Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Food. Glorious Food.

My first experience with baby food was in a dog obedience class when I was about 7 months pregnant. Our doggie decided he didn't like the training treats we were offering. The instructor suggested we try chicken baby food, so we went and bought some. Wow. No wonder the dog loves this stuff. It smells just like dog food. I can't believe babies will eat this stuff! I kind of gagged every time I opened a jar. I was immediately turned off of baby food. So, when it came time to start my little dude on solids I was already prepared to make my own baby food. I love cooking, so I was looking forward to making baby food. I did some research and luckily found that making baby food is incredibly easy, and inexpensive.

The Basics

Here is what you need to make baby food:

A food steamer, or something else to steam food in.  (I have a nice Black and Decker food steamer that I love, but you can do it on the stove just as easily) 
A blender or food processor. (I use a simple immersion blender.  Super convenient.)

That's pretty much it.

It is incredibly easy. I'll give you an example.

Carrot Baby Food

Steam about a pound of cleaned, peeled carrots until they are fork tender or "mushy". Let them cool slightly then purée, adding a little water as needed.

That's it! Baby Food!

You can prepare just about any kind of baby food this way. Even meats, though baking chicken just seems more natural to me than steaming it.

Now, think of how much money you can save doing this. Not only because you aren't paying for the packaging, but most baby food has added water and I would rather not pay for that. Plus, you can use foods from your own garden, the farmer's market or choose the best organic stuff out there. And you always know exactly what your little person is eating.

Last weekend I spent about 2 hours and $30 making baby food. Here are the results:

My freezer stocked with mangoes, peaches, broccoli, carrots, chicken, sweet potatoes, blueberries, avocado, peas, bananas, zucchini, apples, green beans and beets.

This will last my little dude for weeks.

Here's what I did:

I started the oven and baked a couple of boneless, skinless chicken breasts. I also threw a sweet potato in there. Meanwhile, I cleaned and peeled the beets and put them in the steamer. I bought a small bag of baby carrots so I didn't have to bother peeling them. I threw the carrots in the steamer as well as a peeled, sliced zucchini. I also steamed some apples (peeled) and peaches. I just used a bag of frozen peaches. I had a bag of frozen blueberries as well as frozen mangoes. I stewed each of these by putting them in a small sauce pan with about 1/4 cup water. Just let them simmer until they were soft, then purée.

While all of this was going on I put a steam cook bag of peas in the microwave. I also used the steam cook bags of green beans and broccoli. Again, cook them, let them cool and then purée, adding a little water as needed. (For the chicken, I used the pan juices instead of water) Lastly, I pureed a few bananas and an avocado; no need to steam these. I poured the purees in ice cube trays. Once they were frozen I put the cubes in labeled freezer bags. Now, when it's meal time, I just thaw a few cubes for my little dude.

If you want more info on making your own baby food, more recipes, or you want more info about what foods to give your baby and when, you have to check out Wholesome Baby They have all of the info you could ever possibly need for feeding your baby solids.

By the way...I am now making my dog's training treats too. He seems to like the homemade chicken baby food even better than the canned stuff, and I don't gag when I give him his treats anymore.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

30 Day Challenge: The Kiss

Every month I challenge myself (and all of you) to try something new for 30 days.  30 days is long enough to establish a habit.  It's also long enough to make a real change in your own life, and in the lives of those around you.

This month's challenge is:  The Kiss

There is a line from an old K.T. Oslin song that says, "Don't kiss me like we're married, kiss me like we're lovers."  That is the goal of this challenge.  I want you to kiss your significant other passionately every day.  I know this seems like a simple thing, but when is the last time you really kissed your husband or wife?  I'm not talking that quick kiss when they get home from work as you hand off the baby, or that little peck when you tell them good night.  I'm talking a deep, passionate, "grab-their-hair" kind of kiss.  A "steam-up-the-windows-in-the-back-of-the-Camaro-while-listening-to-a-power-ballad-mix-tape" kind of kiss.  The kind of kiss that your kids see and say, "ewwwwww...gross!"

Tell your significant other about the challenge, or don't.  Either way, I want to hear what kind of response you get.  Check back in with me at the end of the month and share your experiences.  I want to know how a month of passionate kisses changes your life!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


 The Cloth Diaper Whisperer is giving away:

1-Econobum Trial Pak (1 one size cover and 3 prefolds)
1-bumGenius Traveler Wet Bag

Head on over to The Cloth Diaper Whisperer to enter!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Product Review: ERGObaby Performance

Babies are so easy to carry around before they are born. Really, you don't even need to think about it. They just hang out in your belly, kicked back and relaxing and enjoying the ride. You don't even need to hold them, so your hands are free to do other stuff, like rubbing your aching back, or re-tiling your bathroom.

Things don't get tricky until after the baby arrives. For most babies born in the U.S., their first outing involves them being strapped into a car seat for the ride home. For some reason, people decided that their car seats were too good to just use in the car. Soon the old "baby bucket" started being used all the time by parents who were transporting their child from place to place. Just think about how often you see someone lugging one of these around with a slightly bewildered baby inside.

I'll admit, for the first few weeks we carried our little guy around this way. It was so easy to just strap him in from the comfort of his room, carry him (in the bucket) to the car and then pull out the bucket and carry it with us when we had to run errands. It was even a decent place for the little guy to nap.

Here is why this only worked for a couple of weeks:

In our quest to find the safest car seat available we also ended up with the heaviest car seat on the market. Even with a 7 pound baby in it, it got pretty heavy. Not to mention that I'm fairly short, so I wasn't able to just let the car seat hang from one arm at my side. I had to hold it up and out in front of me. This got old pretty fast. Luckily, my husband came along on all of the little outings during the first few weeks. He would usually carry the car seat while I took care of things that required two hands. If we went shopping we got 2 carts; one for our purchases and one to set the car seat in. You may be asking yourself, "Why didn't they just put the car seat on top of the cart? People do that all the time." Several reasons. The first being that our super safe, high tech car seat doesn't fit on the top of a shopping cart, which is fine with me, because (reason #2) it just never seemed like a very safe option. The idea of my fragile, precious little person perched precariously up on top of a cart that could easily be bumped and topple over is terrifying to me.

Now, I would like to touch for a moment on getting stuff done around the house with a newborn.
That little person wants to be held by Mom or Dad. All the time. This makes it extremely difficult to manage small household tasks like laundry, dishes, re-sealing the driveway, etc. Rather than just ignoring all of my household tasks in favor of snuggling a baby,(believe me, it was tempting) I decided I needed to find a hands-free baby-holding solution.

After a bit of research I decided on a sling. It seemed like such a great idea. Simple, portable, inexpensive and effective. Let's just say that the sling was not the right option for us. I practiced a few times with a Teddy bear to make sure I knew what I was doing. I watched the video, I read the instructions until I was confident in my sling-wearing abilities. Then, finally, I put my 4 week old son in the contraption.
It was awful. He was kind of folded up funny and jammed in there at what appeared to be a relatively uncomfortable angle. He was not happy. I immediately decided to take him out, but he was in there so good and snug that it was a bit hard to remove him. I finally managed to extricate him from the device after a brief moment of panic and some tears, both mine and his. After that I decided that the sling was not the right option for us. I folded it and put it on a shelf and that is where it remains to this day.
(incidentally, this was before the big baby sling recall)

Time to try something new.

Like a lot of you, I have seen "The Hangover". There are several scenes featuring a baby in a Baby Bjorn carrier. This looked like a pretty cool idea to me. And, hey, my husband might even use this kind of carrier!

We went and bought one.

This was a great solution for me. I could put my little dude in the Bjorn comfortably and do all sorts of things. I could do laundry, dishes, name it. This even solved my dilemma regarding shopping. I could finally take the baby shopping with me and not have to bring along my husband or use a second cart. I just took the baby out of the car seat when we got to the store, put him in the Bjorn and off we went. I could go on walks with him in the cold weather and just zip my coat around him and the carrier to keep him warm and snuggly.
The Bjorn worked really well for us until the baby got to be about 18 pounds. Suddenly I was having back pain every time I used the carrier. Often it would get a little tough to breathe with him strapped to my chest. The carrier is only designed for babies up to 26 pounds, so we weren't going to be able to use it a lot longer anyway. It made me a bit sad to think I wouldn't be able to snuggle-carry my little guy around anymore.

Around this time I was reading a forum discussing baby carriers. Someone asked people to chime in on which carrier they liked and why. A lot of people were raving about a baby carrier called the ERGO. I didn't see one comment about the Bjorn, and since I was so happy with mine, I decided to comment. In a matter of minutes there were several replies by people telling me that the Bjorn has been shown to be bad for a baby's spine.
What? Really? How come I wasn't aware of this? I never saw any warnings or read anything about it. I did some research and apparently there are a few studies that suggest that the way a baby's weight is distributed in a Baby Bjorn can be hard on their spine. I felt terrible. Here I was risking injury to my little dude without even realizing it. I decided that it was a good thing that he was getting too big for it anyway. I also decided to look into this ERGO carrier that everyone was saying such great things about. I went to their website and checked out what they had to offer. ERGO makes several different types of baby carriers, in a lot of great colors. Customer reviews for the products are incredible. People just LOVE these things. I did some research and decided to order the ERGObaby Performance.

Now I understand what everyone was raving about! This thing is fantastic! I was so excited when it arrived in the mail. I read the manual, adjusted the straps and put it on. (By the way, the design of the straps is great. There is an elastic band attached to them to keep the excess length from flapping around. Simple, but so nice). I put my 8 month old in the ERGO and immediately thought, "This feels so much better!" The weight is distributed across your hips instead of your back. Because of this, you can more comfortably carry your kiddo for longer periods of time. Not to mention I don't ever have problems catching my breath since there is no pressure through my chest.

Unlike the Bjorn, which has a more rigid frame, the ERGObaby Performance has a soft frame. This allows my guy to move around a little more. He has more wiggle-room and as a result seems a lot more comfortable. Speaking of comfort, the ERGObaby Performance is made from lightweight, breathable fabric. No more sweaty belly and sweaty baby on those hot days. I can comfortably carry him in this carrier for hours, and he really seems to enjoy it too. The ERGObaby Performance also can be used on babies up to 45 pounds. This means that you will be able to use it nearly twice as long as a Baby Bjorn.

I never see other people using baby carriers where I live and as a result people tend to comment and ask about the baby carrier all the time. Everyone comments on how happy, comfy and cute my little dude looks in his ERGO. I wouldn't be surprised if more people started using them around here. Another plus: this thing weighs next to nothing and can be folded up into a pretty small package. As a result, it's really easy to just pack into your diaper bag. This is so much easier than folding up a big stroller and stuffing that into the trunk of your car. Speaking of strollers, we do have a very nice one that we use on occasion, but usually I carry him. I feel that babies prefer to be held so they feel like they are part of what's going on. Also, you burn more calories carrying a baby than pushing a stroller :)

Last, but not least, I can carry him in front, on my hip or on my back, just (as my brother-in-law commented) "like Luke sporting Yoda through the swamps of Dagobah." Surely this should render the ERGObaby Performance cool enough for my husband to use as well.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Splits Personality

When I was a little girl I dreamed of being a Solid Gold Dancer. These women were so awesome! The costumes! The legs! The hair! The flexibility! Every week I would turn on the TV, move the coffee table out of the way and dance along with the show. I usually could follow their moves fairly successfully, with one notable exception: The splits. I was always in awe of how these women could effortlessly slide down to the floor in the splits; as easily as we mere mortals bend our knee. I was determined to do the splits as well.

Like a lot of young girls, I took dance lessons. Ballet, Jazz and the ubiquitous, and pointless, Tap Dancing. After years of dancing and stretching I still couldn't do the splits. The closest I could come was the white-guy-air-guitar-move where it looks like you are going to do the splits, but your back leg is still bent behind you. I was frustrated. Even David Lee Roth could do the splits better than I could.

Life moved on and I abandoned my quest to do the splits.


I was in a strip club one evening and this incredibly flexible girl took the stage. (Talon, you know who you are) She did things with her legs that most women, not to mention their husbands, only dream of. I caught up with her after her set and commented on her flexibility. She confided that when she started dancing she couldn't even touch her toes. I was inspired. I could already touch my toes! I had a leg up, so to speak. My quest to do the splits resumed.

I worked on my flexibility and stretched nearly every day. Within a few months I was incredibly close to doing the splits. Almost all the way down, I was just a couple inches from the floor. Granted, I had to ease myself carefully into that position. It was nothing like the fluid grace with which the Solid Gold Dancers slid to the floor. However, I was getting close.

And then, one night, it happened! The combination of a bit too much Scotch, stripper shoes, a very slippery floor and my sophomoric need to show off my near-splits talent led me to actually doing the full splits! And none of this "easing down into it" crap. Nope, just Bam! down to the floor. It was so satisfying, and exhilarating.

And painful.

A few months later, after my hamstring healed, I decided that doing the splits was overrated and I didn't feel the need to do them again.

In my quest to get back in shape after my son was born, I realized that I had lost quite a bit of my flexibility. It didn't take long for me to once again start dreaming of doing the splits. Plus, my husband thought it would be kind of cool if I could get my ankles behind my head. So, I started working on my flexibility once again.

This time I have a lot more knowledge of anatomy and physiology, so I am better prepared to do things the right way. I have a plan. The secret to doing the splits is increasing the flexibility in your hip flexors and hamstrings. You also want to make sure you don't have any tightness in your quads or your glutes. I have a few basic stretches that I am doing every day. Each stretch is held for 30 seconds. Be sure not to force anything, and don't bounce. Just hold the stretch and breathe. The most obvious stretches are simple hamstrings stretches (touching your toes is an example) and hip flexor stretches(deep lunges are an example of this) but there are other stretches as well.

There are tons of sites out there giving you advice on how to do the splits. Just Google "how to do the splits" and you'll see what I mean. Some are very simple, others are really in depth. If you want simple, I recommend this site.

If you are looking for something a bit more in depth I recommend this site. This one is close to the protocol I am using. YouTube is also a good source of tutorials on how to do the splits.

Already I am noticing a lot more flexibility, and as a nice bonus I have eliminated a lot of pain in my knee and lower back. I can't quite do the splits yet, but I will post a follow up when I can. And then, Marilyn McCoo, here I come!