Winter Magic

Winter Magic
"Jump, and you will find out how to unfold your wings as you fall." ~ Ray Bradbury

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Baby Bug's 1st Birthday: Invitations

Baby Bug's 1st birthday party was on May 21st.  We held it in our backyard and it was lots of fun.  This is the first of a series of picture-based posts on the party. 

Hand-made invitations:

invitations inspired by the book

lots of very hungry caterpillars!

the card folded out

the card almost all closed
A great way to start my little caterpillar's Very Hungry Party!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Just for Baby

One thing I've learned about myself as a mother is that despite the fact that I can be very stubborn and often overly assertive, I am also very flexible about things as well and I have an ability to "go with the flow" that I never knew I had.  One area that surprised me was with baby wearing.  I am a baby wearing mamma.  I love my baby bug being close, snug, and secure.  I love the freedom it allows me.  However, I am also a stroller mamma.  I like that it carries shopping bags at the mall and at Disneyland.  Baby bug likes looking out at the world from her stroller when walking to the park.  I like that I can incorporate both baby wearing and the stroller into our lives.  That said, I have been in search of a carrier that I can fold up and put in the diaper bag so I don't have decide ahead of time if I plan on wearing baby bug or pushing her.  I have a nice Balboa Baby sling, but it starts to hurt my shoulder after about 30 minutes of carrying  her and I've recently learned that this type of carrier isn't safe for younger babies. I have an Infantino carrier that is also very uncomfortable and difficult to store, and after doing research I learned that this type of carrier is not good for baby. So, my quest began.  After lots of research on the internet, talking to mammas, and testing out various carriers, I narrowed it down to a Mei Tai (MT) style carrier.  I fell in love with the designs of Obimama on Etsy and decided to have her design my carrier using the Eric Carle fabric I had left over from baby bug's room.  She has finished making my carrier and it is now in the mail to its new home...I can't wait to use it!  Below are pictures Obimama took of the carrier before sending it off to me :)  The carrier is reversable...

polka dots and caterpillar

purple with fruit

Monday, March 7, 2011

Cooking for Baby and Family: Butternut Squash & Cheese Sauce

Baby bug loves to eat pasta and most children I know love mac & cheese.  My good friend Kara gave me the idea to use butternut squash as the main ingredient instead of cheese.  This sauce can be used with any pasta you or your child likes.  I used the acini di pepe pasta I posted about earlier.  Once the sauce is made, you can freeze portions of it for later use.  It is nice to always have on hand for a quick and easy meal.  It works well over rice too!
butternut squash & cheese sauce over pasta

Ingredients: (note: amounts are not exact - play with it!)

6 - 8 oz butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and chopped (or frozen)
1 - 2 tbs unsalted whipped butter (use less if cubed and not whipped)
1/2 cup - 1 cup grated mild cheddar cheese


Boil squash for 10 - 15 minutes (until soft) in unsalted water.  Once squash is done puree until creamy and set aside.

cooking the squash

puree cooked squash
In a small sauce pan under med-low heat add butter and cheese.  Continually stir with a spatula until butter and cheese is melted, then slowly stir in your pureed squash.  Continue to stir until squash is blended evenly with the cheese sauce and the mixture is smooth and creamy.

melt butter and cheese
stir in puree until smooth


Serve over pasta of your choice.  Freeze 4 oz portions for later use (best if used within 6 weeks of freezing).

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Cooking for Baby: Quinoa

I was introduced to Quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) in conversations with other moms about feeding baby, then I found a recipe in Healthy Meals for Babies and Toddlers that looked good, so I decided to give it a try.  I improvised a little with the recipe and was very happy with the way it turned out.  I will be posting my improvised recipe rather than the one in the book.


1/4 cup quinoa (rinsed)
2 large handfuls of organic frozen peas & carrots
1/4 finely chopped onion
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp tomato paste
2/3 cup unsalted organic vegetable stock
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup cubed or finely chopped boneless chicken breast (baby bite size)
5 fresh basil leaves
oregano to taste


Heat the oil in a saucepan.  Add the onion and cook for 1 - 2 minutes until soft.  Add the peas, carrots, and chicken and cook for 2 - 3 minutes or until chicken is white.  Stir in the quinoa, tomato paste, water, and stock.  Bring to a boil, cover, and let simmer for 15 - 20 minutes until the quinoa grains are soft (they will be translucent with a little "curl" on them). Stir in the basil and oregano and cook, uncovered, for 2 - 3 minutes.

I served this "as is" to my baby bug and she loved it!  You can also puree or mash it if necessary.  I froze 4oz portions to give to her daycare.  It is best if served within 4 weeks of freezing.  

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Nursery Decor: The Very Hungry Caterpillar

The nursery has been a work in progress since I first learned I was pregnant.  I always knew I wanted a primary color nursery regardless of my child's gender and The Very Hungry Caterpillar was my favorite book as a child, so the idea for the baby's nursery was easy! 
"blank slate" - nursery after the primer

I had a lot of help with transforming the room.  Friends and family helped with prepping and painting, putting up the chair rail, and making the curtains. 

My dad used acrylic on canvas to re-create scenes from the book for decoration.

My dad and my brother re-did the closet.

My friend Kara made the closet curtains.

My dad painting.
 My friend Meghann helped me do the green wall paint and the chair rail.

My dad did the yellow wall paint.  My friends Jennifer and Vanessa primered the room.

yellow & green

I created the green swirl design by twisting a sea sponge over the wet green paint.

close-up of the green swirl design

clothing size dividers

I used Eric Carle fabric to make a lampshade and stickers to make clothing size dividers.

finished closet with curtains & baby bug playing

artwork, plantation shutters, and crib

artwork, lamp, dresser


        I made the "S" bow holder with supplies  from Michael's.  I used left-over paint from her room and glitter for the final touches.
artwork, changing table, closet
 The changing table and crib were purchased from Craig's List.  The dresser belonged to my sister-in-law when she was a child.  The rocking chair was purchased at an estate sale by my mom.  I found the toy box on-sale at J.C. Penny and the base of the lamp at the Pottery Barn Outlet. The book shelf and the alphabet play mat are from One Step Ahead.

Baby Bug's room was a collaborative effort of LOVE!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Cooking for Baby: Quick and Easy Pasta

Acini di Pepe is an enriched macaroni that is small enough for baby, even if she can't chew very well.  Baby bug only has her two bottom teeth and this pasta is perfect for her!  The first recipe is just for cooking the pasta, then there are suggestions for how to serve it.
What you will need:
acini di pepe (I used De Cecco brand #78)
olive oil
fresh Parmesan or Romano cheese

To cook pasta:

fill a small pot or large soup pan 1/2 to the top with water and bring to a boil.  Once boiling add 3/4 cup acini di pepe.  Boil for 11 minutes, stirring occasionally (the box of pasta will tell you to cook for 9 minutes, this is for al dente, for baby you want it to be a little softer).  Drain water when done (my colander had holes that were too big, so I used a strainer to drain the water).

Ideas for preparation:

Simple and Classic: stir in olive oil and cheese (baby bug loves it like this!)

With veggies:  prepare with olive oil and cheese and stir in chunks of broccoli, zucchini, or veggie of your choice (baby bug loves this with broccoli).

With soup:  add pasta to your favorite veggie soup
pasta with olive oil, broccoli, and cheese


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Cooking for Baby: Spring Vegetable Risotto

I found this recipe for Spring Vegetable Risotto in the book Healthy Meals for Babies & Toddlers.  Preparation for this takes about 10 minutes and cook time is about 40 minutes.  Be sure you plan to cook this meal when you are able to stay near the stove (this isn't a "let it simmer and walk away" meal).  You can add or substitute other veggies to meet your childs needs.  I added carrots to the mix.

1 small leek, peeled and very finely chopped
1 small zucchini or summer squash, very finely chopped
small handful frozen peas
small piece of unsalted butter
1 tsp olive oil
heaping 3/8 cup of Arborio (Risotto) rice
1 1/2 cups HOT no-salt or homemade vegetable or chicken stock
1/2 tsp dried oregano
2 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese

Steam the leek and zucchini for 2 minutes, then add the peas and steam until veggies are tender enough for your baby.

Melt the butter with the oil into a heavy-bottom skillet.  Once melted, add the rice and cook, stirring constantly, for about 2 - 3 minutes, or until the grains are translucent.

Slowly add the stock 1ladel full at a time, waiting until it has been absorbed before adding more.  While doing this you will be constantly stirring the rice.  Cook over medium-low heat for 20 minutes, stirring continuously. 

Add the oregano, cheese, and vegetables and let simmer, while stirring, and additional 5 - 10 minutes, or until all the liquid has been absorbed and rice is tender.

If your baby isn't ready for chunky foods this meal can be pureed (add more stock or water for the right consistency).

I served this to baby bug "as is" and to me and my husband with a little salt and pepper.  If you are busy like me, you may want to freeze some of it for later!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Cooking for Baby: Sweet Veggie Soup

Baby bug's Nonna gave me the idea for this recipe and even provided the orzo.  This is one of those soups that you can do whatever you want with in order to make you and baby happy!  Choose veggies you know your baby (and family) will love.  The soup is made without salt or spices, so you'll want to add salt and pepper to taste if serving for the whole family.  This makes a large pot of soup, so if you don't want left overs or you know only baby will be eating then you will need to adjust accordingly.

Sweet Veggie Soup


unsalted vegetable stock
organic carrots, sweet potatoes, onion,  peas and zucchini

Heat vegetable stock in large pot to boiling.  Meanwhile, chop all of your veggies into small bite sized pieces, chopping the onion into even smaller pieces.  I used 1/2 bag of frozen peas, 3 carrots, 1/2 onion, 2 zucchini, 1 yellow sweet potato, and 1 orange sweet potato. 

Once stock is boiling, add 1/2 cup of orzo, then stir in all of your vegetables.  Add water as needed to be sure all of the vegetables are covered.  Bring back to a boil, place lid on pot, and turn down the heat to simmer.  Simmer for 25 minutes or until vegetables are soft enough for baby to eat without mashing.

I served the soup as an appetizer before our family meal and as baby bug's main course.  I had enough left over to give some to her Nonna and to freeze.  Baby bug loved not only eating the soup from the spoon, but picking up some of the bigger pieces and self-feeding. 

Decor: The Little Touches

Baby bug's room has been a work in progress since I first learned I was pregnant.  I will post later about the transformation of her room.  Although her room looks beautiful the way it is, I'm finding that adding little touches just makes it that much sweeter.  This weekend I worked on two small diy projects: a door hanger and closet dividers.

I purchased the wood pieces for the door hanger from Michael's and I got the Hungry Caterpillar stickers from the Eric Carle Museum Store.  I painted them with the same paint I used in her room and I used a Sharpie for the lettering.  Here is the final product:

I had made closet dividers for her when I was first decorating her room based on sizes (0-3mo, 3 - 6mo, etc...); however, I'm finding that now it is more necessary to have her closet divided by type of clothing rather than size.  So, I peeled off the stickers I had originally used (the upside of not using permanent paint or marker) and redid them.  Here is the final product:

Voila!  A few small touches to make her room even sweeter.  Love.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Cooking for Baby: Foods for Baby and Family

I've always loved family dinner time, and now that baby bug is ready to move past pureed foods my goal is to try to incorporate cooking for baby with cooking for family.  The easiest way to do this (for now) is to make one item in the dinner menu "baby friendly" so that she can sit and eat with us at dinner-time.  This series of posts will include "baby friendly" recipes that were successful.

Family menu:  pork chops, mashed potatoes, spinach salad, and Italian potato & squash

Food for baby: Italian potato & squash

1 large potato peeled (I used a yellow sweet potato)
1 large summer squash peeled (I used a light green zucchini type)
4 large basil leaves
1/4 red onion
2 tbs olive oil

Cut potato and squash into small bite-sized pieces, place in deep pan and cover with water.  Cook on burner until it comes to a boil.  Meanwhile, chop up onion and basil and add to the pan.  Once it comes to a boil, cover and let simmer for 15 - 20 minutes or until tender enough for baby.  Then drain liquid using a colander, mix with olive oil, and serve. 

Baby bug loved this and we did too!  I had enough left over for lunch the next day and I froze two 4 oz portions for the future.

Cooking for Baby: Months 1 - 7

This will be the first in a series of posts about cooking for baby.  It is amazing how many options we have as modern moms with regards to feeding our babies.  I love that organic and unsweetened options are not not only available at Henry's and other alternative style stores, but also at the local supermarket.  It is amazing that there is such a variety of formula options for the different needs of our babies.  My grandma made formula by mixing sweetened-condensed milk with water and raised six kids on it!  And though I do have a small shelf with some jars of organic baby food and I have started to supplement with about 4 oz of formula a day while baby bug is in daycare, I have made the choice to nurse my daughter and to make her baby food from scratch.  This was my choice to make and it is what I think works best for our family.  It hasn't always been the easiest choice (see post on nursing), but it is one that I have enjoyed.  Every two weeks  I spend a few hours in the kitchen making baby food.  I freeze it in little 2 oz containers and in ice-cube trays (about 1 oz per cube).  I buy organic produce at Henry's and I use my "magic bullet" to process the food (this was a lifesaver when I had jaw surgery in June 2009). 

Here is a list of baby foods I've made that were a success:

  • apple - pear (with and w/o cinnamon)
  • pear - date - cinnamon
  • peach
  • peach - apple - cinnamon
  • apple - mango
  • blueberry - banana
  • mango - date
  • apple - blueberry
Dates are naturally very sweet and I use them to make some foods sweeter.  For example, mango has not been in season so adding a little date to it helps make it less tart.

  • carrot (with and w/o cinnamon)
  • carrot-spinach
  • sweet potato (yellow) - turnip
  • sweet potato (yellow) - cilantro
  • potato - basil
  • yam - cinnamon (sometimes with nutmeg)
  • yam
  • green bean - pea
  • lima bean
  • broccoli - cauliflower
  • cauliflower - cheddar cheese
  • sweet corn - cilantro
  • zucchini - basil
  • zucchini - green bean
  • zucchini - yellow squash
  • pumpkin - cinnamon - nutmeg
  • various squash mixes
I also keep a jar of organic & unsweetened apple sauce and apple-apricot sauce in the fridge for mornings when I'm in a hurry and/or don't feel like heating up the frozen fruit.

Now that baby bug is a bit older she is starting to show a distaste for pureed foods, so I've found that for many foods it is better to just cut it up into small pieces rather than puree them (yam, potato, broccoli, cauliflower, squash).

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Quick Summary: What "they" didn't tell me

I am very lucky to be where I am in my life.  As a teacher, married to a teacher, I had the luxury of having over three months to spend with baby bug, instead of the usual six-weeks, before going back to work.  Let me tell you that I needed that time.  There is no way I would have been able to go back to work after just six-weeks.  My body, my mind, and my baby bug would not have been able to do it.

Though I want to just say how wonderful and amazing my three months with baby bug were, the fact is that it was a very difficult time.  It was beautiful, wonderful, awe-inspiring, amazing, but also very challenging.

She was born not knowing how to suck properly, so I had to work very hard to get her to breast feed (she even had difficulty eating from a bottle).  Luckily, I was provided free weekly lactation counseling through Kaiser.  I looked forward to these weekly visits.  I would take baby bug to the small room in the basement at Kaiser Lakeview and she would somehow magically know how to suck properly and she always seemed peaceful while we were there.  I wanted to transport that little room home so bad!  It gave me peace of mind; they would weigh her before she nursed and then after, so I knew exactly how many ounces she was getting.  I felt her getting stronger and stronger and becoming more confident in her sucking while I grew more confident in my ability to provide for her.  I was over-joyed when she "graduated" from the clinic in September.

Okay, so the above post is a little simplified, but you get the point.  The next big issue was the blood.  Little baby bug scared the living daylights out of me one night when she spit up blood at two the morning.  It took three months for us to figure out what was wrong.  First we were told it was a milk allergy and I had to remove all dairy from my diet. When that didn't work, we were told it was a sensitivity to Ibuprofen, so I had to stop taking the medication they had given me for my back (and they put baby bug on some powerful medicine).  When that didn't work, they started talking about putting a scope down her to look inside her tummy.  Well, it wasn't the doctors that finally figured it out - near the end of the summer I started pumping more often to prepare for my return to work and one day I pumped red milk.  The problem was me.  We started joking and calling her our "little vampire" baby (we even considered dressing her as a bat for Halloween).  After making sure that I didn't have some form of cancer, it was decided that I have something called "rusty pipe" syndrome.  So, every now and then I produce milk that is mixed with blood.  It isn't bad for baby bug, just a little difficult for her to digest, so she usually spits it up.  However, the older she gets the less she spits up (or maybe I'm just not as rusty anymore :).

Even though the sucking and blood issues were difficult, they were put on the back burner by the lack of sleep.  No one really prepares you for this.  I was told that I would be sleep deprived, but no one told me that I would literally not sleep for weeks.  In the hospital baby bug ate every two hours - and somehow in between feedings I was supposed to  pump, eat, and sleep.  Maybe this would have been easier if baby bug had been in my room, but she was three floors below me in the NICU.  I thought it would get better when I got home, but it didn't .  Anyone who says "sleep when the baby sleeps" is either a man or woman who has never had a baby - or who does not remember what it was like!  I seriously wanted to slap anyone who said that to me.  I got my first full nights sleep (meaning a full 6 hours) at the end of November during the Thanksgiving break.  It is now January and I think I am still recovering from sleep deprivation. 

Friday, January 21, 2011

Quick Summary: Samantha's Birth

At first I thought I might try to go back and post all at once about the events begining May 19, 2010, but now I think I'm just going to give a very quick summary and perhaps post more details over time. 

~ We decided from the begining that we did not want to know the gender of our baby until birth.
~ The baby's due date was June 14, 2010 and I had scheduled to take 4 weeks off of work before the due date.
~ Monday, May 17th I went in to see my mid-wife and I was told that I wasn't dialated or effaced, and that I would probably go a week or two past my due date.  This was also my first day off of work for my scheduled maternity leave.
~ Wednesday, May 19th I woke up feeling like I had started my period.  I called the labor triage and was told that most likely the baby was begining to drop.  My mom and friends told me the same thing.  I was also told that it could take weeks for the baby to drop fully.
~ At 11am my water broke, I called the labor triage and was told I had 2 hours to get to the hospital, I called Daryl at work and left a message, I called my mom.
~ We were at the hospital by 1pm - I was moved from triage to the birthing room by 3pm - at 4:58pm my baby bug litterally "flew out" all at once (it is amazing how hard you can push with no meds or epidural).
~ She was placed on my chest and I held her for the first time for only a few minutes.
~ She was having some breathing issues so she was taken to the NICU.

holding daddy's finger

my NICU board

cuddling with mommy
It was like Samantha knew that I was no longer working and would just be spending the next 4 weeks preparing for her, so she decided she wanted out sooner so she could spend more time with mommy and daddy :) 
baby bug sleeping snug

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Family: a note about the past...

Family:  My family was very close when I was a child, and we are still very close.  I am one of the lucky few who had a "stay at home" mom, a brother I could have fun with, a dad who worked his butt off to make sure we had everything we needed and then some, and two parents that are still married and understand that commitment is not easy.  My parents made sure my brother and I got a chance to explore and try everything we were interested in.  From soccer, softball, ice-skating, and track to voice lessons, dance lessons, piano, and flute - I really can not remember being denied any opportunity to expand my horizons. We didn't have much money when I was a kid, but my parents made sure we were given every opportunity to learn both in school and out. 

Some of my best memories are: camping trips with my family, my brother and I exploring the Sequoias, staring in awe of Zion and Bryce Canyon, mesmerized by "Old Faithful", collecting rocks in the Petrified Forests of Arizona, eating rainbow trout we had caught in streams, catching fireflies in Maryland, riding the train to Oregon, trying to run up and down the dunes of Pismo Beach without falling, building lopsided snowmen in Big Bear, feeding the deer that came to the cabin's back porch, hiding our food from bears in the Redwoods (and a bear pooping in the Ford Granada - I will never forget the ride home in the torn up backseat, or that smell!), pretending we were in an old western in Scottsdale, thinking we would turn into fish after spending the entire summer in Scottsdale in the pool, loving my library card and never getting enough books (I still remember the cool air of the Scottsdale library and thinking that I'd never make it through the summer without those books), thinking Sunset Beach was our personal playground during the day and putting together puzzles while looking out of the glass windows of the rental at night, the sweet taste of pear sherbet in Jerome, picking strawberries in Anaheim (I don't know how often we actually did this, but in my memory we did it every year until Disney and hotel chains bought up all of the strawberry fields), covering the giant dome-shaped jungle gym my dad bought from a park that was being torn down with sheets to put on our own theatrical productions (for which we would make invitations for the entire neighborhood), selling golf-balls, lemonade, and soda to the golfers from our backyard, Girl Scouting, church camp, being a CIT and a camp counselor, running in the Colosseum in 1984 for the Arco Jesse Owens Games, waking up at 4:30am to fold papers for my paper route, listening to stories our cousins told us about the monster in Lake Champlain, discovering Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, and Stephen King all at the same time (which then made my Trixie Belden and Dragon Lance books begin to collect dust) and thinking my mom was "cool" for getting me a subscription to the Isaac Asimov magazine, going treasure hunting in the front of peoples yards and garages early on Saturday mornings, and my first plane trip alone to the South of France to spend the summer with Sophie.

This list could go on forever, but hopefully this short stream-of-consciousness paints a picture of how amazing my childhood was.  I can only dream to give my children (Samantha for now) such rich and meaningful experiences.

On my parents' 25th wedding anniversary I helped to throw them a party.  At the party we asked each guest to say how they first met my mother and/or father and something they remembered about them.  We let all of the guests go first and my brother and I went last.  I don't remember exactly what I said, but I remember the tone was loving and happy, and I remember being "heckled" by some of the audience and being asked what I was getting for "kissing up" to my parents.  This upset me because everything I said came from the heart.  My parents are amazing - why is it so strange for a child to think that?  My parents did everything for us, we were the epitome of FAMILY.  I truly believe that every choice they ever made from the moment I was born until the moment I moved out of their house (and maybe even much later than that) was for me and my brother.  Later that evening, my mom saw that I was upset and she put things in to perspective for me - of just about all of the people there my parents were the only ones still married and who's kids didn't have "issues".  At the time I was working with my dad as his 50/50 business partner - how many daughters get to do that?

Friday, January 14, 2011

This is a test to see if I can really post from my phone.

The joy of teaching...

Today was "Poetry T-Shirt Day" for all of the freshman students. I decided to make a t-shirt of my own along with them.  Mine is dedicated to Samantha.  I really enjoyed having fun and being creative with my students; projects like this give teachers' a different view of the children they teach.  I will post a picture soon.