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Our ‘Georgia Peach’ 1st Birthday Party! {& Peach Sangria recipe}

You may remember that my child turned one in August. As in, August of 2014. You may also remember a three-week hiatus immediately following said birthday, during which we all shared the stomach bug (including our poor house guests) and then attempted to take a “relaxing” trip to Myrtle Beach as a family. Well, let’s just say this post fell by the wayside.

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if only we knew the torrential stomach flu about to befall us, we wouldn’t look so happy

I decided to finally post it this week, though, for two reasons: we have so many spring babies in our life — we know five born this week alone, with more due next month — that it really got me thinking about when my G was born and how I spent all year looking forward to her first birthday party, and I wondered whether other moms might enjoy reading about a cute birthday party theme as they get ready to celebrate their spring babes! Secondly, a friend just asked to borrow all my “peach” decor for a baby shower she’s throwing, and I thought that was awesome. Happy to give these things another life, especially the ones I worked so hard to make by hand. And I just love the idea of a “little peach” themed baby shower. How perfect!

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But most importantly, I’m already planning Georgia’s next birthday (because darn it, the good places get booked WAY too far ahead of time for this flaky mom) which means I really, really need to get her 1st birthday post online before she turns two.

We had so much fun planning her “Georgia Peach Party,” and can’t wait to share the awesome vendors who helped make it happen, from the local bakery that custom-crafted peach-infused cupcakes for us, to the Etsy party shop that helped make our decorations look peachy, to the sangria I had to make in our recycling bin (!) when the punch dispenser wouldn’t fit in our 1950’s-style kitchen fridge. All in all, Georgia had a really fun day surrounded by family and friends, and Mom and Dad (and our house) survived the festivities! So, without further ado: the Peach Party.

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THE THEME

Full disclosure: I knew I wanted to do a one-year peach themed party before Georgia was even born. As soon as it became socially acceptable to do so (when she turned 9 months old?) I created a Pinterest board for inspiration. Then we decided the key details: have it at home, or in a park or hall? (home). What time of day? (11 to 2, to work around her naps). How many people? (between 30 and 40, since we have a small yard and 1200-square foot house). Make our own food, or order catering? (mostly catering). Budget? (say what? I’m married to Mark Linehan).

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THE FOOD

Because it was a hot day, we served the food inside, pushing our dining room table up against the window to make room for foot traffic. This way nothing spoiled and we didn’t have to worry about bees or flies. Drinks we kept in two coolers outside (booze and non-booze). Then, I decided to make a festive peach-themed cocktail for the adults, which would have been easy except that the drink dispenser wouldn’t fit in our refrigerator to soak overnight as required, so I had to MacGyver an insulated cooler large enough to hold the darn thing out of our recycling bin, which I left on the porch overnight to blend. It worked perfectly, and the recipe is below. In addition to the beverages, our menu included homemade chocolate cookies & custom peach cupcakes for dessert, fruit salad, tossed salad, a cold cuts & cheese platter, eggplant Parmesan, chips & dip, as well as rolls for making sandwiches.

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<< optional: pouring five bags of ice into your recycling bin, covering the top with three layers of aluminum foil, and weighting it down with cardboard to deter insects from devouring your sangria overnight >>

Peach Sangria

INGREDIENTS

  • 8 peaches, pitted and sliced
  • 1 large container of strawberries, hulled and quartered
  • 4 bottles of rose wine, chilled (I chose a dry, mid-priced organic option from Trader Joe’s that was well-reviewed)
  • 1 bottle sparkling wine, chilled (I used prosecco)

Combine the fruit and rose wine in a large serving pitcher and chill overnight, or at least 8 hours. Just before serving, pour in the sparkling wine and stir. Serve cold with chunks of fruit in each glass.

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We stuck a “1” candle that I ordered on Amazon into a cupcake for Georgia instead of ordering a “smash cake,” and this turned out to be a very good plan because she was extremely tentative and dainty about eating it at all. No smashing actually occurred.

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THE DECOR

I go the Dollar Tree route for everything plain (tablecloths, platters, punch bowl, straws, plates, napkins, utensils), embellish with fabric ribbon from A.C. Moore, incorporate items I already own such as vases, mason jars and baskets, and customize where it counts by ordering theme-specific invitations, address labels and banners from artists on Etsy. Balloons and the “first birthday” cupcake stand are from Party City and the tent we snagged for $100 at Ocean State Job Lot; with our sunny yard, we will use it for years to come. Sangria container and banquet tables were purchased from the Christmas Tree Shop and Pier 1. I also — to my husband’s deep embarrassment — placed peach-scented soap and candles in our bathroom, both from Bath & Body Works. He hated it, but I can’t tell you how much of a finishing touch it felt like to me.

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THE INVITATIONS

I used Paperless Post, which I love. You can customize the “envelope” lining, the theme (there was nothing peachy available, so I picked the next cutest thing) and it’s animated when guests open it. By purchasing “coins” through their site (60 run you $14) you can further customize your options and add larger and larger quantities of people to your invite list. There’s also an ipad app, and it lets you add registries or wish lists, too. Great for showers!

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THE FAVORS

I made these myself after being inspired by this post on Kara’s Party Ideas. I created peach tags that I could use on favors and as menu cards, with pink and orange craft store ribbon and clear favor bags, and bulk ordered peach candies on Amazon. I created the labels in Microsoft Word and bought heavier stock gift tags at A.C. Moore, cut out the labels, punched a hole in each tag, glued on the labels and tied them to the bags. It took about an hour. Assembling the banners took another hour of cutting, tying together with the same ribbon used on the favors, then having Mark help me hang them.

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Things I didn’t get to: I intended to make a farm stand sign for the front door (like this or this), and I had also wanted to print out month-by-month photos of Georgia to hang inside the house as additional decoration. I also wanted to order peach iced tea in bottles, but that was cost-prohibitive. I think I was getting carried away by the Pinterest-ization of baby’s first birthday, so I heeded Mark’s opinion that hand-making the decorations, favors and a themed cocktail was already beyond the call of duty. I took two days off from work before the party just to clean my house, prep the yard, make and hang decorations and start the Sangria ~ but as moms, we always feel like we should have done “more,” don’t we??

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the most challenging aspect of party planning: cat interference

the most challenging aspect of party planning: cat interference

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Georgia had an awesome day with awesome weather. She greeted everyone, spent time with each person who came, and went right down for her nap by 1:30. Relatives stayed all afternoon, snacking, opening gifts and sipping Sangria, and then little G woke up refreshed and ready to try out a few new toys. This year, we will probably have it somewhere around town instead of at our house, but I wouldn’t change anything about this day. It turned out perfect, just like my perfect little Georgia Peach herself!

And yes, I did get a peach pedicure for the day, and yes I did color-coordinate the thank-you notes and address labels.

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***

Vendors

Paper Goods — WhirliGigsParty Co.

Custom Address Labels — Sweet Pea Petite (formerly Le Petite Peapod)

Catering — Anthony’s Italian Specialties

Cupcakes — VCVC Cupcakes

Georgia’s Dress — Janie & Jack

***

St. Patty’s Day Confession

That’s right — I gave in to temptation this week. I did it. I caved. I’m totally, utterly weak. 

I ORDERED A SHAMROCK SHAKE. 

an irresistible temptation since childhood.

an irresistible temptation since childhood.

After all, who can blame me?? It’s St. Patrick’s Day, which is basically bigger than Christmas in Boston. Plus I have this cute Irish husband and consequently a bonnie Irish babe at home! I can’t resist being just a wee bit festive.

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This does not mean I had it together in the clothing department. Lacking a shamrocked onesie, I dug out the only item of green(ish) attire Georgia owns: some Gap jeggings that are really more chartreuse, with teeny white stars on them, and called it a day. And for myself?

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at least my walls are green?

The only one who really pulled out his A Game was Mark, because he was working the Freedom Trail today.

So I’m going to add value today not sartorially, but by sharing my favorite St. Patty’s Day recipes from around the interweb. Like:

A healthy Shamrock Shake knockoff by Hungry Girl

Slow Cooker Corned Beef & Cabbage by Rockin’ Mom’s Kitchen

Mini Grasshopper Ice Box Cakes by Lulu The Baker

Irish Coffee and Guiness Floats by Pioneer Woman

That’s all, my friends! Have a fun St. Patrick’s Day, and may the luck of the Irish be with you all year ’round!

Let’s Celebrate Pi Day!

It’s Pi Day (in the U.S., anyway) and what better way to celebrate 3.14.15(92653…) than with a roundup of my favorite PIE recipes, starting with one I just saw yesterday that I haven’t made yet but cannot WAIT to try, courtesy of Smitten Kitchen:

Black Bottom Oatmeal Pie from Smitten Kitchen

That’s zooming to the top of my must-make list!

Next up comes my Key Lime Pie, which I often make for Easter. Either that, or Strawberry Shortcake, which is also inside that key lime post, because one year I made both and my lucky relatives got to eat it all up.

Then there’s the classic Raw Pecan Love Pie from Kimberly Snyder, which I just love.

And who can resist this go-to Chocolate Pie by Pioneer Woman, so easy and so good. Mark just eats this up.

Next is something a little bit different: a Pumpkin Pie Smoothie!

Which can’t hold a candle to my Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp filling, which can be used just as easily to make a pie, as I have done and will continue to do every year.

And what’s a post about pie without some savory options?

Like Shepherd’s Pie, or Roasted Zucchini & Tomato Ricotta Pie, just to name a couple of examples.

But here’s the embarrassing part.

My favorite pies — pumpkin and apple — are two that, believe it or not, I DON’T have recipes for on this blog yet! So I am hereby setting a goal to rectify that this year.

Maybe I can get my mom to guest blog about her famous lemon meringue pie, and then eventually I’ll have to share my family’s recipe for Swedish Apple Pie, too. And come to think of it, what about Ricotta Pie??

Clearly, I have a lot of catching up to do! Stay tuned, and hopefully there will be some new desserts coming your way in short order.

***

What about you? What are YOUR favorite pies? Tell me in the comments :) And have a great weekend.

New & Newsworthy

The weather in the Northeast right now is AMAZING! Obviously, I’m in a good mood. It makes me want to bust out my lighter recipes, dress in flats instead of snow boots, go for a walk and switch to iced coffee until fall. Georgia and Daddy are WAY into it. (Although, to be accurate, Mark never switches from iced to hot coffee, no matter how cold it gets in winter).

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hey, they fixed a pothole!

hey, they fixed a pothole!

So what else has caught my eye, made me think, or put me in a good mood lately? Well, for starters…

StitchFix is now offering maternity & petites! If you haven’t tried their personal styling services yet, you are missing out. It’s fun to get a box of goodies in the mail, and I promise you’ll find something great that you wouldn’t have picked for yourself.

Also, how cool are these kids room ideas? I love the camping tent, and the bunk bed that has the lowest level on the floor, since our house has pitched roofs upstairs that would make a traditional bunk bed impossible. I also recently found out that Land of Nod offers free design services! Definitely something to keep in mind if we ever need to turn Georgia’s nursery into her big-kid room, or if we end up having more kids.

Speaking of more babies, Crickets Circle just started a cool registry service that auto-fills their favorite products and lets you take it from there. They only recommend three options in every category, so if you are someone who needs help sifting through the clutter of online registries, this free website is for you!

Speaking of foolproof, this Kickstarter campaign has a genius idea for getting kids excited about vegetables. Tater Tats are “temporary tattoos for farmers and foodies,” and at $5 for a four-pack, they sound like an adorable idea for getting the whole family excited about seasonal, healthy eating.

On the tech side of things, what do you think of the new MacBook? Mine is five years old, so I’m watching the new models with interest. But I wasn’t too impressed with the $1300 price tag for a machine that no longer has a magnetized charging cable, a much-loved feature of Apple laptops, and no USB port. That means no charging your phone, Kindle, FitBit, etc., and no transferring files with a jump drive. And then there’s the Apple Watch, which I was shocked to find Mark interested in. Knowing what they cost, I think I’d probably look down on someone I saw wearing one haha.

I also just read this really helpful (and scary) article about 10 dangerous mistakes even experienced parents make with car seats. Watching YouTube installation videos instead of reading the manufacturer’s instruction booklet, anyone? By the way, we just bought a backup car seat at Walmart to have the grandparents share on days when we need their help at pickup, and so far we really like it! It’s lightweight and easy to install and has high ratings from Consumer Reports & the Baby Bargains Book.

On a more random note, did you know you can turn your handwriting into a font for free?

Also random: this little device that promises to make your fruits and veggies last longer in the fridge by neutralizing Ethylene gas. I just might try it!

Speaking of trying new things, would you ever consider adding rabbit to your diet? I’ve had it plenty — when I studied in Italy, it’s common there — and I have to admit it can be delicious, but I’m not sure it would take off here. Who knows? Maybe I’m wrong!

Finally, I’m considering trying out a wholesale natural food grocery service such as Thrive. Have you ever done so? I love that they have a mom & kids section where you can find organic baby food and formula brands such as Plum and Earth’s Best, plus home and personal care products, and that you can shop by diet type (vegan, raw, gluten-free, etc.) to filter out unwanted ingredients. Their $60 annual membership sponsors one low-income family and their products sell for between 25% and 50% off retail prices.

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Thrive is currently offering free shipping on all orders over $49, plus an extra 15% off your first order with code GPHAG0YD.

What I’d really love is for munchery to finally expand to Boston. You KNOW they would do a huge business here!!

Do you sense a theme here, of me struggling to cook my own meals?! It’s so sad, but it’s just a fact of life in parenthood. We probably eat takeout a solid three meals every week since having Georgia, and the rest of the time is a rotation of the same basic meals: kielbasa with baked beans and veggies (sometimes with a vegetarian option for me), some type of pasta dish with salad, a casserole-style meal like vegetarian shepherd’s pie, and then something easy using mainly Trader Joe’s ingredients. Sometimes we also do ” breakfast for dinner” one night. I’m lucky if I get to try new recipes once a week, and it’s only if Mark is around on the weekend to entertain G while I experiment at the stove! Sometimes she sits in the kitchen and watches me, or mimics what I do with her toys, or pretends to feed the cat or put away dishes.

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Well I hope you’re all enjoying the nicer weather today, even if it’s just a brief walk on your lunch hour or before dinner. I’m going to Zumba tonight while Mark does his Cardio Tap class, and lucky little Georgia is spending the evening with her grandparents. Have a great night and rest of your week!

It feels like spring!

There’s still a solid two and a half feet of snow on the ground, but that hasn’t stopped me from all but declaring it Summer Vacation this week, because it is nearly in the 40s outside and you can actually see some pavement for the first time since late January. Except, of course, for those a-holes who never shoveled their sidewalks at all and will now block the rest of us from walking to the train or taking our cooped-up babies out in strollers until June.

Georgia practically can’t wait to go for walks again. The last time we were able to go to the pond was the week after Christmas, when we all only needed fleece jackets and we kept remarking on what a nice winter it had been so far. I even said that I wondered whether the snowsuit or hat and gloves I bought Georgia would ever get used! Ha.

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One sure sign of spring, albeit an early one, is the switch to Daylight Saving Time. You may remember in the fall I was worried about how it would affect Georgia’s sleep schedule. We managed to survive then with no hiccups thanks to a strategic effort to nudge her bedtime forward during the two weeks preceding the time change so that it was an hour later (8 p.m.) than normal on the night before “falling back” to the old time (7 p.m.) You can read more about ways to do that here. Or, you can opt to do nothing, which was my route of choice this week because the time change totally snuck up on me! And boy, did I pay for that decision dearly yesterday, when she did not nap at all for the first time in probably a year. This led to me frantically rocking, feeding, and patting her in futile attempts to induce sleep, until after an hour I just yelled “abort! abort! abort!” and took her for a long drive. During which she did not sleep, but every few minutes would let out a maniacal cackle or shriek. Scary times.

nah, she doesn't look tired at all.

nah, she doesn’t look tired at all.

here I am giving up

here I am giving up

snacks...snacks will fix it, right?

snacks…snacks will fix it, right?

So that’s what has been new with us. Mark has been busy shooting a couple of different commercials, and next week he starts up rehearsals for Shrek the Musical. He’s playing Lord Farquaad…..eheheheheheh. Mark has been watching clips of the show so many times this winter that now Georgia does all the arm motions along with the music. And if you’re interested in how a 6’4″ man becomes that short, here’s a video that shows the costume magic behind the Broadway production. Did you know? That character is almost always played by a super tall actor, who sings and dances on their knees, attached to a complicated back brace with springs. It’s crazy how they pull it off. He’s been working out really intensively all winter to prepare for the physical challenge, and I can’t wait to see it.

Another definite sign of spring? The Honest Company’s new diaper patterns finally came out this weekend! I set our bundle to ship ASAP. Love the bumble bee one especially.

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Since I totally missed the boat on going to see a hockey game this year, I’ve turned my attention to the Red Sox season. Finally they sucked enough that the prices came back down to Earth. If it wasn’t already sold out, you could get bleacher seats to see them play the Yankees for $40!

Looks like someone needs a new onesie!

Looks like someone needs a new onesie!

I only root for the Sox in super-unflattering pictures of my parents.

I only root for the Sox in super-unflattering pictures of my parents.

I have seen some bad winters, but I’ve never been more ready for spring and summer than I am this year. How about you — what’s got you most excited for nicer weather? Playing in the park? Picnics? The Marathon? Grilling?Gardening? The beach? All of the above for me!

Have a great week :) xoxoxo

Coping with a sick baby

It’s that time of year again: germs are circulating, snot is flowing, and everywhere you look it seems like someone has an ear infection, croup, or the stomach flu (or all three)! And it’s no wonder, given how cooped up we’ve all been this year. Our house has caught more than a few bugs during this unusually cold and snowy winter, but by far the weirdest illness we’ve experienced to date is what Georgia came down with last week…scarlet fever

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Total lethargy: a sure sign of a sick baby

Did mentioning that make anyone else think of The Velveteen Rabbit? Just like in that book, G woke up from her nap one day with a really hot fever and a bright, splotchy body-wide rash. She was actually at day care, so they understandably made us come get her right away, because it was hard to tell what was going on. Though it sounds scary (note to self: next time lie to grandparents) we learned that it’s no longer a serious disease because of the availability of antibiotics. And, it’s caused by the same bacteria as strep throat, so coming into contact with someone who had that (maybe on the plane?) is probably where she picked it up. The poor thing.

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So, a few hundred hours of sleep and several key oatmeal baths later, she is feeling a million times better, and we are infinitely more thankful for good health, even when she wakes up at 3 a.m. for no reason or throws a tantrum while getting dressed. (Which P.S., we are living in tantrum hell right now! Did anyone else out there go through this around 18 months? And P.P.S., all these germs and tantrums are what’s been keeping me from the blog all week. I’ve missed you! )

It’s no secret that having a sick kid sucks, for you almost as much as them. Their sleep is disrupted, they go through ten times as many clothes in a day as normal, they whimper and cry and you just can’t fix it…it’s the pits. And that’s not even including the hours you spend waiting at the doctor and pharmacy, or cleaning up once it’s all over with. So what are the key things we’ve found that help relieve stuffed noses, upset tummies and feverish foreheads?

To Relieve Sniffles

  • Elevate the crib mattress. Just like adults stacking pillows, this really helps when they are congested and coughing or struggling with thick post-nasal drip. Just tuck a rolled-up blanket between the springs and the mattress; never elevate the whole crib. At day care, they let the stuffed-up babies sleep nestled in a boppy on their backs, but that’s because someone is always watching them. You could do this at home if you plan to be in the same room the whole time.
  • Stock up on baby saline mist and use it with the NoseFrida snot sucker, which is gross but works miraculously to clear gunk from teeny nostrils.
  • Wipe crusty noses with baby wipes, to prevent chapping. Lots of folks like Boogie Wipes for this purpose, but I see no reason to purchase an additional product when the ones you already have will work just as well!
  • Shower with them to de-congest them before bed or in the morning, or do a eucalyptus bubble bath.
  • Since you can’t use Vicks VapoRub on kids under two, the next best thing is something like the Honest Company’s organic breathe-easy rub, which I slather on Georgia’s neck, chest, behind her ears, and on the bottoms of her feet inside her footy PJs. It contains eucalyptus and tea tree oils with lavender and rosemary, and does not have menthol.
  • Run a cool mist humidifier in their room. We like this one by Holmes, available at Target and on Amazon. We used to have this popular Crane humidifier, but it broke within 6 months and we had to send in for a replacement, which took forever. The Holmes model is easy to fill with a water bottle with one hand and the light can be more easily covered up in a baby’s room,which is the one flaw in so many humidifiers we looked at! Georgia really sleeps better in a darker room, so this was important to us.
  • Zarbee’s natural syrup is great for babes over a year. They have options for other ages, too. That was what our pediatrician recommended when Georgia had a persistent cough earlier this fall.
  • If they will drink it, water with lemon and/or honey is also OK for babes over a year, just like it is for adults.
  • Give plenty of fluid if they want it, including more milk, formula or electrolyte solution if they seem extra thirsty. Don’t push food; their appetite will come back when they’re better.
  • Just like us, eating healthier foods (Georgia likes fresh berries cold from the fridge) can help speed along recovery.

For Reducing Fevers

Note: newborns need to see the doctor immediately for any type of fever. The following tips are for infants and older.

  • Dress your baby in whatever they find most comfy and cozy. G likes her footed fleece PJs when sick and I don’t see any reason not to let her stay in them. Don’t follow the old advice to bundle a baby with a temperature in the hopes of “breaking” it. Outdated info!
  • Use a no-touch thermometer to check their temperature while they’re sleeping. It won’t wake them, and it can remember the past few temps you’ve taken, in case you need to give your doctor a history when you visit.
  • Offer baby tylenol or ibuprofen. Georgia, we learned the hard way, reacts badly to ibuprofen. So we stick to tylenol, even though it only lasts 4 hours instead of 6, and (I’m told) isn’t as effective on lowering fevers. We actually buy the Target brand because it’s much cheaper and G actually prefers the dye-free grape flavor it comes in. Get the correct dose from your pediatrician, not from the box.
  • For a fever over 104, call your doc or head to the ER right away. Read more info here.

For an upset tummy

  • Liberally use Pedialyte, either the traditional variety, these more natural versions, or the fun freezer pop kind, which are messy but may be better received, and can be awesome in the hot summer. Georgia had the stomach bug so bad right after her first birthday that she couldn’t even keep down milk or formula, so we had to give her straight Pedialyte for almost three days, then build her back up to regular bottles over the course of a week by mixing in 1 oz. of milk at a time until there was no more Pedialyte. By the way, you can also make your own electrolyte solution.
  • Wait a good half day since their last time throwing up before you even offer bland food. Start with something simple like oatmeal, a banana or toast, or of course breastmilk/formula if that’s all they are eating depending on age.
  • Keep a good stain remover handy for pre-treating bedding, clothes and rugs, and try to stay ahead of the laundry when they zonk out so that you don’t run out of clean sheets or sleepwear. And whatever you do, don’t let them get into bed with you, even if you occasionally co-sleep as we do, or you WILL end up with no clean bed for anyone to rest in!!

For ALL Types of Illness

  • Have lots of fresh sheets, pajamas and clothes on hand & already washed. I recommend owning three crib sheets and at least four seats of pajamas in the right size. A baby with the flu could require three or more changes per night if they toss their cookies, cough until they vomit, or have a runny enough nose that it gets an entire end of the crib messy. Easier said than done, right? The baby getting sick is a guaranteed way to put my laundry timeline into a tailspin for weeks.
  • Offer lots of extra cuddles and as many naps as they want! When Georgia has been sick, I’ve known her to sleep in until 10 then take her usual nap at 1 and stay down until 4, then go right to bed for the night at 7. Just like us, they may need to literally sleep the day away in order to recuperate.
  • Little babies may want to nurse overtime for comfort, and you should let them. G got her first bad cold a few weeks after I had weaned her, and I nursed her again because she needed the comfort. It worked (and I still had milk, which was totally weird and cool).
  • Clean all the toys and play areas when everyone is well again. And don’t forget to buy a new toothbrush!
  • Don’t send them back to school before they are better, for their own good and for the health of all the other families. It just contributes to a cycle where everyone is sick all the time.
  • It shouldn’t have to be said, but everyone in the family needs to get a flu shot every year, including grandparents who babysit, and do your best to get all your child’s vaccines on time. We haven’t had much trouble with ear infections, but our doc always reminds us that a good preventative tip is to let baby drink their bottle/sippy only when upright, not lying down.
  • For the love of God, if you and your spouse are both sick at the same time, call in reinforcements. It will have to be a family member who really, really loves you, or someone who doesn’t care about the fact that they will probably come down with whatever gross illnesss you have, but what else are you going to do when both of you are vying for the bathroom and can’t stand up to do a diaper change without passing out? Not that I say this from experience.

So what did I miss? What works for you? Are there natural remedies out there I should know about? 

Cross your fingers for me that Georgia being sick so often in her early years means I’ll have an easier time of it come Kindergarten, when the babies who never went to day care or preschool tend to catch everything like we are now!

New U.S. nutrition guidelines to recommend less meat?

I don’t know if you saw this over the weekend, but a slew of articles came out about the impending update to our government nutrition guidelines, better known as the food pyramid. In addition to the unsurprising findings that we consume too much salt and added sugar, the appointed nutrition panel’s initial report tackles the amount and type of meat in our diet for the first time — saying, in short, that for health reasons and for the good of the environment, we need to cut way back on red meat in particular, which has the highest carbon footprint of all the food we produce.

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Predictably, Congress and meat processors are pissed.

Rep. Robert B. Aderholt, a Republican from Alabama who is chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the budget for the Agriculture Department, issued a formal warning in December to the panel charged with updating the food guidelines.

“Politically motivated issues such as taxes on certain foods and environmental sustainability are outside their purview, ” he told the Washington Post via spokesman.

“The Committee’s foray into the murky waters of sustainability is well beyond its scope and expertise. It’s akin to having a dermatologist provide recommendations about cardiac care,” said Barry Carpenter, CEO of the North American Meat Institute, adding that the recommendations “appear to be based on personal opinions or social agendas.”

But the panel isn’t backing down.

“Consistent evidence indicates that, in general, a dietary pattern that is higher in plant-based foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, and lower in animal-based foods is more health promoting and is associated with lesser environmental impact than is the current average U.S. diet,” the report says.

Americans are eating less meat than they have in the past, but they are still eating too much, according to the panel’s experts, and all that meat consumption is having detrimental effects on the environment. A study published last year in the journal Climatic Change reported that meat eaters contributed more to global warming than do fish eaters, vegetarians and vegans.

Beef is associated with more than twice the carbon emissions of pork, nearly three times that of turkey and almost four times that of chicken, according to the Environmental Working Group.

The World Resources Institute has estimated that poultry, pork, shrimp, fish and eggs are all much better sources of those two nutrients relative to the amount of feed and land required to produce them.

The government appoints a blue ribbon panel every five years to review our eating habits, examine areas that need greater guidance to improve public health, and recommend an updated list of Dietary Guidelines, which influence school lunches, food labeling, public policy and more. The panel’s experts said they aren’t forcing a vegan diet on the American population.

“But we are saying that people need to eat less meat,” Miriam Nelson, a professor at Tufts University and one of the committee’s members, told the Washington Post. “We need to start thinking about what’s sustainable. Other countries have already started including sustainability in their recommendations. We should be doing it, too.”

Chicken w/ Capers & Artichokes

I have no words for how bad the commuting is in Boston these days, so I’m not even going to address it — just share a great recipe for cold, snowbound days. 

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We made this two weeks ago and I added the leftovers to some yellow rice a couple days later, with the chicken shredded, for a respectable second-round meal. I also wondered if it would be good on pizza with some salty cheese on top, which I might try next time I make this. Or I might toss with some cheese tortellini. If I try any of those combos, I’ll let you know and update this post!

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Lemon Chicken with Capers & Artichokes

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 – 1.5 pound package boneless chicken cutlets
  • 1 jar capers
  • 1 jar marinated artichokes
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • splash of chicken stock
  • seasonings of your preference for the chicken
  • olive oil

DIRECTIONS

FYI, the sauce should take about the same amount of time to prep and cook as the chicken, between 10 and 15 minutes.

Cover a roasting pan in aluminum foil. Cut the chicken cutlets to desired size and place in the pan, then drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt, pepper or other blend, such as Trader Joe’s 21-seasoning salute. Just be careful not to over-salt because the capers and artichokes are already pretty briny from being marinated/preserved.

Preheat the oven to 350, put the chicken in the oven, and start the sauce on the stovetop.

In a stainless steel sauté pan over medium-high heat, cook the entire can of marinated artichokes. Add in the capers (drained). Cut one lemon in half and juice both halves into the sauté pan with the capers and artichokes. Cook and keep reducing liquid.

Transfer the chicken to under the broiler, placing the lemon rinds in the pan for flavor before you do so. Keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn while you finish the sauce.

Continue cooking the sauce on the stovetop, adding in a splash of chicken stock until it reduces and turns almost syrup-like. Turn off the heat.

When the chicken is browned, take it out from under from under the broiler and remove the lemon rinds; reserve. Pour the sauce over the top of the chicken and squeeze any remaining juice from lemon rinds before serving. Voila!

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I didn’t try these flavors on Georgia, but Mark was a big fan and scooped up a huge portion. It was filling and delicious!

Oh, and in case you didn’t hear, the long list of James Beard semi-finalists was announced today. Boston was pretty well represented ~ especially Alden & Harlow in Cambridge, in the running for best new restaurant.

Have a safe commute & stay warm, wherever you are. XOXO

We’re back (+2 Vitamix recipes)

Do you ever feel like you need a vacation from your vacation? Ever since having a baby, I sure do. I think it’s frowned upon to say that, but traveling with a child is down-to-the-bone exhausting! 

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I’m so glad we got away from this snow. And it never feels like we spend enough time with our family by just seeing them every six months, especially since they used to live up north full time. But I always come back feeling that we should have stayed longer, and like I need to still take a few days off before going back to work so that I can get my life back together and recover from flying with a toddler. Our return flight was delayed, and Georgia did NOT cope well — she threw a water bottle and poured milk on our seat mate, who turned out to be a very understanding grandpa, and kicked the guy in front of us for three hours straight. She head-butted me so hard at one point that I thought she’d broken my nose. Oh, and did I mention that Mark got food poisoning and spent the entire day with a barf bag? Not fun. We actually talked about driving next time even though it takes three full days.

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On the plus side, I think we might be only house in the entire Greater Boston area that doesn’t have horrific ice dams right now. We didn’t have a single leak when we got home, and our next-door neighbors snow-blowed us out so we could get in the driveway upon returning from the airport. We really are so lucky.

where did our house go?

where did our house go?

On our last day in Florida, Mark and I took Georgia to Nokomis Groves for her first citrus swirl. Well, technically she had the lime-vanilla cone in utero, but she very rudely made me throw up the entire thing an hour later, so we had to go back! It only took her one attempt at biting the ice cream before she figured out to lick it and protect her front teeth.

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P.S., can we talk about the fact that mom has never owned a pair of Topsiders, and this kid already has a hot pink pair?? Someone’s daddy sure spoils her.

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She’s in a major daddy phase right now, which is kind of a relief after 18 months of mom-clinging!  

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Georgia also tried her first smoothie while in Florida. My aunt just got a Vitamix (jealous!!) so we made Georgia a smoothie with blueberries, plain Greek yogurt and banana. She loved it! She only just started using sippy cups with a straw a couple weeks ago, so I’m hoping this is the start of her finally giving up her bottle for good. She is SO attached to it.

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If I had a Vitamix, the main thing I’d use it for would be green smoothies, followed by soups. Why green smoothies? Because the Vitamix can puree vegetables, even rough ones like kale, in a way that standard blenders just cannot. If you like to add greens into your fruit smoothies, the only way to make them drinkable instead of gritty is to go with a high-end blender like the Vitamix. Plus, it’s self-cleaning, and has an automatic off sensor when purees are done.

I have a great Cuisinart that we received for our wedding, and it’s still going strong after 7 years — maybe when it dies, I’ll think about investing in a Vitamix! My favorite green smoothie is Kimberly Snyder’s Glowing Green Smoothie, the original classic:

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I leave out the herbs and substitute some ice for the water because I prefer green smoothies very cold.

My aunt made a great soup with her Vitamix this trip, and she showed me how. It’s a Sweet Potato Soup that you start on the stovetop and finish in the Vitamix, adding a dash of cream if you want to make it more rich. It has all kinds of spices and some peanut butter in it — yum! We ate it topped with salted cashews.

Sweet Potato Soup

Coat the bottom of a Dutch oven or heavy-duty pot with oil and heat over medium. Add in one large diced onion, 3-4 minced garlic cloves, and 1 TBSP minced fresh ginger, and cook until tender, about 3-4 minutes. Add in two good-sized peeled and chopped sweet potatoes. Cover with 4 cups of low-sodium vegetable broth (the contents of one cardboard box). Pour in 1 cup of water and add in 4 -5 cups of unsalted or low-sodium diced tomatoes (she uses fire roasted).  Add in a 1/2 cup of unsalted peanut butter (smooth), then the following spice mixture: cinnamon (1/4 tsp) cumin (2 tsp) coriander (2 tsp) sea salt (1/4 tsp) and cayenne pepper (1/4 tsp). Bring to a boil. Let cook for about 12 minutes or until the potatoes are soft. Reduce the heat to a simmer and add in 4 cups of fresh Swiss Chard; she uses the entire bunch from the store, stems and leaves chopped. Cover the pot and let the chard wilt about 2 minutes.
It’s ready to eat as-is at this point, but she let it cool and then blended in the Vitamix until pureed. If desired, add in some half & half or veggie stock. Serve with some nice crusty bread or croutons, and salted peanuts, cashews or asiago cheese on top.

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Well, tomorrow it’s back to braving the snow and the MBTA commute again for me. Don’t I wish I was still eating well and enjoying nice weather down south! Alas, reality comes crashing back down eventually. I hope you all stay safe and warm if you’re in this snow vortex gripping the northeast! And if you use your Vitamix for something really creative that I didn’t mention, or you have great smoothie recipes to share, call ‘em out in the comments.

Have a Happy Valentine’s Day!

Escaping Boston

I am writing this to you from — now don’t be jealous — my aunt’s kitchen table in Florida, where I’m enjoying a view overlooking the pool while eating a smoothie bowl that I made myself for breakfast. Mark and Georgia both slept late today (!) and the weather has been in the low 70s all week, so I am in a pretty good mood!

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We had a rough ride in last week because the post-Blizzard traffic in Boston is still in utter gridlock, so even though we live four miles from the airport it took us over an hour to get there. Then our flight was delayed and plagued by turbulence the whole four hours, which resulted in Georgia throwing up all over me just a little while before we landed. We were not a pretty sight upon arrival in Fort Myers!!

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Luckily we’ve really made up for that one bad travel day, which isn’t to say I haven’t spent the entire week dreading our return trip. And secretly hoping this next storm will force us to stay south even longer. Though we’ve been here countless times since my family moved to Sarasota ten years ago, it’s wonderful seeing Georgia encounter all these special places for the first time as a toddler! She came here at 7 weeks, 6 months and now 18 months, and she’s able to enjoy it a little more each time because she’s so much more mobile and aware of her surroundings.

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Yesterday, we took Georgia to Nokomis Beach, and the day before we met friends of Mark’s from college for lunch at the Daiquiri Deck on Siesta Key. They just had a baby and they live in Chicago, and we haven’t seen them since their wedding a few years ago. It was so awesome that we were all on vacation in the same place at the same time!

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I’ve been reading a really good book while I’m here: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Appealing for anyone who likes science and narrative journalism, it is fascinating but also slightly depressing because it tells the story of a poor black tobacco farmer whose cancerous cells were taken without her knowledge just before her death in 1951 and used to develop the polio vaccine, gene mapping, cloning and more; meanwhile, her descendants live without health insurance. Despite the dark topic, I definitely recommend it.

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We’ve also had some awesome meals so far. Brunch yesterday was at The Breakfast House in Venice, where we had French toast, sausage and biscuits, and a blackberry-and-Brie omelet. Later today we are going for my favorite ice cream at Nokomis Groves, where the only flavors are orange, lime, pineapple and soft serve chocolate or vanilla. I always get a citrus-vanilla swirl. Try not to be jealous, and I’ll write more later this week!

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