Monday, May 30, 2016

Meal Plan Monday - May 30

Well, I'm still making meal plans, just not sharing them with you all. It's difficult to get anything done, including blogging, which isn't really that high up on my priority list at the moment, when you've got a 2-month-old at home. 

But here's what we're eating this week:

Sunday: hamburger stroganoff
Monday: pea pesto pasta
Tuesday: rotisserie chicken with mashed potatoes
Wednesday: meatballs with rice and green beans
Thursday: leftovers
Friday: spaghetti, salad, and bread
Saturday: hamburgers, corn, baked beans, and warm potato salad

Also, I have had some time to get a few scrapbook pages done. Hopefully, I'll be able to share some of them with you soon. If only this kid would nap!!!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Pediatrician's Guide to Feeding Babies and Toddlers - Book Review

I didn't start reading this book right after my baby was born because I assumed the book only dealt with solid foods. But I was wrong! This book starts from birth, taking you through formula- and breastfeeding all the way to finger foods for toddlers. Plus, it addresses concerns that all parents may have, such as food allergies, Celiac disease, GERD, and other issues that may arise due to food sensitivities.

And there are recipes!

I like the fact that The Pediatrician's Guide to Feeding Babies & Toddlers is presented in a Q&A format. So many baby books are full of long blocks of text. You spend so much time reading the books and waiting to get to the part that addresses the question you have or the information you need to know. Not so in this book.

The chapters are divided by age range, and within each chapter you'll find sections on basic nutritional guidelines, expected developmental milestones, and medical concerns. You can easily look in the table of contents to find the age and section of information you want. Turn to that page and read through the list of questions with very complete answers to find what you're looking for.

Even though this book is written by pediatricians, it's always recommended that you discuss concerns with your own pediatrician, too.

This book combined with my Baby Bullet Blender is definitely going to come in handy once we start introducing solid food, but for the next few months before that happens, it will also be handy if I have questions about how my baby is eating and digesting her formula. I think this is a must-have book for new parents!

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Spaghetti with Lemon Chicken

The very first meal I made for my husband when we started dating was Spaghetti with Lemon Chicken. Back then, I had two little 4x6 books of recipes, most of which I cut out from the brand new Everyday with Rachael Ray magazine. Hard to imagine that there was a time without Pinterest recipe boards, without my giant "favorite meals" recipe binder, without needing to cook gluten-free.

But alas, here we are. In 2016. That first dinner was 2007.

And in honor of our 7th wedding anniversary this month, I decided to make this recipe again. Gluten-free, of course. (And with penne pasta instead of spaghetti because we didn't have any spaghetti.) I figure it was popular enough with my husband in 2007. It should still be a crowd-pleaser today.

Spaghetti with Lemon Chicken (have no idea where this recipe originally came from)

2 tbsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. salt
1 3/4 cup gluten-free chicken broth
9 ounces of cooked boneless, skinless chicken strips (Grill 'em on your George Foreman for a fast cook.)
2 tbsp. bottled lemon juice
1 tbsp. parsley
1 tbsp. dijon mustard
8 ounces of cooked gluten-free spaghetti

1. In a small bowl, combine cornstarch, broth, lemon juice, mustard, and salt. Mix well.
2. In a skillet, cook the cornstarch mixture until thickened.
3. Add the chicken strips. Cook until heated through.
4. Sprinkle parsley over the top. Toss with the spaghetti.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Half Lost - YA Book Review

Two years ago I read the first in a new YA book series called Half Bad. And now I'm here to report that the third and final book in the trilogy is on bookstore shelves now, so if you're a fan of the first two books, you'll want to find out what happens to Nathan and all the other witches in the third installment, Half Lost.

In this book, Nathan is learning to harness a bunch of new Gifts that he received after what happened in the second book. (No spoilers!) He's also looking for revenge against the person who killed his father, and there's a war going on that requires White Witches, Black Witches, Half Bloods, and Half Codes to unite against a common enemy and try to restore peace to the world of witches.

Overall, it's a good story of good versus evil, although one that you've probably heard many times before. I must admit, after reading the first book, I wasn't a super fan. But then I read the second and third books and did become a bit more engrossed in the story. The books are a little violent, so keep that in mind before you read. The series is age-graded 14 and up.

Intrigued enough to read the book? You're in luck! I'm giving away my copy of Half Lost to one lucky winner! PLUS, I'll throw in another YA book from my review stash! Two books! What a giveaway!

Just enter using the Rafflecopter below. This giveaway will run from May 18, 2016 to May 25, 2016 and is open to residents of the contiguous United States. No Hawaii, Alaska, or international entries. Good luck!

Half Lost is published by Viking and is on bookstore shelves now. I received a free review copy of the book for my honest review.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Gluten-Free Cheesesteak Penne

It's kind of nice not working five days a week. I'm back at work, but I only go into the office three days so that I can hang out with my baby! On those days that I don't work, I have plenty of time to make recipes that are a little more complicated. Take for instance Gluten-Free Cheesesteak Penne.

This recipe is based on the Family Circle recipe for Philly Cheesesteak Penne.

That's right. It's a Philly Cheesesteak but with pasta.

For my cheesesteak-loving husband, this seemed perfect.

And it was! He went back for seconds!

You can find the original recipe at the above link (though you'll need to register at the Family Circle website to see the recipe), but here's basically what I used to make it gluten-free. I substituted a few of the ingredients, too.

It's gluten-free penne (we like Barilla), sliced up green bell pepper, about a cup of frozen chopped onion (because I'm lazy like that), a bag of Sargento shredded two-cheese mozzarella and provolone, salt, pepper, milk, gluten-free flour (we like Bob's Red Mill), flank steak, Worcestershire sauce, two saucepots, and a skillet.

I forgot to reserve some of the pasta water when I drained the pasta, and I would definitely have added that water to the pasta and the cheese sauce to thin it out just a bit. I would also use more flank steak and less bell pepper, but that's just my preference for meat over veggie.

But overall, this was very good, and I will definitely make it again!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Must-Have Baby Registry Items

Well, it's been two months since I had a baby, and in that two months, I've been using some amazing products that have really made life with a baby much easier. Because I work in the toy and baby industry, I was able to get the heads-up on some of these products before the baby arrived. But others were given to me as gifts, and those gift-givers definitely knew what was up! 

If you're expecting and need to make your baby registry, or if you've been invited to a baby shower and want to give the new mom some truly helpful items, then consider this your go-to list!

How long has it been since the baby ate? How long has it been since you changed the baby's diaper? How long has the baby been sleeping? Which breast did you use at the last feeding? Don't know the answer to these questions? Well, you will know the answers with the Pocket Nanny. This handy device keeps track of "how long it's been since..." so you always know what baby is going to need and when. (Just make sure you press the buttons to reset the timers.)

2. Baby Bandana Bibs
Not only does our little baby look like the cutest little cowgirl in town (or the cutest little outlaw when she pushes this bib up over the lower half of her face), but she also stays a little cleaner when eating with these Baby Bandana Bibs. They come in a set of four, and unlike other bibs, they come up higher under the baby's chin so that any dribbles and drools fall on the bib and not onto the baby. These were a very welcome gift from one of the moms in my mom's group.

3. Joovy Boob Gift Set PPSU
It doesn't matter if you're planning on breastfeeding or formula feeding. This bottle set has everything you need to store your breastmilk, mix up formula, and clean the bottles by hand. You get three nine-ounce bottles, three five-ounce bottles, pump adapters, stage 1 nipples for newborns, a few later stage nipples to use when baby gets older, and insulators for each bottle size. The two included brushes clean the bottles and the nipples. I was planning on doing breastfeeding only, but when that didn't work out and I needed bottles ASAP for the formula, having this bottle set was a lifesaver. It's a bit on the pricey side, so this is probably best for that baby shower attendee who wants to get a big-ticket item for the new mom.

4. Ergobaby Swaddler 2-Pack
Swaddling is hard! Our baby kept working her way out of her swaddles when we tried to wrap her up like a baby burrito using a receiving blanket. But then we figured out how to use the Ergobaby Swaddlers, and we never looked back. These things are awesome, very easy to use, and keep our baby all nice and snug at bedtime.

5. Philips Avent Soothie
Our little one LOVED this pacifier. She will take other pacifiers, but in the beginning, it was this green Soothie all the time. They come in two-packs and are made of hospital-grade silicone.

6. Oogiebear
One of the gross things about babies is that you have to get their snot and boogers out for them. But it doesn't have to be weird and disgusting when you've got the Oogiebear. This thing is great! There are two plastic loops on each side, one for hard boogers and one for the snot. At the bottom of each loop, there is a bear's face, which is really cute and also prevents you from sticking the loops too far up into the baby's nose!

7. Dr. Brown's Nose & Face Wipes/Dr. Brown's Pacifier & Bottle Wipes
These are items that are probably not MUST-haves, but if you have them, you will be grateful. The nose and face wipes are handy for the nursery and the diaper bag to wipe your baby's mouth after a feeding or to keep your baby's nose clean. And the pacifier and bottle wipes are great for taking on the go, just in case a pacifier falls on the ground while you're out.

And just a few tips for gift-givers:

1. Everyone thinks to give diapers, but don't forget the wipes! New moms (and dads) need just as many wipes as diapers with babies.

2.  Everyone always thinks of bibs, but burp cloths are also an essential!

3. Always give gift receipts! It makes exchanging clothing for different sizes (because you never know exactly how big a baby is going to be or how fast the baby is going to grow) much easier. And for non-clothing items, it makes returning them (in case the new mom got more than one of something) easier.

4. Consider something for the mom-to-be like a gift card to a clothing store so that she can buy new clothes to accommodate her new "mom" shape. Not all of us have personal trainers and can fit into our pre-pregnancy pants (even our pre-pregnancy "fat" pants) by the time we have to go back to work!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Mother's Day Playlist

Here's a music playlist for all those rockin' moms out there! These are all women-fronted, women-only rock bands. I would have made you a playlist to listen to right here in this blog post, but the baby didn't let me.

Happy Mother's Day!

1. 40 Boys in 40 Nights - The Donnas
2. Celebrity Skin - Hole
3. Bad Reputation - Joan Jett
4. Only Happy When it Rains - Garbage
5. Co-pilot - Letters to Cleo
6. Oh Darling - Sahara Hot Nights
7. Gold Guns and Girls - Metric
8. That's What You Get - Paramore
9. Brand New Key - The Dollyrots
10. Saturday - Go Betty Go
11. Sticky Honey - Juliette & the Licks
12. Major Tom - Shiny Toy Guns
13. Nothing Without Me - The Riff Randells
14. Stripper - Sohodolls
15. Heart Throb - Be Your Own Pet
16. Middle of the Night - The Soviettes
17. Pessimist - TAT
18. Sugar Vendor - Softee
19. Hurricane Streets - Hey Monday
20. Living in America - The Sounds
21. Mean Old Coot - Zoloft the Rock & Roll Destroyer

Thursday, May 5, 2016

"Favorite Things" Mother's Day Gift Idea

In case you didn't know, it's Mother's Day on Sunday! Still don't know what to get mom? Have a mom who says "Don't get me anything!"? Well, how about a "Favorite Thing" gift? 

I saw this idea on Pinterest, and it was actually an idea for a teacher gift from the blog Let's Count Blessings. But you can make it a gift for just about anybody, including mom.

Purchase some of your mom's favorite things and package them up together in a brown paper bag. Like in the song "My Favorite Things" from The Sound of Music: "Brown paper packages tied up with string, these are a few of my favorite things"

I found this cute chalkboard brown paper bag at Marshall's and filled it with some of my mom's favorite things. What's inside? I can't tell you because it might ruin the surprise! My mom reads this blog!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Chicken, Cheese, and Bacon

Chicken, cheese, and bacon. Three things that go so well together.

Last week we made two recipes that both included all three of those things. Here's the verdict:

Slow Cooker Crack Chicken

This recipe comes from Cookies and Cups. It is super easy to make! Just throw chicken breasts, dry ranch seasoning, and cream cheese into your slow cooker, and 6-7 hours later, you've got dinner! You can find the full recipe here. Plus, it's naturally gluten-free, as long as you use gluten-free buns for the sandwich.

We had this as leftovers for two extra nights, and it was a recipe that my husband requested we make again after the first night we had it. Success!

Chicken and Bacon Stuffed Potatoes

This recipe comes from Family Circle magazine. If you click the above link, you'll probably have to sign in or register to see the recipe. (Kind of annoying, I know.) But if you like chicken, bacon, and feta cheese together in a baked potato, then looking up the recipe will be worth it.

This was a winning recipe with my husband, too. We love baked potatoes, and it's a nice spin on the traditional baked potato. Plus, it's also easy to make and is gluten-free!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

YA Book Giveaway

Yep! You're seeing this right. I'm doing a YA book giveaway! One lucky winner will receive advance review copies of the following books:

Everything, Everything
Liv, Forever
Circle of Stones
The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone
The Devil and Winnie Flynn

Use the Rafflecopter below to enter! This giveaway runs from May 1, 2016 to May 8, 2016.

Please note, this giveaway is only open to residents of the contiguous 50 states; no Alaska, Hawaii, or international entries.