.  I hope they work out for you too!

Clockwise from top:

1. Re-Play Utensils  While we experimented with them for months, eating utensils are just now becoming useful tools. As long as we time the meal right, Landon will proudly use his fork to spear everything from chicken breast and avocado to scrambled eggs and blueberries.  If he's too hungry, he will dive right in for the nearest bite with his free hand while holding his utensil of choice firmly in the air for the remainder of the meal.  We are still working on the spoon but so far it works well for greek yogurt and refried beans.  These lightweight and eco-friendly toddler utensils are made entirely from recycled HDPE plastic (milk jugs!).  Re-Play is focused on creating high quality products from recycled plastic, just like Green Toys (see previous post here).

2. ezpz Happy Mat  This gift from grandma came at the perfect time.  Landon had recently been in the habit of signifying the end of each meal with a triumphant toss of his plate to the floor.  This genius silicone mat is basically one big suction cup that sticks right to the table.  For picky eaters, the individual sections are perfectly portioned and keep different foods from meddling on the plate.  The key is to peel it off the table when your little one isn't looking so that they don't get any ideas...

3. Evenflo Tribute LX (travel) Carseat   When Landon outgrew his infant carseat, we got this Clek convertible carseat.  While we love it, the thing is a beast that just can't be used when traveling.  After reading rave reviews, we went for the Tribute which is super lightweight and can easily be thrown in this travel bag to be checked (for free!) with luggage.  While I probably wouldn't use a more pared down carseat like this one for everyday use, it has been fantastic for family trips.

4. Mega Bloks First Builders Big Building Bag   This has been a great starter set of building blocks.  Not only does playing with them help to develop fine motor skills, we have used them for learning colors as well.  A platform on wheels is included so we have made several big "cars" using these fun blocks.  Unlike other sets, this one comes with a large storage bag that has been incredibly helpful for clean up.

5. Good Night, Gorilla   This book was a gift from Landon's grandparents and his love for it has bordered on obsession.  We even bought a travel size that was sadly left in Seattle!  There isn't much text in this picture book but that is part of the appeal.  It is a lot of fun for our little guy to point out all of the animals, people and objects that he recognizes.  Many things appear on multiple pages so toward the end it becomes a game of "what's missing?"  I truly think that books like this one have helped to develop his growing vocabulary!

Keeping up on his reading during a lunch date with mom

Toddler Art (without the mess)

I have to thank my good friend Helen who is also the author of I Dream of Pretty Things for this amazing art project idea.  During some recent rainy weather, I started to panic when imagining full days stuck inside with a super energetic toddler.  We are fortunate to have numerous indoor options here in Houston including the Children's Museum, the butterfly exhibit at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, open gyms at various schools and community centers, not to mention the largest mall in Texas.  When it rains in Houston though, it really does pour.  So, I'm building up a stash of ideas for things we can do to keep entertained without having to brave potentially flooded streets and heavy traffic.  

This very simple and easy art project only requires a few basic tools and creates NO MESS WHATSOEVER!  How is this possible you ask?  Thanks to the Ziploc bag, all paint stays completely contained.  You could even throw in some glitter for fun and you would still have clean toddler hands when it's all said and done.  I plan to use these mini masterpieces for upcoming Mother's Day gifts!  Hopefully, Landon's grandmothers aren't reading this...

See below for the step-by-step guide to an instant art piece:

Step 1: Purchase washable finger paint.  I found these primary colors here and figured I could mix them to create secondary colors if needed.

Step 2: Squirt a little bit of each color onto white cardstock paper.  

Step 3: Place the cardstock in a gallon size Ziploc bag and let your little one have at it!  They will love spreading the paint around and mixing the colors and you will love that it all stays in the bag.

Step 4: Carefully remove the cardstock from the bag and allow to airdry.  Your mini masterpiece is complete!

Fave 5: 12-15 Months

In a couple weeks the little man will already be 16 months old!  He is constantly on the go these days and loves to explore every corner of our house and backyard.  We are working on holding hands as he walks down the sidewalk (he is perfectly content to walk up and down our block multiple times) and he loves to run around on the grass at our neighborhood park.  He is still having fun with his friends at his music and Gymboree classes.  See below for our recent faves!

 

toddler shoes | water bottle | kid chair | set of cards | bath book

1. Once Landon started confidently walking, I began searching for shoes that would be supportive, comfortable, cute, and lightweight.  I love the look of all the mini styles of adult shoes (there is something so adorable about tiny versions of dad's shoes), but so often they are made of the same heavy materials as adult shoes and aren't too easy to wedge chubby toddler feet into.  The Tsukihoshi shoes above can be found locally in Houston at Imagination Toys and Shoes or online at Amazon or Zappos.  They are a great brand from Japan that specializes in kids shoes.  The materials are lightweight and flexible.  We love them!

2. Now that our little guy is so active, he is frequently more thirsty.  When he started sneaking sips from his dad's full-size Camelbak, we knew it was time for Landon to have his own.  This bottle comes with us everywhere.

3. Since we first decorated the nursery, I have been on the search for a cute and functional kids chair.  This was the perfect addition to the corner of his room where we have picture books displayed on wall ledges and board books in baskets below.  The seat cushion is removable and the cover is stain resistant and washable.  Plus, the foam core is free of flame retardant chemicals.

4. We keep books in almost every room of the house and in the backseat of the car since our bookwork can't get enough of them.  The only place where we were missing them was in the bathtub.  Landon received this waterproof, floating bath book for Valentine's Day!

5. This beautiful set of cards was a gift from Santa.  At first glance they look like individual packs of 10 playing cards but they are actually prayer cards for 10 different religions.  For some reason, cards are really intriguing at this age and Landon likes to study the images on each one, hand them to us, or trade for others.  This set will (hopefully) last a long time and through various childhood stages plus the cards are interesting for all of us.  Especially in this day and age, a little education about other religions is both eye-opening and educational.  

 

Landon's First Birthday Party

We had so much fun celebrating our little guy's big day with friends at our neighborhood park.  I'll admit that it was a little nerve-wracking leading up to the party because our early November weather was unpredictable with heavy rain, thunderstorms, and unseasonably warm weather.  Luckily, it all cleared up just in time for our Sunday afternoon get together and it was a beautiful sunny day in the low 70s!  I'm so glad we decided to do the party at the park since there was plenty of space for running around, multiple play and swing sets, and minimal setup required.  Since our new house was barely unpacked and decorated at the time, it was a big relief to have the party close by (2 blocks away!) but without the pressure of actually hosting at home.

I went for a fall/woodland animal theme based off of a cute invitation from Minted.  I found a lot of crafty décor supplies at Paper Source including fall leaf die-cuts for food labels, fox dishtowels for layering on the tablecloths, an acorn garland, and a wood grain paper that I used as the background of the monthly photo board.  I found balloons, tablecloths, and plates/cups/napkins/plastic flatware in the theme colors at our Houston party superstore, Arne's Warehouse.  See below for the sweet birthday hat and banners created by PopFizzHooray, a great Etsy shop.  We even repurposed the "Landon" portion of the banner and it now hangs over his crib!

Since the party was in the late afternoon, we kept it simple with a few healthy appetizers from Zoe's Kitchen and mini cupcakes from Crave.  Instead of a smash cake, I opted for a regular size cupcake for the birthday boy.  He was unsure at first but dug in eventually for a couple of sweet bites.  It was his first taste of dessert, and so far it looks like he will be a sweet tooth like his mom.

The menu:

Orzo Tabouli Salad

Seasonal Fresh Fruit and Roasted Vegetables

Chicken Salad, Hummus and Pitas

Limeade and Iced Tea

Birthday Cake, Red Velvet, Chocolate, and Dulce de Leche Mini Cupcakes

While planning the party, I heard over and over again that the first birthday is really a celebration for the parents and I think that's absolutely true.  Your little one has no idea what's going on and might even be overwhelmed by all the attention.  The key is to keep the party short and sweet so that there is time for baby to have fun without affecting their nap and eating schedule.  I'm so glad our friends could come out to join us for a big milestone and very special day.  The first year flew by in a flash and my baby is suddenly a toddler.  I can't wait to see what surprises this next year will bring!

Monthly photos and party décor. Banners by PopFizzHooray.  Space Saver Highchair by Fisher Price.  Riviera Armchair by Serena & Lily.  Photo by R&J Studios.

6 month silhouette by Love & Victory.  Party Invitation by Karidy Walker/Minted.  Photo by R&J Studios.

Cupcakes by Crave.  Photo by R&J Studios.

Make a wish!  Party hat and banner by PopFizzHooray.  Photo by R&J Studios.

Inspecting the smash cupcake.  Photo by R&J Studios.

Loved the frosting, not so sure about the cake.  Photo by R&J Studios.

It was a perfect day for a party at Colonial Park.  Photo by R&J Studios.

Fave 5: 10-12 Months

Happy New Year!  The last couple months of the year just slipped right by me.  Between Landon's first birthday, a little design project, and the holidays, the weeks have been racing along.  Since we stayed home for Christmas and New Year's, I have a little time to finally catch up on the blog.  See below for my favorites from the last couple months of babyhood.  We now have a walking, babbling toddler on our hands!

Clockwise from top:

1. SpaRoom Aromafier Ultrasonic Diffuser  Along with a very large toddler appetite comes the inevitable and equally large...super stinky diaper.  The challenge was to find a non-toxic air freshener for the nursery that is stronger than baking soda but not chock full of nasty chemicals.  Enter the aromafier, a compact battery operated (and travel friendly) diffuser.  You simply add a few drops of your favorite essential oil (I went for this minty option) onto the inner pad and a tiny fan helps to spread the scent around the room.  The only downside is that the "on" button emits a bright LED light.  This isn't an issue during the day but it is definitely distracting in an otherwise dark room at night. I have found that if I just run the diffuser for a couple hours during the daytime, it's enough to keep the stink away.

2. Tower of Babble Stacking Blocks This set was a birthday gift from the great-grandparents and it was an instant hit.  They say the simplest toys are the most entertaining and that couldn't be more true about these cute, durable boxes.  They nest for easy storage and are covered in colorful (and educational) graphics.  Landon loves to watch us stack these into towers so he can knock them down and watch the boxes fly.  

3. Radio Flyer Classic Walker Wagon My brother sent this gem for the big first birthday.   When the box arrived, I couldn't wait to see the adorable wagon so I quickly assembled it during nap time.  It was so fun to watch the pure joy spread across Landon's face as he took his first steps while pushing it around the house.  It was the perfect photo prop at the first birthday party where we also took a few pictures for our holiday cards.

4. Boogie Wipes  Luckily we only faced a couple colds during the first year but they hit both of us hard (dad somehow avoided getting sick each time).  The infamous snotsucker was a real challenge, and I had much better luck with simple saline spray followed by (a lot) of Boogie Wipes.  I opted for the unscented version and they were great for keeping the snot in check without irritating baby's little button nose.  They are super soft and soothing with saline, aloe, vitamin E, and chamomile.

5. See Kai Run Toddler Shoes (similar here)  Shoes were a struggle when I first tried them around 7 or 8 months.  Until Landon was standing and cruising, he really didn't see the point of having those pesky accessories on his feet.  These days, he will patiently wait for me to put them on his feet so he can happily toddle around in style.  I have found that some shoes are absolutely adorable but a pain to get on so they just end up sitting in the drawer.  This brand is not only high quality and super cute but the shoes open wide making it much easier to get pudgy toddler feet strapped in.

Fave 5: 7-9 Months

Happy Friday!  It's been a crazy few weeks since we moved into the new house but I'm excited to finally get back to the blog!  Our little guy is not so little these days and he is very quickly approaching his first birthday.  I can hardly believe that my baby will soon be a toddler.  Since I'm feeling a little sentimental, it seems like a good time to pull together some of our favorites from the last few months of babyhood.

Clockwise from top:

1.  Grapple Toy  I was first introduced to this amazing little gadget when I met a fellow blogger friend and her baby girl for lunch.  Helen had arrived at the restaurant completely prepared with all the necessary essentials to keep her baby happy including the Grapple.  It has a suction cup base that can easily attach to a tabletop or highchair tray.  Flip up the adorable apple top and you have a nifty little cup for snacks.  The best feature is that it can hold three toys with it's adjustable tethers.  Absolutely genius.  After spending the majority of our lunch fishing toys off the ground that Landon had flung from his highchair, I didn't wait long to get a hold of our own Grapple.  It was so great to have for our summer trips!  For some reason, it didn't stick to the airplane tray table as planned but it did suction nicely to the personal seat back screen.  The apple leaf is also a handy hook so I've attached this thing to the stroller several times too.  A+ for design in my book.  This would be a fantastic gift for a new mom.  Be sure to check out Helen's blog, I Dream of Pretty Things!

2. Hanna Andersson Sleeper  Hanna is known for adorable jammies in super fun prints but the greatest thing about their sleepwear is the quality.  Landon wears these over and over again and he has consistently outgrown them before they show any signs of wear.  While other pj's have ended up with a hole in the toe or faulty zippers, the Hannas have really stood the test of time.  During those warm summer nights, the footless versions were perfect. Plus, I just love how the slim fit shows off those sweet baby thighs and belly!  Right now, his Halloween pair is in heavy rotation.  Since these cost a little more than the average pajamas, I try to wait for them to come on sale.  They were 25% off over Columbus Day weekend so keep an eye out for holiday promotions.

3. Mealtime This little touch and feel board book was a gift from Landon's fabulous Aunt Jen.  He loves to feel all the different textures including the very sticky jam on the PB&J page.  He always turns right to the bowl of pasta so we think he inherited his mom's love of carbs.  This book is small and very durable so it frequently comes with us in the car or diaper bag.

4. Hape Pound and Tap Bench  I love all the nice wooden toys that Hape offers but this is a great two-in-one.  It is part xylophone and part pounding bench, and good for developing dexterity (or baby will just hurl the little balls across the room...that's how the first few weeks went).  Landon has spent plenty of time testing the new hardwood floors in his room with this toy's mallet (it was all white carpet up there before the remodel).  It has been fun watching his skills improve with this one.  He started off violently banging his mallet on all surfaces of the toy but will now gently tap on the colored balls until they fall through the holes and make musical sounds on the xylophone keys below.

5. First 100 Words Landon is already a mini bookworm and this book might be his favorite.  There isn't a story to follow along with but he loves to look at all the images, smile back at the smiling babies, and make "grrr" sounds when he spots different animals.  He is perfectly happy flipping through this book several times on his own.

 

Fave 5: 5-7 Months

It's Fave 5 Friday and I'm overdue for a post!  Since we are quickly approaching the 9 month mark, I thought I would round up the products and toys that we found the most helpful during late spring and early summer.

Clockwise from top:

1. Green Toys My First Tugboat  Landon has been into bath time since he was a newborn but once he started sitting up in the tub, toys became a lot more interesting.  A lot of floating toys are made of toxic foam so I was happy to find some great reviews about this green line of products.  The boat doubles as a scoop and can be used for rinsing/making waterfalls.  I was really impressed with the detailing and quality.  It is sturdy, durable, and made from 100% recycled milk jugs!

2. FLOR Carpet Tiles  I have been a fan of FLOR tiles for a while and have used them in multiple interior design projects (see one here), including the child/adult proofing of our slippery wood stairs.  Since Landon has been on the move lately while perfecting his army crawl, I wanted him to have a play area that would be comfortable and also drool proof.  We were using an indoor/outdoor blanket for a few weeks but its easily wipeable surface was becoming a slip hazard.  Once I started searching for a play mat, I ran into nothing but foam options and a lot of reviews about chemical odors.  The greatest thing about these tiles is that they are modular and can be configured to create a rug of any size or shape.  I put 12 of them together to make a play rug that matches the nearby tiles on the stairs.  If one piece gets dirty, it can easily be rinsed in the sink.  The tiles also meet low VOC standards and are recyclable.

3. Little Tikes Discover Sounds Hammer This great toy was a gift from grandpa and became an instant favorite at the 6 month mark.  It makes funny cartoon-like noises when you hit surfaces with the end of the hammer.  Landon loves to use it on the tray of his highchair.  Maybe he is demanding more food?

4. Indestructibles: Baby Faces  A friend gave us one of these paperback books as a gift and I'm pretty upset that I didn't think to invent them myself.  The cute little books are waterproof, chewable, rip proof, machine washable, and basically genius.  They come in several different versions with fun illustrations and no words (so you can make your own story).  Throw a couple in the diaper bag!

5. Aden and Anais Wearable Blanket We transitioned from the Zipadeezip when Landon was 6 months old.  Like all A&A products, the muslin and bamboo wearable blankets are super soft and lightweight.  With his arms and hands free, Landon can suck his thumb and soothe himself.  He can also reach through the crib slats, grab at things, and attempt to unzip the blanket so it's a double edged sword.

What are some of your favorites for this age?

Easy Homemade Baby Food: 5 Reasons To Try It

I used to think that parents who made all of their own baby food were superhuman and required no sleep.  I always liked the idea of creating yummy purées from nutritious foods for my baby but how would I find the time?  How would I store the food?  Would he even like it?  Luckily, since Landon didn't eat solids on a daily basis until the 6 month mark, we had some time to get our routine down and his sleep schedule on track.  Regular nap times have given me a chance to experiment with a couple of simple and very easy recipes.  

Since there are quite a few reasonably priced organic baby food options in stores and online these days, I don't make all of Landon's food but I do like to make a big batch of purées every couple of weeks.  I pop a few pouches of homemade goodness in the fridge and a few more in the freezer.  For the majority of the recipes designed for baby's first experience with solid food, there are really only one or two main ingredients.   These fruits or veggies can be blended with a little water or milk to achieve the right consistency.  I started Landon on a thinner food made with more liquid at first to ease the transition to solid eating.  Once he got the hang of being fed with a spoon, I started making his food a little thicker.  We decided to start off with veggies before trying fruit.  We figured that if he is anything like his mom, he would get hooked on sweets and didn't want to risk him refusing healthy green vegetables after that.  It turns out that his absolute favorite food by far is sweet potato so he is getting the best of both worlds.  He has a pretty big appetite and rarely refuses any food but if I mix anything with his favorite staple, he is sure to eat it right up.

So...why even bother with the mess? (It's really not that messy...)

1. It's the healthiest choice!  When it's homemade, you know exactly what is going into your baby's food.  Many of the best organic packaged baby food options list water as the first ingredient.  This does nothing but "bulk up" the product and reduce the nutrients.  When you blend your own baby food at home, water is added for consistency but it certainly isn't the main ingredient.

2. You can make organic baby food for your little one at a fraction of the cost of store bought options.  When you aren't paying for that cute, colorful packaging, the savings really add up.

3. Simple storage.  Fresh food made at home can be refrigerated for up to 48 hours and frozen for up to 2 months. 

4.  There is nothing like the ego boost and sense of accomplishment from watching your baby happily eat up your homemade treats.  

5.  It's fun!  

The Goods:

  • Recipes: My close friend and college roomie is also an experienced mom of two.   She gave me The Petit Appetit Cookbook which I love.  For most first solids, it's just a matter of cooking a veggie and tossing it in the blender with some water or milk.  As baby grows, you can get more creative by combining different ingredients.
  • Storage: The two options I use are the Infantino Squeeze Station and pouches and the Mumi and Bubi Freezer Trays (no waste!)  I highly recommend the squeeze station and it is a fun and simple way to put purées into pouches.  We received this as a shower gift from a sweet coworker and it really does make food storage a snap! 
  • Travel Utensils: If you are out and about, these little guys are so convenient.  Just screw the spoon onto your pouch and go!
  • Bibs: Current fave

Whether you buy pouches or jars at the store or use your own pouches at home, recycling can really cut back on a lot of unnecessary waste.  At the recommendation of my close friend and fellow blogger, I collect all of my pouches over the course of a couple weeks and send them to Terracycle.  The shipping is free and each shipment earns you points that can then be donated to schools and charities!

Sweet potato in the squeeze station

The finished product

Baby approved!

Fave 5: 3-5 Months

Happy Fave 5 Friday!  It's so hard to believe that Landon is now almost seven months old.  While I'm excited for him to reach new milestones, I just want him to slow down.  I knew he was going to grow quickly but it is incredible to watch it happen right in front of me each day.  Here is the gear that made life easier and kept our munchkin entertained as he transitioned from newborn to infant.

Clockwise from top:

1. Skip Hop Activity Gym.  We busted this out when L was around 2 months old.  He would lay on the play mat and stare at the hanging birds above but that was about it for a few weeks.  Once he started grabbing at the toys, he was hooked.  These days, he loves to put just about anything in his mouth including the detachable birds.  He is also rolling like crazy and the "crunchy" sounding leaves attached to the mat are a fun surprise for him.  This is definitely one of the best gifts we received.  We use it everyday and it keeps our little guy entertained for a good 20-30 minutes!  As any soft baby product should be, the mat is machine washable and has already successfully survived a couple of diaper mishaps.  The gym also gets extra points in my book since it is cute and colorful without being an eyesore.

2. Zipadeezip.   WORTH EVERY PENNY!  This swaddle transition gained fame on 'Shark Tank' and has been such a lifesaver during the sleep training process.  For some crazy reason, I decided it would be a good idea to go cold turkey on the SwaddleMe blanket immediately after our 4 month checkup.  No joke, I tried it that night.  Huge mistake!  This amazing product gives him the security of the swaddle because he is still comfortably contained but he can also move his arms and legs (key for babes that have started rolling over).  Imagine a flying squirrel.  This is what he looks like every night on the video monitor.  He sleeps like a champ in this thing.  We received one from my mom and a couple days later, I ordered a second one for backup.

3. Fisher Price Rainforest Jumperoo.  We waited until Landon was 4 months old before introducing him to the jumperoo.  He loves to bounce in this thing and the numerous rattles, toys, and animals that are attached hold his attention for quite a while.  At first the whole thing was a little overwhelming for him and was basically sensory overload (a motion detector plays sounds and music when baby jumps).  After a few days, he adjusted and is now happy in the jumperoo seat for about 10 minutes at a time.  We keep it downstairs so that he can play while I keep an eye on him from the kitchen.

4. LectroFan White Noise Machine.  We learned during the sleep training process that straight white noise is much more effective for sound sleep than other ocean/forest/whale/cricket sound generators.  This little "fan noise" machine is compact and discreet.  It sits on the bookshelf by baby's crib and travels easily.  We have used it every night since we came home from the hospital.  If you didn't sleep with white noise before you had a baby, get ready!  Even if your little one sleeps in his or her own room, you will most likely be enjoying white noise through the baby monitor for many months to come.

5. Beco Baby Gemini Carrier.  One of my best friends and author of Binkies Baubles and Birkin recommended this carrier to me while I was pregnant and I'm so glad we registered for it.  It is easily adjusted to fit me or my husband and the criss-cross configuration of the shoulder straps makes it much more comfortable than other similar products.  We opted for basic black but there are a lot of fun patterns available.  When we first tried out the carrier, baby boy HATED it.  I think that had something to do with our own anxiety about placing our 1-week-old in a strange contraption.  As soon as we were comfortable, he was too and we began our daily ritual of an evening walk which always guarantees some snooze time for our little guy.  He is now old enough to face out which is a fun change.  This carrier is so comfortable that I have successfully used it in the Baby Define barre class.  Working out with an extra 18 pounds strapped to your chest is no joke.  Making faces at your baby in the mirror while suffering through "chair" is an excellent distraction.

What are some of your most-loved items for this age?

New Beginnings

Welcome to Take 5!  Five has always been my lucky number so it only made sense to make it a central part of my blog.  The fifth month of the year also holds special significance for me.  Spring is in full bloom and there is a buzz of anticipation in the air as Summer approaches.  I met my husband eight years ago on May 5th and my grandmother was born on May 6th.  Last weekend, we celebrated my first Mother's Day.  It truly is a time of fresh starts and new beginnings.   

As I reflect back on the last six months since my son Landon was born, I can't believe how quickly they have flown by.  Now that he is past the newborn stage, I'm so excited to take some time to work on a new project of my own, a blog where I will share the things that I love.  I will be posting about a little bit of everything from interior design and favorite recipes to tips for new moms and local Houston recommendations.  Since I think it's important for everyone to take 5 to relax, reflect, and recharge, I will be sharing inspiration in the form of five ideas, thoughts, or things.  

I love to hear feedback and comments so feel free to chime in.  I can also be reached at katie.q.krynak@gmail.com. Happy Spring!

xo Katie

Fun Ways To Meet Other Moms

Let's be honest.  The first few weeks at home with baby are tough.  Cry, feed, diaper change, sleep (baby, not you), repeat.  There are moments of immense joy and excitement directly followed by weepy frustration.  It's hard to even fathom leaving the house.  Once family members have dispersed and your significant other is back at work, quality time with other moms and their babies can be a saving grace.  It may take a lot of schedule coordination and a few failed attempts to make it happen, but once it does, having time to connect with someone who can truly relate makes all the difference in the world.

1. Prenatal Yoga ClassesI was pretty set in a Bar Method routine during my pregnancy but I have several friends who really enjoyed getting to know other expectant moms in a relaxed yoga environment.  The benefit here is that you have a chance to get to know other moms-to-be whose babies will be around the same age as yours.  It is also much easier to get to know someone while you are still pregnant and can have a leisurely one-on-one conversation.  Trying to connect with another woman once you are both sleep deprived and simultaneously tending to newborns is a little more tricky.  The conversation can be hilariously fragmented.

Houston Ideas:

The Motherhood Center - This place is an all around great resource for moms and moms-to-be.  I attended a few prenatal classes here and loved them.  

Joy Yoga Center - Another great option.  I love the classes here as well.  One location is in Memorial and the original is on Washington Ave.

2. Local College or Sorority Alumnae Associations - When I moved to Houston, I only knew two people.  I was lucky to meet some of my closest friends a few weeks later through the local chapter of my sorority alumnae association.  We all went to different schools and ended up in Houston within a few months of each other in 2009.  In fact, two of them threw us a beautiful baby shower last year!*  By joining a local association, you can immediately connect with numerous women as many of the Houston chapters have thousands of members.  Smaller interest groups such as Moms Night Out and Playdate in the Park are available within the larger associations.  Don't pass up this opportunity to expand your network of moms!

*To see photos of the gorgeous nautical themed shower that my friends threw for us, check out this post featured on I Dream of Pretty Things, a blog by another friend that I met through our alumnae association.

3. Neighborhood Moms Groups - In a city as large and spread out as Houston, it is essential to get to know other families in your own neighborhood.  Add heavy traffic to the mix and you will quickly realize that attempting to cross town before 10am or after 3pm can often be a nightmare.  Check out sites such as Nextdoor to find kids play groups in your area.  I was excited to learn that an upcoming moms meet-up in my area is walking distance from my house.  This particular site is also great for information on upcoming neighborhood events, used baby gear for sale, and handyman recommendations.

4. Mommy and Me Classes - Having the chance to bond with your baby through activity in the company of other families is so much fun.  Whether it is a fitness class for moms that baby can attend or an educational experience for baby, there are a variety of options out there.  We are still new to these classes so I will add updates as we discover more opportunities.  

Houston Ideas:

Define Baby - This is a great way to get a quick workout while baby rides along in the carrier or lays next to you on a blanket or in the carseat carrier.  30 minutes may seem like a short class but the instructors do a great job of packing in a full body workout.  Now that Landon faces out in the carrier, he loves to watch what's going on in class and I can easily make faces at him in the mirror.  Right now, the class is only offered at the Tanglewood location.  No minimum age for baby.

Mommy and Me Yoga at The Motherhood Center (also see #1).  For ages 4 weeks to 2 years.

The Little Gym - Highly recommended by other moms.  We will be trying this out soon!  There are four locations around town.  Minimum age for baby is 4 months.

Mommy and Me Yoga at Houston Public Library - Landon and I are excited to check this out.  The baby class is held at the Heights Neighborhood Library and the toddler class (for ages 3 and under) is held at the Central Downtown location.  There are several other fun activities to check out at the library such as 'Storytime' and 'Playtime' for different ages.

Infant or Toddler Music Classes - We recently checked out a demo class at our neighborhood location of Fundamentally Music and had a great time.  The 45 minute class includes several songs with dancing, instruments and even a bubble machine.  It was so fun watching Landon interact with the other kids that ranged in age from 5 months to a little over a year.  I have also heard great things about Prelude Music School and Crescendo Family Music.  More details to come!  Minimum age for baby is 4 months.

5. Get Involved!  One of the best ways to meet other moms and new friends in general is by volunteering.  Whether at your child's school, your church, a hospital, local charity or through an organization such as Junior League, lasting friendships can easily be made while giving back to the community.

Fave 5: 0-3 Months

When I started researching baby products during my pregnancy, I was instantly overwhelmed by the endless number of options that could be found online and in stores.  I turned to a few blogs and review websites for guidance and I'm so glad that I did.  My goal is to create a series of posts about the products that have worked best for us at each stage so that other moms and moms-to-be can rely on some tried and true choices.  Here are the essentials that kept us sane during those first crazy weeks.

 

Clockwise from top:

1. Aden and Anais Muslin Burpy Bibs (PRODUCT) RED Special Edition I'm a big fan of the super soft A&A products and often use their oversized muslin or bamboo swaddle blankets as stroller blankets or nursing covers.  Unlike traditional bibs, they are the same width all the way around providing extra cover across baby's chest.  They are great to have on hand as burp cloths during those first few weeks when everyone wants to come over to meet baby.  I feel really good about purchasing products like these from the RED line since proceeds go directly toward fighting AIDS.  I was astonished to learn that 650 babies are born with HIV everyday.  Learn more at www.red.org.

2. Summer Infant SwaddleMe  We took the Newborn Care class and practiced the ninja swaddles but once game day arrived and we had a screaming baby on our hands, any previous knowledge of proper swaddling technique went right out the window.  We were so relieved that the nurses could swaddle baby up every time they left our hospital room but once we got home, we turned to these easy SwaddleMe blankets.  The velcro tabs make the process a breeze and baby sleeps so much better all bundled up.  Just be sure to attach all of the tabs before throwing these in the wash or every other piece of laundry will end up stuck to the velcro!

3. Mam Pacifiers  I was unsure about turning to pacifiers right away but once Landon was a few weeks old, we started using these on occasion and if he woke during the night.  They were a key part of sleep training at around 3 months.  The curved shape hugs baby's face and stays in place.  There are a variety of colors, patterns, and shapes available for newborns, infants, and 6+ months.

4. Fisher Price 4 In 1 Tub  After the first week or so of sponge bathing, tackling baby's first real bath can be a daunting task.  There is something extremely nerve wracking about trying to bathe a very tiny, slippery newborn.  It was not exactly helpful for me to hear that a baby can drown in less than an inch of water.  If it weren't for my clean freak tendencies, my little guy would have gone far too long without a proper bath given the fear of baby bathing that every class/book/online forum instilled in me.  We started off using the tub with the sling insert (very helpful) and eventually graduated to using the tub alone.  Once baby is sitting up, the green seat insert can be used.  The spray bottle and fish shaped sieve make bath time fun.

5. Fisher Price Rock N Play  I think every parent I know owns a Rock N Play.  I had no idea what a lifesaver it would be!  The plush lining keeps baby at a comfortable incline and the vibrate button puts them right to sleep.  It is perfect for newborn naps or a place to put baby while you whip up dinner.  Landon loved his so much that we all became a little too dependent on it.  Once we left the hospital, he spent every night in it until he was 3 months old.  While this is perfectly safe, I don't recommend it because the transition to the crib was extremely tough! 

What are some of your favorites for this age?