As anyone with a three-year-old can tell you, preschoolers love to read the same books over…and over…and over…FOREVER.In the last year, Georgia has definitely switched preferences from reading a stack of board books every night to wanting to pick one longer story book from a pile we keep in our bedroom, and sometimes we have to stealthily sneak a new option in there to prevent us from going crazy!
Here are the ones she goes back to you over and over. What books do your little ones love? (Give us some new ideas…please! Haha).
The love of Berenstain Bears is strong in our house. This is just one of the greatest hits as far as Georgia is concerned; she also asks regularly for The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Junk Food, Too Much TV,Go To School(which adorably features kindergartners still doing crafts and napping!) and both the Berenstain Bears Go to the Doctor (she loves the part where the doctor pinches Papa’s belly fat!) and Visit the Dentist, which came in handy last week when we took G for her first big-girl cleaning! No Girls Allowed is a great for beginning conversations about inclusion, friendships, and empowerment of young women.
Georgia likes the circus and animals so much that we got this as a present for her 2nd birthday and it is STILL going strong. I first took her to see the circus in Boston when she was 20 months old, fully expecting her to wiggle and squirm and ask to leave early, and instead she sat there enthralled, cheering and clapping at all the right moments and asking when we could come back again. She got so obsessed that we had a circus party for her birthday that year, and this book — about a group of shipwrecked circles animals who cause mayhem on a tiny Maine island when they wash ashore — gives us just enough circus flavor to get by without the real thing.
It was through reading Strego Nona that Georgia first learned she was a little bit Italian, and it blew her mind! Strega Nona is a classic and for good reason: it features magic, pasta, a lovable sidekick in the bumbling Big Anthony, and a “spaghetti belly” at the end that Georgia always tell us looks like a baby bump. (tell me about it). Equally adored as a bedtime story is Strega Nona’s Magic Lessons, which has a few funny twists and a great lesson about hard work and patience.
This is second in a series of “If you give…!” books that toddlers love and I can totally see why. It all started with “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” which we also have, but for some reason this sequel featuring a silly moose who causes mayhem when you invite him in for a muffin is the one that captured Georgia’s heart. We got “Mouse” and “Moose” together as a birthday gift, and I’ve turned right around and given the pair to other kids, too, because they are such a hit in our house. See also “If You Give a Cat a Cupcake,” which we love because the kitty looks like our Tasha, and “If You Give a Pig a Pancake.”
This is charming, sweet, and so poignant that if you don’t tear up a little the first time you read it, there might be something wrong with you. A beautifully illustrated story about a Bear who finds a piano in the forest then becomes famous “in the big city” for his playing, this touches on friendship, loyalty, loneliness and the wonders of going away — and coming back home. We bought this for Georgia for Christmas just after inheriting her great-grandparents’ piano, so it definitely has special meaning for her as she’s learning how to play and sees her Dad going off to work in New York City now and again.
Our local library has a massive used book sale every fall, and we go early and stock up on all the children’s books we can find. With two full-time working parents and weekends jam-packed with errands, swim lessons, church, laundry and cleaning/yard work, trips to the library are few and far between for us! But we love that we can pick up a whole year’s worth of new books for 50 cents each by planning ahead for the used book sale, which in turn directly benefits the public library. Here are a few more that we picked up at this year’s book sale and are really enjoying:
We’ve been reading to Georgia every night since she was first born, even when she couldn’t react or probably even see much in the book. It’s helped us to have a predictable bedtime routine ever since, though that’s not to say she doesn’t try shenanigans all.the.time. She does, however, love reading — and, as a bookworm married to another bookworm, that totally warms my heart.
…She’s a gardener!! And a pretty tall one at that. Daddy and G spent their day off together yesterday planting “Georgia’s patch,” the raised-bed garden Mark has been cultivating along the sunny side of our house for the past five years. This year, for the first time, Georgia picked out all the plants, including strawberries, hula berries, tomatoes, basil, peppers, lettuce and zucchini, and helped daddy replace the soil, dig holes, label the chalkboard stakes and mulch it all over. I can’t wait to taste everything they grow together!!
One thing we don’t usually grow but which I love to buy and bake with this time of year is Rhubarb. It should be hitting the farmer’s markets soon!! Every year, I make a tangy/sweet Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble, and this year I am dying to try Smitten Kitchen’s Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp Breakfast Bars, which sound delectable.
And speaking of breakfast and yummy baked goods: there’s a new bakery at the Boston Public Market that I can’t wait to check out. Started by a 22-year-old (!) entrepreneur whose commercial kitchen is based in my ‘hood, Malden, Jennifer Lee’s Gourmet Bakerystarted as a short-term pop-up vendor whose bites were so popular she became the first vendor to convert to a permanent, full-time stall. She sells gluten-free, nut-free, egg-free and dairy-free breads, cookies, cupcakes, muffins, and donuts, and locally sources ingredients such as jam, maple syrup, apple cider syrup, fruit, and veggies from farms like Carr’s Ciderhouse in Hadley, Silverbrook Farm in Dartmouth, Brooksby Farm in Peabody, and Russell’s Orchards in Ipswich. Check her out!
Who better to make this gift guide than a bona fide two-year-old? Presented by Miss Georgia Vivien herself, I give you this year’s shopping list for toddlers, specifically those between 16 and 28 months. Need ideas for the younger babes? Visit last year’s Baby & Toddler Gift Guide, and don’t miss my Eco-Friendly Shopping List for little ones, too! I can tell you unequivocally that every single thing listed on both those pages remain in heavy rotation in our house. In fact, we had to hide some of the infant toys (Sophie the Giraffe, I’m looking at you!) because Georgia wouldn’t give them up. Thanks to Amazon Prime, most if not all of these gifts can be in your house by Christmas Eve — or even sooner, like Monday, if you order today. God speed!
Georgia, in addition to being spoiled rotten by her dad, is the only grandchild on my side of the family, which is a sprawling crew even before you add my in-laws…so she definitely cleans up on birthdays and Christmas. While it’s great to have a summer birthday to balance out this time of year, we still try very hard to squirrel away most of her presents in order to space out “new” things all year long. She also gets to play with many different toys at both daycare and the church nursery every week, so we’ve created a running Amazon list to share ideas of which toys she doesn’t have in either of those places that she might like at home. She gets lots of arts and crafts time at school and has a gigantic play kitchen as well as Play Doh at church, so while those are awesome gift ideas for any two-year-old, we are trying to get her some different things to have on her days home with us. So far, the system has worked pretty well. But we’ll see how it goes this year, as she’s newly aware of “Santa” and how many gifts await her under the tree!
Since she loves Play-Doh so much, I am putting a few smaller containers into her stocking this year, and I also picked up this fun kit for making different shapes and textures with it. Looks like so much fun for a rainy or snowy day!
I’ll also preface this list by saying that there are items both boys and girls seem to universally enjoy — the aforementioned play kitchens, toy strollers, and train sets come to mind — but there are definitely things some kids gravitate toward more than others. Georgia, for example, does not love coloring books, but lots of kids can sit and do crafty things for ages; meanwhile, she can spend hours with blocks, Lego & Little People sets, making up buildings and imaginary story lines. Same goes for dress-up clothes. It’s so cute to see how their personalities emerge through play at this age! While she makes great use of her leftover Halloween costume and a set of fairy wings my mom got her, I’m definitely going to invest in more dress-up outfits for this year. And I may wait for Lincoln Logs to go on sale so I can grab some of those, too.
What Santa is Bringing This Year
Mark got Georgia a talking Lambie doll at Costco, because she would spend so long chatting to it while grocery shopping that we pretty much had to take it home. That, the Mickey & Minnie Birthday Train Duplo Set, the Ikea easel I mentioned last year, and two Anna and Elsa stuffed dolls from the Disney store have rounded out Georgia’s pile under the tree this year from Mom/Dad/Santa. I believe she’s getting Veggie Tales and an American Girl Dollplay cradle for her Bitty Baby from her grandparents. She will not, however, be getting this $430 princess house despite informing us that “We buy it, for Christmas!”
I read about this interactive toy in a magazine last month, and two days later a certain Nani in Florida had already shipped it north for Christmas. But who came blame her?? Doc McStuffins is a preschool crowd-pleaser, and this talking checkup center looks totally fun. Plus it’s exactly the missing decor element my living room needed.
I’ll admit this one frightens me a little bit, but there’s no denying it: if given the opportunity, she would bounce, on something, all.day.LONG. What started as a phase has turned into a daily struggle to get her to quit jumping constantly on the couch or bed, and we finally channeled it into a weekly visit to our local “Skyzone,” which (thankfully) has toddler time every Monday and Wednesday morning. Even so, we are probably going to end up buying this to save our furniture. Hopefully it’ll last until we can get her into a proper gymnastics class!!
We are definitely in a puzzle phase! Georgia got several for her birthday, including some wooden jigsaw puzzles, some floor puzzles and a few adorable matching games. She has really grown to love this Very Hungry Caterpillar counting puzzle, both because it has brightly colored, large pieces and because it becomes an adventure to stretch it in one long line across our floor. Plus, she loves identifying the foods she knows on each piece, and she’s really into learning her numbers these days, so this helps her practice counting!
Also in regular rotation in our house is this play purse by Kidoozie, featuring a toy phone (“I check my email, see what’s going ON”), keys, compact, lipstick, debit card, and unbreakable mirror. She has endless fun pretending to be, well, ME, looping it over her arm the same way I carry my bag (ugh) and taking the phone everywhere with her (the shame). This is a great one for bringing in the car.
Another awesome toy for travel is this LeapFrog Touch Magic Bus, which is lightweight and flatter than a storybook, and just the right size to play with in a carseat. It counts, sings and helps children learn letters and numbers, and isn’t so loud that you’d go crazy hearing it.
Melissa & Doug also make these awesome “Water Wow” coloring books that use special paper and a refillable water pen (really more like a paint brush). They are the perfect size for small hands to hold on their own in the car or on a plane, and the refillable water pen lasts forever without having to be refilled, which is handy when you can’t stop that often. There are several scenes in the book on thick, sturdy, spiral-bound paper, with vibrant colors that appear when wet then dry for reuse a few minutes later. Georgia loves hers at home AND on the go!
Melissa & Doug makes really great toys across the board, and we also love their cutting food kit to practice knife skills. Another great toy of theirs that we have are these fridge magnets, which come in a variety of themes. Great for occupying little ones safely while you cook, especially if you’re home alone with them a lot like I am! And, speaking of food, if you — like us — felt frustrated by the dominance of junk food in toy sets, check out these great sets by Learning Resources:
They have kits for each meal of the day with real food and healthy options, not Hamburger Helper and Macaroni and Cheese like some play food I’ve seen! Plus, they come with these adorable baskets, which Georgia loves carrying and which help us to keep our house tidy. She also adores this Leap Frog toy oven, which she received as a birthday gift and hasn’t stopped playing with for a day. Paired with the tea set she got when she was one, she just loves cooking and serving us “dinner!”
The other thing she is loving these days is musical instruments. She gets to play with a ukulele and tambourine at school, and every time we are in a toy store, she gravitates toward play instruments. Since she loves her toy keyboard so much, we are thinking of getting her either this guitar or even a toddler drum set!
Books we Love
Georgia, like her parents, has enjoyed reading since day one. While I’ve been meaning to do a comprehensive post on all of her favorite books, for now, here are the ones she’s loving for story time before nap and bed.
Georgia hasn’t transitioned to a toddler bed yet, but we are getting ready. When we do, I’m already plotting to buy these sheets from aden + anais, maker of those super-soft swaddling blankets that everyone loves (for good reason) when they have a newborn. What I like about this set, aside from the adorable colors, is the fact that it includes a thin transitional pillow ergonomically designed for toddlers’ heads and necks, as well as a top sheet and blanket that attach to the bottom sheet near the feet, which is designed to prevent you getting a 2 a.m. call to come fix kicked-off covers! I can vouch for the quality of their linens since we already use them in her crib.
Around 18 months, I decided to buy Georgia what I call her “glow worm,” even though it’s blatantly a sea horse, because I fondly remember them from childhood. We inadvertently got one that was sewn together wrong, so the eyes don’t line up, but she is REALLY attached to it so I never swapped it for a less cock-eyed version. On the rare occasions when she wakes up in the middle of the night, she just touches the belly and it lights up and soothes her back to sleep with music. It has also helped us to transition to many a strange bed while traveling! She calls it “my horsey” and you can buy it in either blue or pink.
We don’t have a very big yard, so we held off on getting a climbing structure or play house, though I know Georgia has loved exploring them at school and the local tot lot. We did just fine in our 1/10-acre yard (seriously) and three-season porch with a few key toys that are easy to store in the garage for the winter, with help from a strategically-placed tent on the sunny end of the driveway where we do sidewalk chalk. We may not have a large yard, but we feel pretty lucky to have any grass at all, since most houses on our block have no driveway and the kids play in the street. Grilling and eating outside, watering the plants, kicking a ball around and chasing one another with squirt guns were all the ingredients we needed for summer fun in our city-sized back yard this year!
When Mark started bringing Georgia outside to garden with him last spring, she was so much more into it than we expected, so we immediately ordered her this garden set from Amazon. She loves it!! What I like about it is the fact that you can store the scoop and trowel in the watering can, and that the rope handle makes it easy to carry for little hands. In fact we are ordering her this matching indoor gardening set for next year so she can keep on practicing her planting skills.
Another thing we are hoping to get G this year is a toy workbench for our back yard and porch, which she can enjoy during the upcoming spring and summer. It’ll go great with the tool set she already has!
Her other fave outdoor toys this year included this sandbox, which comes in a variety of animal shapes (and can be left out for the winter, as long as it’s covered with a tarp weighted down by bricks), as well as and this awesome water table. I even know some parents have moved their water table indoors for the winter and put beans or rice in it to make a sensory table, which sounds really fun.
Did I miss anything that your kids love?? If so, let me know! And good luck shopping!! Just one week to go …
This post contains some affiliate links, which means that your purchase helps to support my blog through small commissions offered by each merchant. Everything in this post is something that Georgia already owns and that we purchased with our own money, never offered to us under a promotional agreement — and you never pay more by clicking on any of the links shared here. I humbly appreciate your support of Organic Glory, and hope you enjoy these holiday gift ideas!
Makers Monday is today, November 30, 2015. Launched by Shinola two years ago, it’s an effort to prompt holiday shoppers to buy local and buy American on the Monday after Thanksgiving. The concept has evolved into a massive, crowd-sourced guide to well-crafted, artisanal products, curated yearlong on social media. It’s an idea I can get behind! So I’m sharing my favorite local and/or American-made products today, in time for some Cyber Monday shopping. Many of these are made by friends or friends of friends! I hope you enjoy the ideas.
Boston-based knitwear designer The Third Piece
If you’ve noticed turban-style hats and headbands on all the cool kids this year, chances are the two Boston-based designers from the3rdpiece.com were behind it. They employ artists from throughout New England, and if there’s a crafter on your holiday shopping list, they also sell kits to make their designs yourself, at ridiculously reasonable prices. And their children’s accessory line will have you and your mini-me styling together in no time.
Leather goods, textiles and jewelry: these are the categories on the navigation bar of Michelle Liebmann’s website, but it doesn’t convey the wide variety of handmade items she offers at michelleliebmann.com — from hand-poured soy candles in flavors like hot cider and red cedar to hand-dyed scarves, repurposed watches and framed linens. She’s a fellow foodie and New Englander, and her food & travel blog and etsy shop are worth a visit, too.
unisex baby bloomers from Billie Blooms
OK, OK — this isn’t Boston or even New England made. But they are a shout-out to my Florida family, because they’re made down in Miami as a city- and heat-friendly pants option for tots birth to age two! Who can resist these?? At $28 for 100% cotton, made-in-the-USA bloomers, I dare you not to pinch the heck out of your baby’s thighs in glee over scoring these. Available at billieblooms.com.
Knife rolls, chef aprons & leather goods from Weft & Warp
“Made for cooks by a cook” says seamster and leatherworker Erik Desjarlais of the goods for sale at his Portland, Maine-based e-tail shop weftandwarpmaine.com. After retiring from the kitchen himself five years ago, he started hand-crafting knife rolls, aprons and waxed canvas bags that the pros now rely on. Got a home chef, handyman (or woman) or anyone else who would appreciate timeless, rugged stuff like this? Here’s your last stop.
Crane & Lion yoga and lifestyle wear
Designed in Boston, Crane & Lion is a brand I first saw on the yoga teacher who comes to my office to teach an in-house class after work once a week. The colors and fit are really stunning, and I love that all their pieces can go from workout to street with ease. It’s so impressive that this business is only a year old and killin’ it, while also giving back 5% of profits to three Boston service organizations.
Use code CYBERSWEAT40 for free shipping and 40% off through tomorrow at craneandlion.com.
Hand-dipped truffles from chocolatier Dean’s Sweets
Portland, Maine based confectioner Dean Bingham is a former architect who brings an artist’s eye and attention to detail to his chocolate creations. I’ve purchased his bacon-covered chocolates for Mark as a stocking stuffer, and sent boxes to friends and family for Easter and Christmas. With flavors like chocolate stout, lemon apricot Chevre, Moxie soda and his own special “boozy mix,” there’s something for everyone, and all of it is 100% handmade and nut free. Order online at deanssweets.com.
Handmade ceramics by Elizabeth Benotti
I recently met Elizabeth at a local artisans marketplace, and seriously could have bought everything in her display. Her entire aesthetic is so calming and stylish, and I loved hearing about her process of slipcasting, handbuilding, wheelthrowing, drawing and painting each unique item. A Massachusetts native, she currently resides and keeps a studio in New Hampshire.
Hand-painted porcelain + bead jewelry by Rapt Stonewear
A beautiful collaboration between two designers (who happen to be my colleagues!) based in Boston, Rapt Stonewear marries the work of ceramicist Jenn Erickson and jewelry & knitwear designer Jessie Partridge. Combining painted porcelain with colorful hand-wrapped cord, these designs are both bold and different, delicate and clean. In other words, perfect for any stylish and creative person on your shopping list.
A few more artists and creators that I’d like to quickly highlight: Rhode Island-based BABS fine handmade handbags, featuring leather and felt in unexpected colors and combinations; Hemlock Springs Soaps, out of New Hampshire, with scents and textures that are simply intoxicating; Albertine Pressfrom my former home of Somerville, with stunning city-themed letterpress designs inspired by world travel; Cheeky Monkey Home accessories, of Belmont, MA; and hand-folded origami fabric gift boxes crafted by Berline Chao of The Perfect Box.
I hope you visit these and more this holiday season! Check out the web deals I’ve highlighted above, since most expire today or tomorrow; and if you are looking for more in-person opportunities to buy local and meet the crafters and designers behind these products, find an upcoming show below.
UPCOMING LOCAL BOSTON-AREA FAIRS
Looking to support Boston-based artisans and businesses by buying local beyond #MakersMonday? Here are a few excellent shows to check out.
Hope everyone had an awesome trick-or-treat! We had family over, walked around our neighborhood, and tried our hardest to tucker Georgia out before Daylight Saving Time hit us Sunday morning. Georgia dressed as her all-time favorite, Minnie Mouse, and the lucky girl got to wear her costume THREE times this week: once at my office Halloween party on Monday, another time at the daycare Halloween parade Thursday, and again Saturday night for the real Halloween. She was one happy lady! Just see how happy in this video.
Last year (see below!) she liked walking around and meeting people, but this year she was really into the whole routine. She made it through the entire neighborhood, instead of just half a dozen homes on one side of our little street, and she said “trick or treat!” “thank you!” and “happy Halloween!” to everybody we met.
Last year. My Baby!!
The best part is that, while she likes picking out colorful wrappers, she couldn’t care less about actually EATING the candy, so more for me! Good thing I have a candy dish in my office for sharing the wealth.
The transition to Daylight Saving Time went fine for us. We had moved Georgia’s bedtime later bit by bit all week leading up to it, so Sunday morning she woke up at 6:10, which wasn’t too bad, and she took her normal nap from 1 to 3 p.m. My goal was just to have her wake up later than 5 and to take her usual nap, and in that, we succeeded. Spring forward is always much worse for us when it comes to sleep disruptions for Georgia anyway. Everyone felt a little out of whack Sunday with the time change, so we just made it a lounge day. Now it’s back to work.
Remember how I was lamenting my lack of Slow Cooker recipes last week? Well, you guys delivered when it comes to ideas! So many people reached out and offered their family favorites, and I’ll be posting the results as I try them out. Hopefully we have some winners. Meanwhile, I wanted to share these two great ideas from A Year of Slow Cooking: A1 and Dijon Steak, which I just know Mark would love, and Brown Sugar Chicken, which sounds satisfying for my and Georgia’s sweet tooth. That blog even has a slow cooker apple crisp, but I’m not sure how you’d achieve a crunchy top that way, so I haven’t tried it out.
I hope to have even more slow cooker ideas to share in the coming weeks! Plus, an early holiday shopping guide. You know me, I like to be done with Christmas by Thanksgiving, and then I finish designing our holiday card that weekend so I can mail it in early December. Can’t believe that time of year is already approaching! Here’s last year’s card, and the post about our photo shoot.
Photography by JPG // design by Minted
In closing, I just wanted to also thank everyone who sent well wishes (and mushy recipes) when I had my wisdom teeth out last week. It went fine, and I’m feeling back to my old self now. My friend Jean even sent me homemade soup (and she has a one-year-old!) that tasted simply divine.
She gave me the recipe from Epicurious, and you better believe I’m going to make it! If I do, I’ll share here. I think Georgia would like it, too.
Have a great week everyone and I’ll be back soon! xoxo
I have a 100-year-old house with REALLY annoying tile flooring in the bathroom.
I have to clean it daily simply because I have a toddler and a cat who track fur and dirt everywhere, but it’s when we host a party or holiday — like last weekend — that I really start dreading the deep clean. Nothing I buy at the store has ever made these floors look acceptable, and no matter what I use, I have to get down on my hands and knees with a brush to scrub — hard. So, I set my mind to figuring out a way to clean it using things I have in my pantry, things that could sit on the floor for a while and really do half the hard work for me, before wasting more time scrubbing or more money on something store-bought, stinky, expensive and ineffective. Thus I created a homemade cleaning solution with lemon, baking soda, vinegar & water, and let it do half the hard work. Can I just say? WOW, did it ever work.
Here’s the solution: 7 cups water, 1/2 cup baking soda, juice of 1 lemon (approximately 1/3 cup) and 1/4 cup vinegar. Spray onto the tile/grout you are looking to clean, let sit, and scrub with a brush after 5-10 minutes. Voila!
Yes, I still had to get down there with a brush to get every nook and cranny sparkling, but it was nothing compared to how long and hard I used to have to work to see anything resembling white between these tiles. You can see how well it worked in this somewhat gross, yet also uplifting photo:
Interested in more homemade cleaning solutions? Lemons are a great all-around cleaning tool, and make an excellent substitute for bleach. I do not personally use any bleach in my home, and I never feel like I need to. Why would I, when you can do all the following with lemons?!
Squeeze into your laundry for brightening
Cut in half and shine chrome faucets & fixtures
Throw a used-up lemon into your disposal to freshen it up and keep it in good working order (ice will do the same)
Make a glass-cleaning spray by mixing 3 TBSP lemon juice with 1/2 cup rubbing alcohol
Squeeze into your toilet bowl with your cleaner of choice for a freshening and deodorizing; use a cut-up lemon along the rim and on the seat for deep cleaning, then flush.
Get the most out of your lemon by rolling it on the counter for about 30 seconds, to draw out more juice; if you’re going to use the cut lemon to clean, remove the seeds with the top of a knife first so they don’t scratch your surfaces.
You can also use a paste of baking soda and waterto remove wetness stains from hardwood, like from a pet’s accident or a beach towel or damp shoe left on the floor. Try 1 TBSP baking soda to 1 tsp water; rub in a circular motion until the water stain disappears. The trick is not to use too much water. This trick works for rings on a coffee table if you forgot to use a coaster, too. And if you use petroleum products, you can also remove water marks in wood by leaving Vaseline on them overnight then wiping away in the morning. (Got scratches? My go-to fix is rubbing a walnut on it. Yup, it really works).
Baking soda is great for removing pet odors from upholstery, too. Just sprinkle some on your couch, let sit for a little while, and vacuum up. Better than spraying with fabric refreshers all the time (dog and cat owners, I know you’re with me on that one!) This worked for us when some rogue milk stains (ugh) managed to escape our notice for several days, too. Thanks Georgia!
I hope you found these tips useful. This is now my go-to tile cleaning method for our old fashioned bathroom! Do you have any similar tricks to share? Whenever I don’t have to use store-bought cleaners with nasty ingredients that make fumes in my house, I’m all in. It’s amazing what you can do with hot water, vinegar and some reusable microfiber cloths or scrubbing brushes!
Psst — on an unrelated note, today is the last day to sign up for Mama Natural’s first-ever online natural childbirth class, which starts up tomorrow! I couldn’t get by without her blog, and what I like about this course is that it includes comprehensive breastfeeding support, a.k.a the information you need even more than preparation for labor and delivery. You’ll also get to be part of a community of crunchy moms with due dates around the same time as yours, and who wouldn’t love that? Check it out!
I call this “weeknight” marinara because it takes two minutes to throw together and you can simmer for as long or as little as you want to get a deeper flavor. I put the sauce in a pan with unthawed meatballs while Georgia is playing (or having her evening bath) with dad, then cook it on low while I put her to bed, and by the time I get downstairs from “nigh-nights” it’s ready. All that’s left to do is boil water for the pasta and dinner is served.
With just four ingredients, you can keep this simple or customize with veggies, meat, vegan protein, whatever.
All you need is a 28-oz. can of crushed tomatoes, the pasta of your choice, frozen (or pre-home-made) meatballs, and a TBSP of this seasoning by Wildtree,a certified organic food company started by a mom seeking faster, healthy options for kids with food allergies.
Wildtree’s goal is to mimic the convenience of packaged foods, without the allergens, additives and processed ingredients that can be so problematic for many families, including anyone with diabetes, heart conditions, or who has to watch their sodium or sugar intake. All the products are free of preservatives, dyes, additives, GMOs and MSG, and come from a peanut-free facility. They are designed to help working parents get fast, healthy meals on the table even if medical issues make mainstream grocery shopping difficult.
We already have a super simple “weekend” marinara that really needs a full hour to cook on low before it tastes just right, but sometimes you want a home-cooked meal on a school night. This hits the spot. Mark had three servings.
Hearty Weeknight Marinara
1 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
1 package of turkey meatballs (I used Trader Joe’s), frozen, or 1 batch homemade
1 lb. pasta of your choice (pictured is linguine)
1 TBSP Wildtree Hearty Spaghetti Sauce Blend
Place the sauce and meatballs, not thawed, in a medium saucepan over low and add the spice blend. Stir. Cover and cook over low, simmering, for at least 20 minutes or up to an hour. Meanwhile, put a large pot of water on to boil; add pasta, cook until at dente, and drain. Serve pasta with the sauce meatballs spooned on top. If you’re making meatballs homemade, feel free to pan-saute them or microwave them to heat up and serve in or alongside the sauce. Dig in and slurp it up!
In other news, just this week Georgia (finally) drank her milk from a sippy cup. We’ve tried many, many times, and so has daycare, only to have her scream and throw things and yell for her “baba” (baby bottle). All it took was Mark, on his first weeknight off in months, demonstrating how much HE enjoyed drinking milk from a sippy (poor guy) then asking me for “more” using baby sign language. It worked. The things we do!!
It also got rather hot and muggy here this week, which allowed us to discover that Georgia has inherited mom’s humidity-induced waves and frizz. Lucky lady!
I love this kid.
Interested in Wildtree? Here’s what I recommend: the Kids Cheez, a natural version of the powdered stuff that makes Kraft Easy Mac so tempting; the Taco Seasoning Blend, which in my experience tastes just as good with vegetarian meat crumbles as with real ground beef; and their Coconut Oil, which is a tremendous value for the size, and is a healthy way to replace butter in baking, pan frying and roasting. I’ve also sampled several of their dips, spreads and marinades, and recommend those, too. I tried Wildtree the first time because a friend sells their products, but I’m a loyal customer now! Please note, this is not a sponsored post, I just really love their products and wanted to share a simple recipe that’s now in our weekly rotation thanks to Wildtree. Check ’em out!
Well, I suppose it was inevitable: the day where my toddler figured out junk food exists in the world, and that she’d prefer to eat cookies, fruit juice and Kraft Macaroni & Cheese than mom’s home cooking. Hoping it’s just a short-lived phase, I’ve adapted by sneaking in greens where I can and holding a firm line on her requests to snack the day away. “More?” “Cookie!” and “Mine” are her new favorite words, especially when pointing to mom’s coffee, a bag of fruit snacks or (cringe) the drive-through menu.
There are a couple key things I’ve done to get through this temporary eating issue.
One is to make smoothies with greens like celery and lettuce blended in, since they add nutrients without turning the flavor detectably non-fruity.
Secondly, we’ve gone back to sending fruit & veggie pouches to daycare for snack time. She sucks them down as readily as her applesauce pouches without realizing there are greens mixed in with those pears and apples.
Since she loves mac n’ cheese so much, I’ve tried to make my own more often, and to buy better boxed versions from Trader Joe’s and Annie’s — as well as to mix in peas, diced green beans or broccoli, since covering them with cheese seems to get her to accept more veggies.
Finally, last week I realized I had a very adaptable recipe in my arsenal: risotto. By finely dicing carrots, onions, celery and celery greens with cut up sweet chicken-apple sausage, and swirling in a spoon full of low-fat cream cheese right at the end, I made a toddler-friendly version of one of our favorite dishes.
She not only finished some off of our plates, she ate it by herself for lunch the next day, and even scooped a handful out of my bag while I was packing up leftovers to take to work! So we know it’s a keeper.
An important note: I do choose to leave in the step with white wine, even while cooking for Georgia, because it’s a critical component to the final texture of the arborio rice. However, omitting it won’t ruin the dish completely, if that’s what you’d prefer to do.
In other news, Mark and Georgia planted our garden this weekend! This year, we are having strawberries, peas, tomatoes and basil:
This is a kid who loves getting her hands dirty! I went online pretty much right away and ordered her this gardening play set from Green Toys, and already it’s a huge hit. She loves to help daddy with the soil, seeds and plants!
Have a great week everyone and get out there to enjoy some nice weather now that it’s here to stay 🙂
I recently stumbled across the most darling illustrated guide to feeding your baby in their first year on Along Abbey Road, and I simply had to share it. It makes me so happy! And, it’s completely useful. What she lays out here is pretty much month-for-month exactly what we introduced and when, and I feel really good about how we started Georgia on solids and transitioned her to table food when she was ready.
So what comes next, after babies turn one?
At 12 months we started mixing whole milk into her formula (she had weaned from breast milk at 9 months) in graduating ratios until she was completely on “big girl” milk & solid foods. She started refusing purees right around 9 months anyway, so she was exactly on the timetable you see above when it comes to introducing more table foods. We started off cutting up our meals into really small pieces (rotisserie chicken, green beans, spaghetti, etc.) and then making the pieces larger as her coordination and number of teeth grew. She always has had an adventurous taste for things that are spicy, tart or unusual, so we were lucky there; we just had to help teach her how to take bites, “chew chew chew,” and bend her elbow to spoon things like mashed potatoes and stew into her mouth. All in all, it went fairly seamlessly and it was exciting to watch her grow and develop! The only real hiccups we had were between months 15 and 18 when she really struggled to feed herself with utensils, and got so frustrated (and messy) trying! Now, she’s an expert.
See some of Georgia’s favorites from year one, and check out the first time we gave her baby oatmeal — her first food — right here. These days, she eats what we do, and the leftovers go to daycare for lunch.
I still can’t tell whether she’s going to be a righty or lefty since she switches hands every time she eats, and we are still working on the dexterity for foods like broth-based soup and fruits with the skin on. But it’s so fun to give her new things, and great to be able to go out to restaurants and order off the menu as a family without having to pack special snacks just for her! Plus, the older she’s getting, the more she likes “helping” me in the kitchen, which is super fun. To think I once couldn’t cook and didn’t know if I’d ever have kids!
Take a look at my first Mother’s Day one year ago, when G was 8 months old, and here’s what we cooked two years ago.
Thank God, she still has those fat little ankles and nibble-able feet. But she’s a whole lot bigger these days!
I’m so thankful for everyone in my family being happy and healthy that I truly can’t think of a better gift for Mother’s Day. I would say that just spending the day together is enough, but as usual Mark has to work every weekend this month, so probably my “gift” will be entertaining a toddler solo and praying for nice weather so we can get outdoors! I’ll take a rain check for a pedicure and the chance to pick dinner at a place only I like (hello, Mexican food!) Speaking of which, check out Georgia chugging an entire TigerNut Horchata I’d planned on drinking myself:
So, what are some Mother’s Day gift ideas? Well, apart from sending cards to all the women in my life, here are a few things that caught my eye, both food-related and non.
*Nordstrom is offering free delivery by Mother’s Day for all orders placed by 11 p.m. ET tonight, April 30.
I know I’ve also got my eye on these pants and just bought myself these sandals for my birthday (which is today)! And if those sandals don’t scream “mom” then I don’t know what does 🙂