Monday, November 18, 2019

Fall Flavors: Pumpkin + Chocolate

Happy Thanksgiving week!  I am so excited to be with family this week and totally stuff my face.  This past weekend, we had friends over for a Friendsgiving brunch.  I've made this recipe a few times this fall, and it's been the perfect breakfast... or dessert!  What I love about this recipe is that you can make bread, muffins, or mini muffins from the same batter.  
- 1 and a half cups flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 15oz can pumpkin puree
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup milk
- 3/4 cup chocolate chips (or try chopped pecans, cinnamon chips, butterscotch chips, etc!)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a your choice of pan with cooking spray.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt.
3. In a medium bowl, combine eggs, sugar, and brown sugar.
4. Once smooth, add in pumpkin, vegetable oil, and milk to sugar mixture.
5. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and fold to combine, using a wooden spoon.
6. Once combined, mix in chocolate chips and pour into the pan.
7. Bake accordingly: bread - 65 minutes; muffins - 20 minutes; mini muffins - 10 minutes
I am always a fan of a little butter on any breads, but this bread almost doesn't need it.  Especially straight out of the oven, it's so warm, light, and rich.
Also, I could eat about 10 of these mini muffins in one sitting.
I hope everyone has an enjoyable, food-filled, restful, and fun Thanksgiving weekend!

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Calvin's Nursery

Next week, Calvin will be 6 months old, and this weekend, we are starting to transition him into his nursery!  For the first two months of his life, he slept in a bassinest next to our bed, then, for the last four months into a Pack 'n Play in the full-size bassinet.  I will absolutely miss waking up next to him every morning, but I'm excited for this little bit of independence as he gets older.  Before his room becomes lived-in, I made sure to snap a whole bunch of photos to remember what everything looked like at the start.  If you're interested in any of the product details, I've linked to everything at the bottom of this post!
Our inspiration: Obviously, I'm a big fan of Target, and their Cloud Island collections for nurseries are so cute!  I was between a night sky theme, an animal theme, and this theme with shapes.  I went with this, and primarily gray, navy blue, turquoise, and mint green for colors.
The "Before:" The upstairs of our home has 3 bedrooms, and this space shares a jack-and-jill bathroom with Mike's office.  Before it was Calvin's nursery, it was our second guest room and golf/running catch-all. 
The Progress: Mike was a boss at putting everything together, and the cats loved "helping."  
The "After:" We just love the way it turned out.  We wanted a cozy space that Calvin could grow with, and my favorite part is that even with only one window in the room, it still feels so bright!
crib ||| crib mattress ||| ottoman ||| side table ||| glider ||| bookcase ||| dresser ||| nightstand |||
Unfortunately, it looks like the Target PillowFort lamp and exact crib sheets are no longer available, but here is the link to the throw blanket over the chair and here is a similar set of swaddle blankets.  All Simmons furniture is 'rustic white.'

Friday, September 6, 2019

10 Baby Registry Items We Love (...And 5 We Do Not)

Little Calvin is somehow already 3 months old.  I have been trying to savor every minute I can at every stage with him, and that includes making this parenting thing as easy as possible so that we can really enjoy every aspect of it.  I have a few friends who are now pregnant (yaayy!!), and they asked me this question: what have you really used from your registry.  
I went through both of my registries (we registered at Amazon and Target), item by item, to see what the most useful items have been.  Obviously some are still N/A as they're meant for when he's older, but of the items I chose for this stage of Cal's life, here's what we have used (and what we haven't)...
1. Happiest Baby on the Block - I registered for this book AND bought myself the Taking Cara Babies newborn class.  The two really go hand-in-hand, and I suggest this to EVERYONE.  I cannot tell you how much this has helped with Calvin's sleep, and we are using her 3-4 month e-book right now, and plan to sleep train him with her class when he gets to be 5 months old.  Also make sure you follow Cara on Instagram - she shares so much!

2. Sleepea swaddle - Calvin is a baby Houdini.  We learned all about swaddling in our baby classes, but little dude can get out of anything, no matter how tight it is.  These sleepea swaddles are so good; you can click here to see a video of how it works.  He sleeps in this every night, but we still swaddle him in blankets during the day.
3. Owlet Smart Sock and Video Monitor - The Owlet is a lifesaver.  We sleep in a completely dark room, so if I needed to check to see if he's breathing at night, I would need to put my hand on his chest.  I can check my phone for his vitals anytime I want, and their camera is really good quality.  I know Owlet products are a little pricey, but they are so. worth. it.

4. Ergobaby Omni 360 baby carrier - We started using our Ergo when Calvin was 2 weeks old.  You don't need any infant insert, and it grows with him.  He sleeps well in it, and it fits either me or Mike with minimal adjustments.  During the first two months, I hadn't figured out my ring sling yet, so this was how I wore him.
5. Diaper Genie - This is one of those items that you'll see on a "you don't need this" list for babies, but we needed to buy a new trash can for his diapers anyway, so why not pay a few more dollars for this.  FYI I would not skimp out and get the Expressions pail to save $15.  I love the foot pedal on the original, and it seems much sturdier.  One thing you can save money on, however, are the bags.  We've tried the Target and Amazon generic brands (both linked), and they all work great.

6. Dockatot - A Dock is definitely a splurge item, but we have loved having Calvin nap in the living room so that we can be with him all the time.  We have this on one of our couches, and every single daytime nap has been in it.  One of the silliest pluses is that it helps keep his pacifier in his mouth when he sleeps - haha!
7. Marpac Rohm - I had never heard of white noise machines before the Dr. Harvey Karp book and Taking Cara Babies class, but these things are awesome, and I'll never go back to sleeping without one.  They actually also make a Hushh specific for babies (for a few dollars more) with the ability to lock the volume so that kids can't access it. However, it also has a night light, and I am NOT a fan of lights in the room when we're sleeping (PSA everything baby-related has lights - get that electrical tape out).

8. Wipe Warmer - Another thing babies don't need and another thing with a light you will want to cover, but this one is great!  I like the warm wipes as much as he does, and if you're going to buy a wipe dispenser (so you don't have to fumble with individual wipe packs and you can save money by buying wipes in bulk), this is basically the same price as a simple plastic dispenser.

9. Wubbanub - Calvin's favorite is definitely the giraffe.  If you're going to register for one, I'd suggest looking for one of the bigger ones that lays flat.  We had no idea that they were all so different.  My favorite is the dragon, but it's surprisingly much smaller and Calvin isn't able to grab onto it like he does with the giraffe's neck and arms.  The llama and hedgehog are also adorable but don't lay flat on baby's chest.
10. Boon Bottle feeding set - I was power pumping during the first two months (pumping for 10-15 minutes after each feeding to fully empty and get my supply up), and we were giving Cal a breast milk supplement two times per day, so this was great for drying all of those little parts!

Now for the things we didn't like during the first two months.  Please keep in mind that this was just us.  I can imagine that many of these are must-haves for other families, and I know that we will be using many of them in the months to come.

1. Sleepers and night gowns - Calvin was born in South Carolina in May, so he basically wore only a diaper for the first few weeks of his life, and when he sleeps, the swaddle is more than enough to keep him warm.

2. Tommee Tippee bottles - I registered for a few of these and Dr. Brown's because I heard that babies tend to have a preference or do well with a certain kind.  Because we are only giving Calvin small amounts of milk out of bottles, the Dr. Brown's work better for us - he even cried the first (and only) time I tried the Tommee Tippee.

3. Any other pacifiers - They make tons of different pacifier shapes and sizes.  Calvin like the round "soothie" kind that comes with the Wubbanub, and we like the Wub animal to help keep it in his mouth as we're rocking him.

4.  Burt's bees burp cloths - These are so nice and soft, but holy moly, they are expensive.  We bought another pack of muslin cloths shortly after Calvin came home so that I wouldn't have to do laundry every. single. day.

5.  Ring and wrap carriers - Within the first two months, these just did not work.  The most we have used the wrap carrier for is to block light from coming into the bedroom under the door.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Maui: Whale watch

Today is finally my last babymoon post!  We only finished our trip six months ago, so I guess it's about time!  If you're interested in seeing any posts you may have missed, I will link to all of them at the bottom of this post.

One of the last adventures we took was a whale watch.  Honestly, we didn't plan to do one in advance, but once we got there, we decided that this and a luau were two "traditional" Hawaii vacation things that we shouldn't miss.  Luckily, it was easy to get a reservation online, and we went out with the Pacific Whale Foundation from Lahaina.  
Our watch was on the Ocean Quest, and the whole staff was so genuinely in love with their job and these whales that you could feel their enthusiasm.  They played music the whole time and chimed in with facts about the whales and whale locations over the whole two-hour cruise.  We had such a fantastic time, and this is definitely something I would do on any future trips out to Maui.

As promised, here are the other Maui adventures we took:

Monday, July 29, 2019

Maui's Roads Less Traveled: East Kapalua and Makena Point

There are those adventures that everyone hears about on Maui: Road to Hana, the Summit of Haleakala, and, of course, the beaches all over the island.  There are also a few that aren't as often talked about but are equally as fun and adventurous.  While we were in Maui, we took two of these drives: up through West Maui to Kapalua and down East Maui to Makena Point.

If you look at Maui on the map, there are roads that follow the northern shores of the west and east sides of the island.  Both roads start near the airport, in the central valley of Maui.  The eastern road is one of the most well-known adventures in Hawaii: the Road to Hana, but the west side is definitely a hidden gem.  For the first part of our trip, we stay up in Kapalua, so we decided to take that windy road to our hotel on the first day we got there.  There's almost nothing up there, but the views are amazing, and FYI, the road is not for the faint of heart stomach.  If you had trouble with the Road to Hana, I might not suggest this trip.  However, if you like one-lane roads with tons of switchbacks, blind curves, and no guard rails, make sure you (have a Jeep, a few full afternoon, and) take this drive!
We went at the perfect time of day to see an amazing sunset over the mountains!  Plus, we made friends with a whole herd of cattle. 
One of the days we stayed in Wailea, we continued driving south to Makena Point to walk along the lava fields.  It was the most amazing scenery!  The walk was pretty easy, and if you like snorkeling, this is definitely the place to do it. I would definitely suggest getting there early because there isn't much parking, and the spots fill up quickly!

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