What If We Stopped Calling Every Disagreement a “Mommy War”?

mommywarThe “mommy wars”: we’ve all heard of those. Even the childless know about the “mommy wars”, but in case you’ve been living in a cardboard box for the last decade or so, the “mommy wars” are, in short, what any strong disagreement or difference of opinion is called among adult women who have children. And quite frankly, it’s ridiculous.

Let’s not get it twisted: the fact that all women (who happen to have children (you know, “moms”)) don’t agree on everything is not ridiculous. What’s ridiculous is that society expects all “moms” to feel the same, act the same, and think the same. It’s just not realistic, and it’s absolutely unfair. Furthermore, it’s definitely sexist beyond belief. And I have a huge problem with all of it.

While, in theory, it would be great for women with children to get along and form an unbreakable, unified support group for each other, it’s just never going to happen. Why? Well, because the only thing every mom has in common is that she has children. That’s it. That’s the only unifier. We don’t expect all persons with penises to unanimously agree on all things. We don’t expect all persons with brown hair to like purple. We don’t expect all persons who live in the same town to eat the same cereal for breakfast (or even eat cereal at all). Although having children and being responsible for children is a huge, life changing acquisition, there is very little to do with motherhood and child rearing that is one size fits all.

Think of your “mommy” friends: among your small group, you likely do things much differently. From your birth story to your dietary choices, you most likely do not agree 100% (or even 79%) with your fellow mom friends. So, why does society keep insisting we all circle together and sing Kumbaya? It’s not going to happen. Ever.

What would happen if instead of calling every disagreement a “mommy war”, we just settled into the fact that we are adults first, mommies second. In fact, we are only mommies to those we birthed or adopted; we are not societies mommies. We are not responsible for being “mommies” to the world, or even to our “mommy” friends.

We smugly shake our heads at the backward attitudes of “Mad Men,” but at this particular moment in our history, some combination of overzealous parenting, savvy marketing and glorification of hearth and home have coaxed the public into viewing female parents as a strange breed apart from regular people. You might feel like the same person deep inside, but what the world apparently sees is a woman lugging around a giant umbilical cord.” – Heather Havrilesky, “Our ‘Mommy’ Problem”, NYTimes

It’s time we stopped grouping adult, female parents into an isolated group of glitter, goop, and Graco. Most “moms” are so much more than their parenting ideals, so let’s start treating each other that way. It doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a “traditional” role. It doesn’t mean you have to put down the glitter glue. It just means we shouldn’t expect that from every mom – Pinterest be damned. Let’s rejoice in the beauty of our diverse opinions. Let’s celebrate the fact that our lives are not cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all creations. Because one size fits all truly fits no one well. So, let’s all disagree. Let’s get upset. Let’s hate each other. Let us be, unapologetically, who we are. And let’s stop being passive aggressive about it; let’s be honest. I’m a mom, but I’m not your mom. So, pardon me if I don’t act like your moral compass.

Why I Will Never Apologize For My Stance on Whiny SAHMs

whinysahmsOn October 11, 2013, I wrote a controversial post entitled “Why Stay at Home Moms Need to STFU (And, BTW, I Am One).” In the (roughly) 18 months since I published that post, I have been routinely bombarded with comments, emails, and social media responses to that article. Some sing my praises while others outright bully me, but regardless of the sentiment I’ve read each and every response, and in most cases I’ve responded directly to the feedback. Many, many disgruntled moms have tried, in vain, to shame me, make me apologize, or otherwise convince me that my opinion is completely wrong. I think it’s time I wrote a follow up post, but spoiler alert: this isn’t an apology. And, I’ve consistently reaffirmed the fact that I will never apologize for that article.

LUXURY

Let’s go over a few things, shall we? In my experience with angry responses, it seems that most moms were ticked off by the fact that I referred to staying at home with your children as a “luxury”. You’ll be happy to know that a recent op-ed in the New York Times echoed your grumpy sentiments. In her article, “A Stay-at-Home Parent is Not a ‘Luxury’,” Allison B. Carter wrote, “So in some ways, yes, we are lucky that I can stay home. But a luxury is a nonessential item. An indulgence. What I do is essential, and certainly not self-indulgent.” Carter goes on to list all the “luxuries” she does without in order to stay at home. This argument is so fucking annoying it’s not funny. Guess what? Staying at home is nonessential. That’s why daycares, nannies, and sitters exist. If you’re truly broke and sad about it, you can work opposite shifts. The argument that your presence at home is absolutely essential and irreplaceable is idiotic, but furthermore the luxury I refer to in my post is the fact that you get to spend all your time with your kids, and that is absolutely nonessential. That is absolutely an indulgence. And if you don’t feel like having the precious, precious ability to be the sole caregiver of your children is something luxurious and indulgent, then you’re doing it wrong. AND BEFORE YOU WRITE A NASTY COMMENT…YES, everyone has bad days, bad weeks, bad months, etc. But – if at your core, you wake up angry and resentful more days than you wake up happy and excited to spend another day with your kids, then you should not be at home. And you should stop making excuses for why you’re staying home. Your sanity is worth something; even if it’s just an extra $56 after daycare and the illusion of professional significance.

Screen Shot 2015-03-29 at 9.37.05 PM

RELATIONSHIPS

Look, I’m not here to be your marriage counselor, but since it comes up in a lot of responses, I’ll bite. You should not be disrespected or demeaned in your relationship; you should not disrespect or demean your partner, either. My point about handing the kids off the second your spouse/partner walks through the door is this: it’s completely inconsiderate. If you’re at home all day with one child or seven, you want a break. I get it. I understand it. It’s rational. However, assuming that the minute your partner walks through the door your “job” is over is completely ridiculous. Please tell me how your partner worked all day, and has to do it all over again the next day, but also must clock in for a second shift the second he/she gets home. If you really feel like being a stay at home parent is a “job”, then why oh why is it okay for your partner to do double duty, but you only have 1 responsibility? Again, before you go ape shit on me, I said in my original post and I will say it again: This does not mean your partner shouldn’t be involved. This does not mean your partner shouldn’t be equally involved as a parent. This does not mean you never get to take a shower or go to the gym or take a break. It just means you need to be a little bit more considerate of your partner and accept the fact that stress happens outside the house, too. SAHMs are not the only ones who have it “tough”, ok? Communicate with your partner. If your partner needs an hour to unwind when they get home, give it to them. If you’re really going nuts, hire a sitter or recruit grandma/grandpa to help you, but chances are you can deal for a few more minutes until your partner is recharged and ready to relieve you.

LANGUAGE

I can’t believe I even need to address this on the Internet, to an audience of adults, but…my blog is not for children! It’s not meant to be read by toddlers or preteens; it’s made for adults. If I want to swear like a sailor, I will do so. That does not make me, or anyone else using colorful language, a bad person or a bad parent. And, to every bitch attacking my use of profanity, the answer is NO. No, I do not talk to my children that way. No, I do not talk to my husband that way. No, I do not speak to strangers in public that way. But here, on my blog, I’ll curse up a fucking storm if I’d like to, because I can. Because I want to. And mostly for effect. Get over it, prissy pants.

JUSTIFICATION

If you don’t like my opinion, that’s okay. You won’t hurt my feelings. I know what I wrote is controversial. But you do not need to justify your feelings to me, a stranger on the Internet. If you’re truly comfortable and confident with your role or your opposing feelings, GOOD FOR YOU. But if I’ve hit a nerve please be honest with yourself. Being honest with yourself will make you a happier person. And happy people make better parents. (In case you’re wondering, I’m a very happy person.)

TIME MANAGEMENT

Please don’t feel the need to justify why you “have no time” to me. I have the same 24 hours in a day that you do, and I manage to get a lot done most days. Some days, I manage to get nothing done. But guess what? No one is keeping score. So, manage your time in order to get things done that are a priority to you, and stop making excuses for why you can’t/won’t accomplish something. Your children are not excuses. They do sleep at night, and some nap during the day. It does not take 24 hours to do the dishes, run the vacuum, straighten up toys, or throw in a load of laundry. In fact, it maybe takes less than 2 hours to do all of those things, and even less time if you stay organized.

SAHMs DO NOTHING

I really wish most of you would be honest. I’ve said it before, but I’ll repeat myself: be honest. I know thousands of you are on BabyCenter, TheBump or CafeMom for hours a day, chatting with other SAHMs and complaining about how exhausted you are. I also know thousands of you are writing me angry comments and you seemingly have plenty of time for that nonsense so, yeah. Sometimes, SAHMs do nothing. Sometimes, people do nothing at work. You’re not fooling anyone by pretending you’ve spent the day doing important shit and haven’t had a single second to just do nothing. It’s all in your head. Adjust your perspective.

So, to recap:

  • If you resent staying at home with your kids, stop doing it. Yes, it’s that simple. Get a part-time job. Get a full-time job! Go back to school. DO something. Whining and telling me your husband won’t “let” you is RIDICULOUS. You are an adult. Act like it and take control of your own life, because NEWSFLASH: your children will grow up and realize you absolutely hated being at home with them, and in a lot of cases they think you resent them. And that’s awful.
  • If you don’t like my opinion, go about your life. Yup. Self-explanatory. Sure, I’ll still entertain the hate mail. But, really, I thought you didn’t have free time for anything…?
  • If you want to get more things done, be honest. Get a planner. Write down what you want to accomplish today, and check things off as you go. Or do it the opposite: write down everything you’ve accomplished today, even if it’s a diaper change or 12. Writing it down will help you see what you’ve done and what else you can do – it will get you on track. If you don’t “have time” to write anything down, then you definitely don’t have time to be nasty to me, so save it.
  • Enjoy staying at home. Just relax. Take a deep breath. Remember that instead of being at home with your little munchkins, you could be in an office or a store getting treated like crap by someone who does not give a shit about you. Instead, you’re knee deep in diapers courtesy of your built-in fan club. Embrace it. Those tiny terrorists love you. They need you. You are their everything. Find joy and peace in that.

8 Places to Buy Stylish Nursing Clothes

nursingclothespin

If you’re exclusively breast feeding or pumping, wardrobe can be a huge issue you overlooked during pregnancy. Tired of the whole nursing tank and button up shirt or cardigan combo, I sought out some stylish, comfortable nursing clothes options and decided to share those options with you. Yes, some are a bit pricey, but there are others that have great sales and bargains. Here are my favorites:

1. Milk Nursingwear

Milk has a great selection of tops, dresses, sleepwear, nursing bras, and other nursing essentials. Milk Nursingwear even has a gift registry option, so if you’re expecting you’ll definitely want to register here. The nursing clothes you find here are great for day or night.

2. Mamas & Papas

Very cute selection of nursing tops and dresses! Mamas & Papas has a variety of mom & baby geared goods so definitely check out the rest of their inventory.

3. A Mother’s Boutique

The website itself is nothing fancy, but the nursing attire is fabulous. I’m particularly fond of their sleep and loungewear, which AMB seems to carry more of than any other nursing clothing website.

4. Belly Moms

So many adorable dresses just in time for spring and summer!

5. Au Lait

There’s no way around it: Au Lait is very pricey. However, if you need something for a special occasion, Au Lait probably has it.

6. JoJo Maman Bebe

This store is located in the UK, but the but the style is fit for USA. I love the maxi dresses they carry!

7. ASOS

ASOS was a favorite of mine for maternity wear, and I was delighted to discover their nursing clothing. Great sales, great quality, and great customer service.

8. Boob Design

THEY HAVE HOODIES. Need I say more? Amazing. Now I can take my toddler to the park and not worry about my layering attire in order to effectively nurse my newborn.

11 Household Essentials for Parents with Toddlers

It’s no secret: toddlers are like tiny hurricanes. They destroy almost everything in their path, and by the time they’ve fallen asleep, you’re left to pick up the pieces. It’s like my living room is littered with a 2,000 piece puzzle that’s been left in front of an industrial sized fan for a few hours. Naturally, there are some casualties (R.I.P. coloring book and race car track. You will be missed), but most of the chaos is fixable – if you have the right supplies. Here are 11 things you should always have on hand if you have a TIH (Toddler In House):

1. Magic Erasers
These small cleaning wizards are quite possibly the most accurately named cleaning product on the market. Yes, Magic Erasers are really magic. Recently, our 19-month old has been banging his toys together during an activity known as “playtime”. His toys had scuffs and discoloration, and while he couldn’t care less about the physical appearance of Buzz Lightyear and Captain American, I was really concerned about the battered faces and extremities of these miniature superheroes. Magic Eraser magically removed their afflictions, and the toys look brand new. Fabulous. The only way the Magic Eraser could be improved is if it magically erased toddler tantrums. Why can’t we get on that, Mr. Clean? Hmmm?

2. Batteries
Having a stockpile of batteries in all kinds is essential to toddlerhood. Please don’t ask me why all of these toys need different kind of batteries and always go dead at the most inopportune times. But, be prepared and avoid meltdown city by always having batteries on hand. And, don’t be stupid: some toys don’t take those common, regular batteries you can buy at the store. No, some toys need special battery packs. So read the instructions and always have a backup, and a backup of the backup. Your sanity is worth it.

3. Ziplocs
Inevitably, someone will give your toddler an age-inappropriate toy, which will have tiny pieces that are choking hazards or otherwise obnoxious. Ziplocs are a great, simple way to keep toy parts organized. Ziplocs are also a must-have for taking snacks or sandwiches to-go, since toddlers are always hungry when you’re nowhere near a kitchen. You can purchase reusable bags for an environmentally friendly option, or you can just be honest with yourself about the fact that you will never, ever wash those things and Ziplocs are just 1,000x more convenient. Just get the Ziplocs.

Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 11.45.25 AM

4. Insulated, locking, to-go coffee mugs
It doesn’t matter that you’re not leaving the house this week (or any time in the near future). Having a great to-go mug is the solution for the lukewarm, day-old coffee problem toddler parents have. Keep your coffee or tea hot, protect your toddler from burns and your beloved drink from spills with a locking lid, and you, too, can finally finish a hot cup of joe again.

5. Disinfecting spray
Let’s face it: toddlers are gross. Leave the diaper off for a second too long, and you have a disgusting mess on your floor (if you’re lucky) or $2,500 couch (if your toddler effing hates your guts). Also, the toys need a cleaning once in a while (uh, yeah, you should clean your toddler’s toys. Have you seen what your toddler does with toys? Yuckkkk).

6. Hand sanitizer
Again, toddlers are gross. Sometimes, toddlers are gross and also demons who will not let you leave the room for a second to wash your hands. Hand sanitizer. You need it. Gallons of it.

7. Disaster bags
For those diapers that permeate the almighty Diaper Genie, you need what my husband calls “disaster bags”. Or on the go diaper genie bags that contain baking soda. Wrap said shitsplosion in disaster bag, tie tightly, then dispose in diaper genie.

8. Candles
The expensive kind. Because truthfully no matter what you do or how often you take the trash out your home will smell like vomit and feces. Eww.

9. Paper Plates and Cups
Who wants to do dishes after your whirling dervish has finally went down for a nap? Not me, and not you. Paper plates and paper cups: get both, and get both now.

10. Stain Removers
Yes, I said stain removers, with an “s” – plural – for multiple stain removers. Toddlers will make multiple kinds of stains on a multitude of surfaces. Cover your bases now.

11. Crayons
Because sometimes you just need to let your toddler color to the heart’s content. And guess what? If your toddler colors on the wall, it’s no big deal. That’s what Magic Erasers are for!

So cuddle up on the couch with your hot to go mug of coffee (it doesn’t matter that you made it four hours ago, it’s still hot!) and revel in the fact that thanks to this handy list, you’ve officially “got this”.

Happy parenting!
xox bottlesoup

hev2_final

Two Under Two: What’s a Mom to Do? 7 Steps to Make Your Life Easier

During my pregnancy, I would stress out just thinking about having two little munchkins in diapers. It’s been a little over 2 weeks, and so far, it hasn’t been terrible yet. I realize I may be setting myself up for a huge disappointment by admitting that two under two hasn’t ruined my life yet, but maybe it’s my perspective. You see, it’s not that I’m not exhausted (I totally am) or stressed out (also, yes) or overwhelmed (regularly), it’s that I realize this crazy, sleep deprived, wild time is only temporary. Eventually, my newborn won’t be a newborn anymore. She’ll be an infant, then a toddler, and before I know it, she and her older brother will be at school. I can’t get this time back, so I’m staying in the moment and enjoying it.

A lot of my mommy friends with children the same age are easily defeated. I don’t blame them; it isn’t easy to be a mom of one and with two it doesn’t get easier, that’s for sure. But I want to share a few things that keep me sane, in effort to help others who may be feeling like their life has suddenly become too much to handle.

1. Take time for yourself

Yes, I know sometimes this is not possible. However, perhaps it’s best to redefine what “time for yourself” means. It doesn’t have to be a spa trip or girls outing (although both are nice and highly desirable). It can be much simpler than that and it is essential to your well-being and stress maintenance. For me, time to myself means a shower – preferably once a day, but every other day is not the end of the world. I lock myself in the bathroom, turn the sink faucet on full force to drown out the baby and toddler noise (because, let’s face it, my husband is 110% capable of watching the kids but if I can hear them, I feel that mom guilt/obligation to rush) and warm up the shower. I splurge and spent that extra cash on soaps, shampoos, conditioners, lotions, and anything else I need to pamper myself in house. I also bring a bottle of water, a snack, and some form of entertainment in the bathroom in the event that both kids are asleep. Yeah, I’ll blog or catch up on Grey’s Anatomy in the bathtub. Although my showers are usually less than 25 minutes, I feel rejuvenated and mentally reset.

A few of my favorite bath/shower indulgences:


Aveda hair products. I love their shampoo and conditioner. I also love their leave-in product, Smooth Infusion. It’s a great detangler and smells fantastic.


MamaMio is expensive, but so, so worth it. Your skin will look and feel fantastic. Their Goodbye, Stretch Marks! cream is rumored to be revolutionary.


Trader Joe’s sells a green tea soap from France that is amazeballs, but this one is good, too. (TJ’s is cheaper, BTW) It smells like you’re at the spa, and it’s great for removing the toxins from your skin.

 

2. Eat well

Yes, we all feel the pressure to eat healthy and lose the baby weight. Yes, it can be challenging to make meals while watching children. But, being honest with yourself and realistic at the grocery store can take a lot of stress out of the whole food situation, and can help you avoid ordering costly and unhealthy takeout 5/7 nights a week. A few of my favorite food staples are KIND bars, protein bars, deli meats, sliced/pre-cut cheese and veggies, and pre-made salads or wraps. You can make these yourself or purchase at the store (Trader Joe’s has a great, affordable selection of ready to eat salads and wraps). I keep track of my food with My Fitness Pal, which keeps me accountable about my food choices, but eating well starts at the grocery store. Eating well doesn’t need to be difficult. You just need to plan ahead. Your body will thank you for it, and you’ll feel much better if you feed your body right instead of resorting to junk all the time.


KIND Bars are a must. Almond Coconut is my favorite, but the sea salt caramel varieties are also to die for. There’s also dark chocolate ones. Yum.

3. Stay hydrated

Dehydration can make you tired. It can make you overeat. It can mess with your supply if you’re breastfeeding. Basically, dehydration is the worst. Invest in a reusable water bottle or cup/straw combo and refill it regularly. Coconut water is also great if you’re feeling really dehydrated and tired – it has tons of potassium and electrolytes. It’s so much better for you than Gatorade – and it tastes yummy, too! I mean, it comes in chocolate. Hello, healthy indulgence.


Chocolate Coconut Water. Electrolytes + potassium + hydration + chocolate = why aren’t you clicking the picture to buy this right now?!

4. Be active

It’s easy to park yourself on the couch with the baby, but you’ll only feel more tired if you simply stay put. If your baby wants to be held constantly, invest in a baby carrier. A few favorites are ring slings and soft structured carriers like a Beco or Tula.


Beco Soleil. At $135, it’s more affordable than the Tula, but absolutely worth the investment. Babies love it. It doesn’t require an infant insert. It comes in neutral, dad-friendly, gender equal colors. What’s not to love?

5. Force yourself to leave home

I know, I know. The idea of taking your baby or children out of the house can be scary and incredibly stressful. I’ll admit I get serious anxiety just thinking about leaving home with both the kids, even if my husband is along to help. But, even though the whole process can be a pain, I’m always happier when I’ve left my apartment and got some fresh air and real world interaction. Go to the grocery store, the mall, a park, or just a walk down the street. You have to rip off the bandaid and just do it.

clarkislastroller
Yes, my stroller looks insane, but look at that happy toddler! And content baby! We all survived a trip to the mall. Worth it.

6. Stop being cheap

Spend the extra money on things that will make your life more convenient. As much as I hate seeing the bill or total at the store, I’m grateful for every little thing I’ve invested in that makes my life simpler. For example, single cup coffee for my Tassimo costs a lot more than brewing a pot of coffee, but sometimes I really don’t have 3 minutes. I have maybe 30 seconds, and I’m glad I have the option to just pop in a disc and hit start. I’ve also splurged on baby goods, like the 4Moms MamaRoo, 4Moms Breeze, 4Moms Infant Tub and Britax B-Ready, to have ease of use and quality of product. I don’t have to fight with my playard/pack n play every time I want to disassemble or assemble it. It literally takes one hand. My stroller was expensive, but it holds both my kids, folds up easily, and I can still fit a diaper bag and two cups of coffee on the thing. My husband is very tech savvy, and as far as home entertainment goes, we’ve invested in that heavily. I now consider TiVo and AppleTV to be essential for all new parents. Let’s face it, there will be days when you can’t go out or don’t want to – or it’s after midnight and you’ve finally got both kids asleep and can actually watch adult entertainment. In those moments, you’ll be glad you recorded the last 7 episodes of Keeping Up With The Kardashians or can watch Game of Thrones from start to finish with HBO Go.

Get these things, thank me later:

7. Let go of the mom guilt

You are a mom, yes, but you are also still a person – an adult person – who is allowed to enjoy kid-free time. If you have friends or family nearby who are trustworthy and willing to take the kids off your hands for a few hours, let them. Go out to eat with your partner. Go have coffee with a friend. Go take a yoga class. Or go home and take a nap. And do not feel guilty about it. You’re allowed. In fact, it’s encouraged. Your kids will not miss you (that much. At least not as much as you miss them). Your kids will still be alive and demanding when you return. If you don’t have anyone nearby to help out, please, please, please go on care.com and interview potential babysitters/nannies. Everyone needs a break from time to time. Do not allow yourself to be held captive by the tiny humans. You are not their prisoner, no matter what they say or how you feel some days.

letitgo

I realize these tips are pretty general, but I promise you if you take my advice, you will feel better. And happier moms are better moms. So, take the steps to be a brighter, cheerier mom. Your kids (and your partner) will thank you for it.

The Plague of Three Courses

Three Course Sunday Dinner Made Easy (But Doesn’t Sound Easy ;)):

Roasted Chicken with Thyme, Garlic, and Lemon, Crab Meat Gnocchi with Melted Havarti and Gruyere, and a Spinach Pear Salad with Honey Dijon Dressing

Sunday Dinner: Oven Roasted Chicken with Thyme, Lemon, and Garlic, Gnocchi with Melted Havarti and Gruyere with Crab Meat, and a Spinach and Pear Salad with Dried Cranberries and Shaved Almonds

HOW TO BE CREATIVE WITH MEAL PLANNING FOR A PARTY…

I usually don’t post three different menu items at once…but I realize that you all may have encountered many times before…

Have you ever been plagued with indecision when it comes to entertaining your guests? Which appetizers and entrees should you prepare that will blow them away without blowing your money? If you’re preparing a three course meal, you need to coordinate all your meals and make sure it doesn’t feel like a sloppy hodgepodge. Oh yeah, and the dreaded “wine pairing…”

Honestly, for someone like me, it takes me a solid hour to decide (usually) what I want to prepare. I always want to go all out for guests, as if it were a holiday.

I will read food blogs and scroll through Food Network like many of you. Pinterest always makes me feel like I am lacking creativity, and I never want to fall short–ever.

So what is my advice to you? Feel free to galavant via the internet for inspiration, and whatever you do, stick to these cardinal rules…

1.) Create dishes that are familiar classics…

2.) But figure out a twist.

Use your mind to think about traditional meals you personally have enjoyed in your life. Stick to what is comfortable for you. For me, pasta is always my safe haven. So I knew yesterday that I wanted to incorporate pasta.

So then I thought of using gnocchi (Italian dumplings.) When Cassandra and I went to Europe, we had the most delectable homemade gnocchi that it truly brings me back to Venice. It’s the best of the carbohydrate world: potato and pasta. Finding the balance between the two is tough when creating your own, so if you’re not feeling particularly rebellious, you can use Giovanni Rana’s–it’s a great pre-packaged substitute.

Once I decided on gnocchi, I knew I had to incorporate two cheeses that would complement the outrageously expensive crab meat.  When I thought about my adoration for cheese–yes–I thought of Kraft Mac and Cheese (God forbid), I knew I wanted to present comfort food but in a way that would be distinguishable. I thought about the rarity of a blend that could be the most joyous union: Havarti and Gruyere. Both cheeses that are relatively affordable, but they are not as common as say Sharp Cheddar and Swiss.

To up the ante, I decided to make it a seafood delight by adding succulent crab meat. Why crab meat, you may ask? It’s one of the best seafoods out there, and I know of only few people who say they “distaste crab.” Usually, it’s getting the crab out that makes it a deterrent for people to eat it. Again, realizing it’s not too cost effective to pick the meat myself, I purchased the jumbo lump crab in a  container. No judging–I picked good quality, and you know what? When my guests came over, I could actually socialize. This side dish came together swimmingly like a casserole.

In my mind, I thought to go with what everyone loves: macaroni and cheese, but add a twist by adding crab and better cheeses. I’m sure some adult won’t admit they love macaroni and cheese, but to me, this is the upscale version of a classic dish that is unarguably perfect.

This same process went for the Spinach Salad with Pears and the Roasted Chicken with Lemon, Garlic, and Thyme. Stick to what you love, and make it uniquely your own.

And if you’re too scared to go out and venture in your world, follow the following recipes to a T. I literally prepared all of these meals in under an hour:

Appetizer: Spinach Pear Salad with Dried Cranberries, Shaved Almonds, and Honey Dijon Dressing

Cast of Characters:

Salad

4 cups of Baby Spinach

1 cup of Dried Cranberries

1 Bosc or Anjou Pear (sliced thinly)

1/2 cup of Shaved Almonds

Dressing

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons of dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons of honey
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

Stage Directions: Wash your spinach greens and make sure they’re dry. Pour the cups of dried cranberries and almonds on top. Slice the pear thinly along the edge of the core and mix lightly in the salad. Next, make your dressing by whisking the above ingredients all together. Serve the dressing on the side, and make sure you adjust the dressing to your taste (i.e: more vinegar, more honey, etc.)

Entree #1: Crab Meat Gnocchi with Melted Havarti and Gruyere

Cast of Characters:

2 pounds of gnocchi (I like Giovanni Rana’s)

1 pound of crab claw meat (It’s cheaper and still good quality than a $40.00 can of lump jumbo crab meat)

3 cups of half and half

8 ounces of Havarti (shred on your own, if possible)

8 ounces of Gruyere (shred on your own, if possible)

1/4 cup of all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups of Panko bread crumbs

3 Cloves of Garlic (mince on your own–don’t use minced!)

7-8 Tablespoons of Butter

Zest of Half of a Lemon

1 Teaspoon of Salt

1/2 Teaspoon of Pepper

1/2 Teaspoon of Nutmeg (I put a little more!)

(Optional: Grated Parmigana Cheese–if you add this to the bread crumbs and a bit to the mixture, it takes it to new levels!)

Stage Directions: Pre-heat your oven 350 degrees. Fill a medium pot with water and kosher salt. Boil the water; when the water is ready, put in the gnocchi (one package at a time–it only takes 2-3 minutes to cook!). In 2-3 minutes, the gnocchi should float which means they are done. Drain in a coriander and once drained, pour gnocchi in a 13 X 9 pan. Repeat this process for the other bag. Once both pounds of gnocchi are poured, open the pound of claw meat and spread throughout (without shredding) with a fork. Meanwhile, melt five tablespoons of butter and once melted, pour in minced garlic (that is minced yourself), and lemon zest. Slowly incorporate flour and whisk throughly. Then pour in (slowly) three cups of half and half. Throw in the cheeses and stir occasionally until fully melted. You should have a medium heat, and then bring it down to thicken the cheese mixture. Once smooth, pour over the gnocchi and crab. In a small sauté pan, melt three tablespoons of butter and mix lightly with panko bread crumbs. Once lightly brown (not burnt), pour on top of mixture. Bake 20-25 minutes or until the panko is browned.

Entree #2: Roasted Chicken with Thyme, Garlic, and Lemon

Cast of Characters:

1 (5 to 6 pound) roasting chicken
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large bunch fresh thyme, plus 20 sprigs
1 lemon, halved
1 head garlic, cut in half crosswise
Half a stick of butter melted
1/2 large yellow onion, thickly sliced
4 carrots cut into 2-inch chunks
1 bunch of green beans (optional!)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Directions: Pre-heat your oven to 425 degrees. In a roasting pan, coat with olive oil. Wash your chicken (if you just bought it, try to let it rest/thaw for an hour before using) and pat it dry with a paper towel. Open the cavity and take out the giblets (which could be in a bag or out in the open–either way, man up and remove them!)  (Side note: if you can, leave your chicken out overnight uncovered so the skin becomes crispy). Apply liberally kosher salt and pepper to the outside of the chicken and the inside the cavity. Cut a lemon into four and shove it in the cavity.  Cut garlic crosswise and shove it in the cavity whole (no need to peel the layers.) Next, place a bunch of thyme sprigs (save some for the veggies) inside. Melt half a cup of butter and once melted, brush the butter all over the outside of the chicken. Again, liberally salt and pepper the chicken. Cut up the carrots and half an onion into long, thick slices, and once cut, place around the chicken. If you have green beans, cook those in the microwave (usually can be microwaved with a forked bag), and put the cooked green beans all throughout the pan. Pour a little bit of olive oil all over the vegetables, and mix the assorted vegetables with hands. Put the chicken in the oven for an hour and a half. To make sure the vegetable don’t burn, use tongs to mix the vegetables while the chicken is cook. There is no need to baste this chicken. It just works.

Bon appetit!

 

 

Influenster VoxBox #2: Reese’s Spreads in Peanut Butter Chocolate

IMG_8464I’ll admit it: at 8 months pregnant, I was pretty excited to receive this Influenster VoxBox. It’s like Influenster read my mind and said, “Here, have a Happy New Year.” And I did.

As a very health conscious eater, the odds that I would seek out and buy Reese’s Spreads in the store are slim, but after trying out the product I have to say I’m much more likely to pick up Reese’s Spreads and recommend them to my family, friends, and, of course, my loyal audience. And, truthfully, the nutrition information on the back of the Reese’s Spreads is not so scary – it’s actually comparable to other chocolate nut spreads and definitely A-OK for a cheat day or chocolate craving.

And, bad mom alert: I totally let my toddler try some on an apple and he was not complaining. So, there you go – the picky toddler stamp of approval.

You can buy Reese’s Spreads at most supermarkets for less than $4/jar ($3.89 to be exact), and there’s no wrong way to use Reese’s Spreads. ;) IMG_8465

I opted for a somewhat healthy approach by dipping apple slices in the Reese’s Spreads Peanut Butter Chocolate Flavor, but some other great ideas include:

  • Pita chips
  • Vanilla wafers
  • Banana chips
  • Pretzels
  • Fruit
  • Bacon

Basically, my verdict is you definitely must try the Reese’s Spreads. They’re the best thing since, well, Reese’s.

reesespin

Is the Fisher Price Rock ‘n Play Safe for Overnight Sleeping?

FPRNPpin

When looking for an affordable sleeping option for newborns, many first time parents hear that the Fisher Price Rock ‘n Play (RNP) is great for use as a bassinet. But is it? In recent years, there have been quite a few recalls on the RNP, but this fact has left die-hard RNP fans undeterred. I’ve encountered parents who swear by the RNP and witnessed firsthand their cult-like obsession with pushing the product on new moms and dads.

The huge problem with the RNP cult following is that they’re uninformed (or willfully ignorant) about the dangers of the RNP as an overnight sleeping device. Leaving newborns and infants to sleep on an incline, unless specifically advised to do so by your pediatrician, is very risky. Although RNP fans insist that the incline is a benign design, research has shown that newborns and infants should be lying flat on their backs, with no incline, to reduce the risk of SIDS. The only time an incline is advised is in severe cases where a newborn or infant has digestive issues that warrant the need to be inclined, thus reducing their own personal risk of choking on vomit or decreasing reflux symptoms. There have been many pediatricians who have advised against using anything other than a bassinet or crib with a firm, flat surface for sleeping.

Natasha Burgert, MD wrote a fantastic article in 2012 on why Fisher Price needed to stop marketing the RNP as a great option for overnight sleep. Burgert is a pediatrician who cites the guidelines set forth by the American Academy of Pediatrics in her article. Burgert also explains how the RNP can cause physical deformities such as a flat head.

Although all the research from AAP, pediatricians speaking out against the RNP, the recalls imposed by the US federal government, and the fact that Canada has banned sales of the RNP has no effect on diehard RNP fanatics.

rnpbabycenter

Above is a collection of comments from a couple BabyCenter Community discussions about the RNP. Those who are fans of the RNP seem to be anti-information and stubbornly against AAP guidelines and actual research. Despite the AAPs guidelines for infant sleep being easy to find, these parents insist they know better than the experts (board certified pediatricians) when it comes to where their babies should sleep. Suggesting a specific model of the RNP with more padding and a softer surface, in fact, makes the RNP even more dangerous than just the incline alone. It seems that some of the RNP fans have read the warnings and disregard current research. It’s scary and sad that these parents and parents-to-be would knowingly put their child at risk just to get some more sleep. Fact: most infants/newborns do not sleep through the night. Fact: most infants/newborns wake up several times throughout the night. Fact: most infants/newborns wake when they’re hungry and need to be fed. Fact: SIDS is real and increasing your baby’s risk for SIDS is a serious issue.

I firmly believe the RNP should be taken off the market because it has been proven to cause deformities and its very design increases the risk of SIDS. Fisher Price will continue marketing and selling the RNP as long as consumers will buy it, but with the RNP being such a dangerous device (and parents clearly ignoring all the research) I believe the US should follow Canada’s lead and take the RNP off the shelves. Bottom line: don’t buy a RNP because the potential reward (an infant sleeping through the night) is not worth the risk.

1. “Fisher Price Recalls to Inspect Rock ‘n Play Infant Sleepers Due to Risk of Exposure to Mold.” United States Consumer Product Safety Commission. <http://www.cpsc.gov/en/Recalls/2013/Fisher-Price-Recalls-to-Inspect-Rock-N-Play-Infant-Sleepers-Due-to-Risk-of-Exposure-to-Mold/>

2. “Dear Fisher Price.” KC Kids Doc; Doctor Natasha. <http://kckidsdoc.com/dear-fisher-price.html>

3. “Reduce the Risk of SIDS.” healthychildren.org <http://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/sleep/Pages/Preventing-SIDS.aspx>

4. “Sudden Infant Deaths in Sitting Devices.” National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI). <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=.%20Côté%20A%2C%20Bairam%20A%2C%20Deschenes%20M%2C%20Hatzakis%20G.%20Sudden%20infant%20deaths%20in%20sitting%20devices.%20Arch%20Dis%20Child.%202008%3B93(5)%3A384%20–389>

5. “AAP Expands Guidelines for Infant Sleep Safety and SIDS Risk Reduction.” American Academy of Pediatrics. <http://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/Pages/AAP-Expands-Guidelines-for-Infant-Sleep-Safety-and-SIDS-Risk-Reduction.aspx>

How to Pick the Best Baby Sling for Nursing

babyslingfornursingThose who know me know that while I love my toddler, I am not a fan of mainstream “mommy” culture. I don’t like my home to look like the inside of a daycare, and I’m not into dressing like a frumpy cupcake. So, when I began my search for a baby carrier/baby sling for my soon to arrive newborn, it wasn’t long before I became frustrated with the limited pink, flower-patterned options. In February, we’ll be welcoming a baby girl to our little family. My toddler will be 19 months old, and I anticipate the need to wear my infant a lot while chasing my little monster around. I already have a Beco Soleil baby carrier, but that’s not ideal for nursing (and, truthfully, I think that particular carrier is better suited for my husband, not me). After much research, I came across a few possible options that would work for me.

My criteria:

-Adjustable

-Nursing-friendly

-Washable

-Neutral colors

The Peanut Shell 

The first option, The Peanut Shell Baby Sling, does not meet all the requirements. It fails the adjustability test, as it comes in specific (and limited) sizes.

It does come in several neutral color options, it is nursing-friendly, it’s washable, and it’s definitely easy to use. You simply slip it over your head and under one arm, then tuck the baby into the sling. The Peanut Shell is available for about $50.

theBabaSling

This sling is available in “one size fits all”. While I’m somewhat petite and would probably have no issue using this sling, I highly doubt my husband, who’s a foot taller than I am and possesses much broader shoulders, would comfortably be able to use the same sling (translation: we are definitely not the same size).

However, theBabaSling is supposedly adjustable, so perhaps it would work. It’s a sling style, so it’s nursing-friendly and meets the rest of my requirements. On Amazon, though, theBabaSling is priced from $65 – $370. I’m not really interested in spending hundreds of dollars on a sling, so I don’t think this is the one for me.

Traditional Baby Ring Sling

A ring sling is super duper simple. It adjusts easily for infant positioning in the hammock style and hip-wearing. You can find tons of styles and fabrics on sites like Etsy. My main concern with the ring sling is safety, but based on the reviews I’ve read it seems like ring slings are a very safe option. Ring slings are also budget friendly at $40.

There are a few other popular sling/wrap options I’ve left off of my list. For example, the Moby Wrap is very popular, but is way too complicated for my taste. I want something that’s super easy – ideally just one or two steps – that I’ll be able to use with a toddler in tow.

babyslingpin

Happy Just Another Day – New Year’s Day 2015

Nothing makes you realize how truly trivial the holidays are like death – or having children.

Last night was New Year’s Eve. Not a single fuck was given by my toddler, who decided he would break the mold and fall asleep early last night. This also led to me falling asleep early. I didn’t see the ball drop, and today’s just another day filled with demands for bottles, juice, and phone thievery.

Clark, at his grandparents house, stealing grandpa's phone.

Clark, at his grandparents house, stealing grandpa’s phone.

IMG_8403

Although I’m not one to romanticize a “new year”, I do have a lot to look forward to in 2015. We’re expecting baby #2, a girl, in February. It will definitely change the dynamic in our household. I’m kind of terrified, but mostly excited. We have a lot of other things on our plate, too, but I’m mostly focused on not being pregnant anymore. Have I mentioned I hate being pregnant? Because right now I do. I really, really hate it. I’m ready to just be sleep deprived – not sleep deprived, in pain, with heartburn.

I also want to blog a lot more in 2015. The past few months have been very busy for me, and I’ve definitely neglected my soapbox for far too long. If there’s one new year’s resolution I’ll make, it’s to blog more. I’m just going to pat myself on the back right now for clearly keeping up with that resolution already. ;)

%d bloggers like this: