Books · Holidays · Tips and Tricks

Gift Guide: Cookbooks

If there’s one thing even experienced cooks never mind receiving, it’s a new book about food. From cookbooks to travel writing, novels, and memoirs about eating, there’s always something new to whet the appetite of any foodie bookworm. Here are a few new cookbooks that I’ve got my eye on this year, plus some trusty favorites that would make great gifting for anyone on your list who is just starting out in a new home, new marriage, or with newly-acquired cooking skills. There are 3 DAYS LEFT for free two-day shipping with Amazon, so get shopping for those last-minute presents!

gift-guide-cookbooks

Best of the New Cookbooks, clockwise from top left:

Anthony Bourdain’s Appetites: A Cookbook // Molly on the Range // The Flavor Bible // Cooking for Jeffrey // Small Victories // Damn Delicious // Thug Kitchen 101 // The Sprinkles Baking Book

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There were so many great cookbook releases this year, it’s hard to pick just one or two. All of these eight books appeal to different tastes, and all came out within the last two months, so they’re unlikely to be part of anyone’s collection yet — and all can be shipped before Christmas.

If you aren’t as concerned about getting something brand new and would rather help a budding cook or recent college grad in your family build their collection of go-to recipes, here are my selections — the tried and true, dog-eared favorites I turn to over and over, and still find something new to try.

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The Silver Spoon and the Silver Spoon For Children

This was the first cookbook my mother got me when I got out of school, and for good reason. Not only does it specialize in Italian cooking, which is what I know best, but it is indexed by ingredient, so a novice cook can flip to something like “parsnips” or “rutabaga” and figure out how to prepare it. The children’s version I received as a baby shower gift from my sister-in-law, and it’s equally wonderful — perfect for a first-time parent, or someone with a baby just starting to eat solids, or a toddler just starting to ask you if they can help in the kitchen!

Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking

A classic for a reason, this is an encyclopedic look at one of the world’s best cuisines. With over 500 recipes, you will turn to it time and time again. Make a festive gift basket with this and her fascinating memoir, My Life in France, plus a nice bottle of wine.

Vegan with a Vengeance

Isa Chandra Moskowitz knows her stuff. Got a new vegan in the family, or just want to build some non-animal-protein foods into your regular rotation? This is the accessible, easy place to start, and the new 10-year-anniversary edition is even more beautifully laid out than the original. Looking for the fastest of the fast weeknight fare? Isa’s got you covered there, too, with Isa Does It, a digestible book of 30-minute meals with sumptuous photography to boot. No weird or expensive ingredients to be found in either one.

The Can’t Cook Book by Jessica Seinfeld

I got this when it first came out in 2013, because — even though I’m a seasoned cook — I knew that with a new baby in our family, we’d be needing to expand our repertoire of uncomplicated meals as well as help Mark gain the skills to do some cooking while I was busy nursing. It got us through that bumpy time and is now a solid favorite that I turn to time and again to get out of a rut.

The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Dinnertime

Made for busy families, this book is filled with supper recipes, freezer meals and other ideas that will quickly make their way onto your list of regulars. If you love her blog, this puts many of the favorites all in one place. And her writing style is such a kick, it’s like reading notes from a friend.

The Moosewood Cookbook

Timeless! A best seller since its publication in 1974, this is the most simple, delightful, hand-illustrated earthy little book of plant-based eating. Everything is comforting, no-frills and filling. If you’re looking to make more healthy, seasonal food, this is a great place to start.

copy-of-stockholm

Good luck finishing up your shopping everyone! I’ll be sharing my Christmas menu soon! Need ideas now? Check out what we made last year.

 

Christmas · Holidays · kid-friendly · Recipes · Tips and Tricks

Last-Minute Foodie Gifts!

Don’t panic! Food gifts are perfect for anyone on your list, because lots of people love to cook and bake and everyone else likes to eat 🙂 These sites are all offering shipping in time for Christmas or you can find most of these items in store. There’s still one day left for free two-day shipping with Amazon Prime, which makes a great gift itself, and the Fire TV stick is perfect for any friend or relative, especially at just $39. Last tip: the Bose Soundlink Bluetooth Speaker we love is on sale for $99 right now, on Amazon and at Nordstrom. I’ve never seen it that low before! This is a good gift for anyone on your list. Now on to the food ideas. There’s little time to spare!

http://www.edibleboston.com

A subscription to Edible Boston (or wherever your local ‘Edible’ edition covers) is a great idea for anybody who likes local food or just eating out and trying new restaurants and foodie shops. If you’re Boston local, pick one up at the Public Market (above the MBTA’s Haymarket Station, or park for cheap with validation at the adjacent garage) and wrap it up nicely with a note saying you’ve gifted the recipient with an annual subscription. Better yet, put together a box of goodies from the market, tuck this in there too, and you’ve got an impressive package.

Some great Public Market vendors include Taza Chocolate, Q’s Nuts, Boston Honey Company, Union Square Donuts, and George Howell Coffee.

http://www.georgehowellcoffee.com/boston-public-market/

We always seem to argue of what calendar to get for our kitchen at home every year. Not this time! Paper Source has such delightful designs, they made it easy for us to choose. Find them in stores or online at papersource.com.

Something that even a proud Keurig owner would enjoy receiving is a good-quality French Press, if they love coffee. It works with regular and decaf and any coffee shop (like George Howell, above!) will grind beans for you to go with this. The nice thing about a French Press is that it works with the same ground beans as drip pots, so you don’t have to make any extra effort (or need electricity!) to use them. Le Creuset’s French Press is beautiful and comes in an array of colors, like all of their products. And you know it will last a lifetime.

Le Creuset French Press // amazon.com

Make Jacques’ signature cookies at home! There’s nothing like fresh cookies out of the oven, especially these. All you need to add is butter and eggs.

Cookie Mix by mrchocolate.com

Who doesn’t need an extra pair of measuring spoons in their life? I know mine are always being stolen by a certain 33-inch-tall mischief maker, leaving me looking for extras every time I bake. Enter these fun furry guys by World Market!

critter measuring spoons // worldmarket.com

You read about my favorite water infuser in this post about hydrating your skin and body for winter. Well, that’s not all Uncommon Goods has that’s gift-worthy: I picked up this tea infuser as well as these mess-free toaster bags for grilled cheese sandwiches recently, and can think of a few folks on my list who’d love to have them this holiday season.

http://www.uncommongoods.com

This one isn’t strictly a food, but it is food-based…and it smells yummy. Might nicely round out a food themed food, no? I personally love bubble baths and would enjoy receiving something like this, which I’d look forward to using after a busy day.

Avocado Bubble Bath // Ferris Wheels & Carousels

These two are just too cute. By Jonathan Adler, elephant salt and pepper shakers will bring the right touch of whimsy to your kitchen and dinner table. And how adorable is the packaging?? I’m a sucker for a pretty box.

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JonathanAdler.com

If you’ve read this blog for a while, you know I have a passion for smoothies and strong feels about the best vessels from which to drink them. In this post, I can explain why I love my favorite so much. It’s cheap, it doesn’t leak, it’s easy to clean…why not get one for your favorite smoothie freak this holiday season? There are dozens of colors to pick from, and I’ve even got Georgia using the toddler version; it is hands-down our favorite sippy cup.

If you’re really stuck to your mason jars for drinking, then I highly recommend this lid for taking it on the go. Keeping the glass jar from breaking if you’re clumsy is up to you!

re-cap mason jar lids, various colors // amazon

Awesome Cookbooks that make great gifts

You already love her yoga videos, now check out her simple recipes like this Blueberry Pie Smoothie.

These gals are in their 70s, hail from the town next door (well, two towns over — sorry for skipping you, Revere!) and their dessert recipes made them James Beard Award finalists. Pretty impressive! Their newest book has only been out since October, so it’s a good one to add to the collection of any avid baker or home cook.

Awesome Books about Food & Cooking

As a young bookworm reading in her grandfather’s butcher shop, Cara Nicoletti saw how books and food bring people to life. Now a butcher, cook, and writer, she serves up stories and recipes inspired by beloved books and food in her life.

For the food system activist in your life, this is an exhaustive and indispensable tome for any budding advocate.

Before Gabrielle Hamilton opened her acclaimed New York restaurant Prune, she spent 20 hard-living years trying to find purpose and meaning in her life. Blood, Bones & Butter follows an unconventional journey through the many kitchens Hamilton has inhabited through the years, and was named a best book of the year by HuffPo, GQ, Slate and more in 2012.

More a memoir of Fuchsia Dunlop’s time in China, emphasizing her culinary experiences and endeavors, than a cookbook or strict food writing, this is an engaging read about cross-cultural cooking and eating.

Food Books for Littles

Ok, so we don’t all have the room to raise even chickens or goats in our back yards (or we may not be allowed to by our local government!) Nevertheless this book teaches kids so much about caring for animals and where their food comes from.

Want to make your own food gifts? Check out Food Gift Love by Maggie Battista.

One of my favorite food gifts to give are these super easy pretzel kisses. You can make them using any style of Hershey’s kisses — hugs, peppermint, milk chocolate, etc. — and either square or regular pretzel shapes. They are so easy! Just pop a Christmas color M&M on top and you’ve got a festive treat for everyone this holiday with a minimal time investment.

courtesy//cookingclassy.com

Are there foodie gift ideas I missed?? If so, share them in the comments, and go get shopping or cooking! I’ll be back Christmas Eve with a quick idea for how you can use up your holiday meal leftovers in a tasty “letdown day” snack or low-key New Year’s Eve appetizer. Most importantly….

MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM ME, MARK & GEORGIA!

Still looking for a way to give back this holiday season? Visit TinyPrints.com to save 60% off Herringbone Throw Blankets using the code GIVEWARMTH at checkout, and for each one you buy, they’ll donate one to a Baby2Baby family in need. Feel good, do good.

Baby & Toddler · Christmas · Holidays · kid-friendly · Tips and Tricks

Toddler Gift Guide

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!

A shopping cart: useful for toting play food and stuffed animal friends both indoors and out!
A shopping cart: useful to tote play food & stuffed animals, indoors & out!

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 blocksLegoLittle 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 Doll play 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.

Quick as a Cricket has beautiful illustrations and is a quick, simple read.
Ten Little Babies has an appealing rhyme and lots of little details to search for in each picture. Nice and compact for travel or for leaving in the crib!
Hugaroo has adorable animals on every page which Georgia loved to find over and over, and is a sweet story about the many different kinds of hugs you can get!
I am a Bunny is a classic for a reason. It takes you from summer to winter, just in time for toddlers learning about weather and seasons at school.
You’ll be reciting If You Give a Moose a Muffin in your sleep, I promise! Sames goes for its companion, If You Give a Mouse A Cookie, another hit in our house.
The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge is perfect for explaining that small can be mighty!
I don’t know if it’s the mischief in the story or the cute illustrations, but Georgia has loved Harry the Dirty Dog since before she could possibly understand the story. It’s very endearing.
We bought this when Georgia was an infant because WE liked it, but she has really taken to it. We ended up getting her more in this Baby Lit series, and she loves them all! Vibrant pictures and simple text with counting means they can follow along easily.
Ferdinand is one of the best-selling children’s books of all time, with a beautiful message about non-violence and tranquility.

Others that make great gifts: The Napping House, Big Red Barn,  The Story About Ping, Make Way for DucklingsGolden Book’s The Night Before Christmas, and The Snowman. We are also buying Princess Potty to help with toilet training this holiday break 🙂

For bedtime

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.

Outdoor Toys

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.

Last but not least, we loved this basketball hoop for our porch and this play side at daycare. We never got Georgia any toy cars like this because they have so many at daycare, but we did purchase an indoor-outdoor picnic table for next year, and we also put away a balance bike for her third birthday in 2016. Also on next year’s list: a Micro Kickboard for scooting around!

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Did I miss anything that your kids love?? If so, let me know! And good luck shopping!! Just one week to go …

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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!

Baby & Toddler · Holidays · Tips and Tricks

Mother’s Day is next week! #giftideas

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again because I’m totally not joking: all I want for Mother’s Day is some extra sleep! I’m not holding my breath though 🙂

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!

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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:

OrganicGemini Horchata review coming soon!
Getting ready for Cinco de Mayo a week early!

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.

ceramic macaroni necklace//food52.com
monogram-able transport tote//madewell.com
grandmother bracelet, Alex and Ani//thepaperstore.com
santa barbara design//nordstrom.com

*Nordstrom is offering free delivery by Mother’s Day for all orders placed by 11 p.m. ET tonight, April 30.

english garden lounge pant//anthropologie.com
a pampering serum//amazon.com
edgy mom? ear jacket//etsy.com
funny new personal essay collection//amazon.com
whisk necklace//food52.com

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 🙂

Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

Baby & Toddler · Books · Holidays · kid-friendly · minted · Tips and Tricks

Our Easter Menu + Baby Easter Gift Ideas!

It’s Easter (and Passover) Week, and even though the weather won’t cooperate, we are still going to assume it’s Spring and will celebrate this quintessentially Spring holiday accordingly! Mark, as always, has to work on Easter, so once again I’m preparing a pared-down menu with help from family for a nice, low-key day. Here’s what we are making! Photos of babies in bonnets to follow shortly.

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One year ago. How time flies! My lil’ bunny!

Our Easter Menu

  • Glazed Ham
  • Warm buttered rolls
  • Stuffed Mushrooms
  • Butternut Squash
  • Cold Potato Salad
  • Applesauce
  • Honey Mustard
  • Cheesecake, Coffee & Tea

This year Easter is so early that I really refused to buy any kind of special dress, not knowing whether she’d even be able to wear it (or fit into it, since she just finished a growth spurt from 12-18 month clothes into 18-24 and even 2T). Last year, though, her Nani in Florida had sent her this gorgeous dress that we paired with a darling white Easter bonnet with patent leather crib shoes for church:

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Where does the time even go!!!

I think Georgia is still a little bit young to enjoy an Easter Egg Hunt or Easter-themed toys, but that won’t stop us from trying. I’m cajoling my brother into hiding eggs and I am fairly certain her Grammie will be showing up with some presents for our bunny!

If you need Easter gift inspiration, beyond candy, you’ve come to the right place.

the classic

something different

Hide & Squeak Eggs, $10.80 on amazon

something huggable

skip hop “hug & hide” lamb, $18, Amazon

a nightlight

$10.95, Land of Nod

a lovey

angel baby blankie, $13, amazon

a push toy

$19, amazon

a party in a box

easter egg hunt kit, $18, Land of Nod

treat bags

personalizable! pottery barn, on sale from $9.99 to $30
personalizable, via pottery barn, on sale from $9.99

munchies

a bit of seasonal decor

frameable bunny art from $22 via minted.com (in five colors)

Last but not least, one Easter craft idea for the family and three fun recipes:

Italian Easter Bread

Rice Krispy Treat Eggs

Easter Egg cake

neon dipped eggs by Joy Cho/Oh Joy! via Merrimentevents.com

Have a wonderful week everyone!

Baby & Toddler · Holidays · kid-friendly · Tips and Tricks

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!

paperlesspostenvelope

paperlesspostinvite

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

***

Baby & Toddler

Alert! Huge Green Toys sale!

Heads up! Green Toys are 50% off today on Amazon!

Georgia just got a seaplane and a submarine for bath time, and for her upcoming trip to Nani’s house in Florida (where there’s a very fun pool). I almost bought her a dump truck and sand play set for the summer, too, but I tried to keep my holiday budget in mind. It’s really, really hard. I really love these toys because they are PVC-, Phthalate- and BPA-free, made in the USA, meet FDA food contact standards, and are composed 100% of recycled milk jugs, which saves energy and greenhouse gas emissions, both in their production and their shipping. Plus, their packaging is both recycled and recyl-able, free of plastic films and twist-ties, and printed with soy inks. Not to mention: they are just a huge hit with my kid, are sturdy, and beautiful to boot. (If you are so fortunate as to own a dishwasher, they can go in there, too).

Even better than reusing plastic, of course, is not buying it at all. when it comes to children’s toys, the next best option to recycled toys are wooden toys, in particular those made locally or at the very least not overseas. Steel and glass make the best substitutes when it comes to food storage, cooking and household solutions to avoiding plastic.

Did you know that a recent study showed that prenatal exposure to phthalates — found in soft plastics and scented products — led to measurably lower IQs in children by age 7? While legislation bans phthalates from toys for small children, nothing governs maternal exposure during pregnancy, which is the most critical time for brain development. And it’s easy to gain exposure through room sprays, personal care products, and microwaving food in plastic containers.

Read the full study and check out this interesting infographic for more information on avoiding plastic. I’ve never felt so fortunate that the smell of artificial fragrances and plastics made me barf throughout my entire pregnancy!

plastic infographic

What else do you do to reduce plastic dependency? Reusable shopping bags? Buying locally instead of ordering online? Glass food containers and baby bottles? Tell me in the comments!  

Books · DIY · Drinks & Smoothies · Holidays · Tips and Tricks

Last-minute Foodie Gifts

Have you procrastinated and are just now desperately looking for something to gift that home cook or restaurant lover in your life? I’ve got you covered.

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salt cellar // anthropologie

Make something edible

Find some pretty containers, make your own gifts tags, tie them on with festive ribbon, and you’re done! If you aren’t artsy, Etsy has loads of designers whose gift tags can be personalized, purchased and downloaded for immediate printing, no waiting by mail.

Send a magazine subscription

I love Food Network Magazine, Vegetarian Times, and EveryDay with Rachael Ray. Great recipes can also be found in Real Simple and (duh) Martha Stewart. Subscribe online, print out an e-card, and package in a fun little card or bag. Better yet, include the current issue with a bow around it and a note saying a subscription is on the way.

Join a wine club

A distinguished investment that won’t soon be forgotten.

Anthropologie

This place is a hidden treasure trove of cute food gifts. Mugs aren’t the most creative thing you can give someone, but if you go that route, the ones at anthro are as unique as you could hope for. They have lots of edible things to package with their pretty serve ware and accessories. Lots of preppy, boho, and hipster finds here. I also love their decorations! They can still ship by Dec. 24, too.

marshmallows, canape plates, wine openers, cocktail mix, mugs // anthropologie

Make personalized stationery for their food gifts

Check out Minted for personalized wrapping paper, gift tags and labels for goodies from the home cook. I would love to receive something like this!

$19 for 25, minted.com
$15 for 5 sheets, minted.com

Cookbooks

On Amazon, you’ve got until Monday for free two-day shipping with Prime and still make it by Christmas.

thekitchn

Use code BOOKDEAL25 to get an extra 25% off any book on Amazon through today (December 16).

Basket of goodies from Trader Joe’s

Someone did this for me one year, and I loved it. Inside were things I’d never tried from TJs, even though I go all the time. It totally inspired me to craft some new recipes! Throw in some wine or seasonal beer, snacks, a pretty dish towel or kitchen tool, and nestle in a nice basket for anyone who loves to cook. Round it out with one of the many popular Trader Joe’s cookbooks available for two-day shipping on Amazon, like this one or this one.

THEMES TO TRY

Winter Favorites: Cranberry apple butter, gingerbread cake mix, pumpkin waffle mix, winter blend coffee or peppermint tea, some holiday sweets (such as peanut brittle, salted caramels or candy-cane joe-joes), and dish towels in holiday colors.

Taste of Italy: Nice olive oil, flavored pasta (they have lemon, spinach & chive, and more), marinara or vodka sauce, Parmesan cheese, arborio rice, red pepper flakes, olives, capers, oregano. Package with a new colander, large serving bowl, pasta scoop, or cutting board.

Taste of Asia: Toasted sesame oil, rice sticks, Thai lime & chili cashews, coconut milk, red curry sauce, jasmine rice, soyaki sauce, and green tea. Include a unique tea cup and saucer, a sushi plate, pretty chopsticks, or noodle bowl.

Coffee Lover: Chocolate covered espresso beans, an assortment of coffees, dunk-able chocolate biscotti, after-dinner mints, chai or yerba mate mix. Do the same thing for a tea lover and package with a mug or a tea strainer.

reusable produce bags // facebook.com/victorybags

Finally, for new parents, it’s fast and easy to have weeks worth of meals delivered to them by organizing a mealtrain with your friends and family. This is also a great idea for anyone who is sick, new to your neighborhood, deployed, or recovering from an accident or surgery during the holidays.

And if you’re still looking for somewhere to donate toys, Boston’s Christmas in the City is taking orders to its Amazon wish list, which will distribute gifts to thousands — yes, thousands — of homeless children this weekend. Read more about last year’s event in today’s Globe and click here to donate. They continue to hand out toys after Christmas to kids of all ages who are living in shelters, motels or other unstable situations in Boston, so it’s never too late to give, and donations purchased from their Amazon wish list get delivered directly to their headquarters.

Have a wonderful week everyone and good luck finishing your shopping. 

Baby & Toddler · Books · Holidays · kid-friendly · Pregnancy · Tips and Tricks

Gift Guide: The Guys

I won’t spoil the surprise even though he doesn’t read the blog, but Mark is definitely getting at least one of the things below for Christmas. And the rest are things he (or my awesome brother) already own and love. Read on and get inspired for the guys in your life!

For makers and DIY enthusiasts

Make Magazine, the home of 3-D printing, robotics, woodworking, programmable LEDs, fiber crafts and canning. It’s all in there! If your guy likes to tinker, build, and code, as my little bro does, you have just finished shopping.

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A book for a new dad or papa-to-be

The Faith of a Child, by Stefan Lanfer. The author, a colleague of mine in Boston, says “if you want tips, tactics, and advice for childbirth and parenting, you’ve got dozens of choices. But, if you want real stories that actually let you picture fatherhood, The Faith of a Child is for you.” It’s artistic and lovely to read and appealing for men who are about to become first-time fathers as well as those with a bit more practice who might enjoy a book to relate to on that level.

For tall dudes who work out

We have spent years trying to find workout pants for Mark that have a long enough inseam. When you are 6’4″ tall, this can seem an impossible task. Enter LuLu Lemon, that haven of ‘athleisure’ wear for stay-at-home moms! Miraculously, their pants come extra-long as a matter of course, and they offer complimentary hemming for customers of more average heights. The only other brand we’ve found that does this is Under Armour. I guess that’s why famously tall QB Tom Brady is their pitch man! Places like Old Navy actually make tall athletic gear for men too, but only by special order and only online…and they sell out of desirable styles very quickly. Mark’s favorite for running, dance class, rehearsal and lounging is hands-down the LuLu Kung Fu pant.

kung fu pant

Man-pampering

This organic, all natural shave oil by Honest is sure to leave his face calm, smooth, and razor-burn-free. It smells divine and is good for ladies too (bonus!)

Mark is also a fan of this hand cream for chapped knuckles after working in the yard or doing a tour in the wind. Which reminds me: if you are looking for work gloves for your handyman, these are tops.

Wishful thinking: for men who cook

“Men” and “cooking” are not two words that typically run into one another much at my house, but if yours is different then I envy you. Mark makes one thing: this Spaghetti Carbonara, which I taught him. Somebody help!

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But these two books are supposed to be pretty awesome and I think they’d appeal to men (OR women) who are looking to bring some badassery to their kitchen repertoire.

Meat

The crowd-pleaser

Bose wireless headphones. There’s no way you’ll find someone who wouldn’t like that. I have them, I’ve given them as gifts, and they are about a bazillion times better than beats if you ask me. Especially great, according to Mark, if you have a ginormous head! 🙂

For entertaining

For cookouts, dinner parties, holidays, you name it: a portable speaker is handy, and in the case of this new one from Bose, adorable and available in many colors. The other thing I got Mark about five years ago, which he loves? A retro-looking record player that also has a radio, CD and tape deck hidden in it. Now we actually can listen to the vinyl collection we’ve been growing for so many years, and the sound fills the house.

bose speaker

And speaking of retro, vintage cocktails remain popular. If the man in your life fancies himself an at-home bartender, whet his appetite with these Moscow Mule mugs from Pottery Barn. Enclose the following recipe on a simple note card, and you’re set.

Moscow Mule Recipe

  • 1/2 oz lime juice
  • 2 oz vodka
  • 4 – 6 oz ginger beer

Squeeze lime juice into a Moscow Mule mug and drop in the spent shell. Add a few ice cubes, add in the vodka, and finish with the ginger beer. Voila!

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For the health freak

They may be getting a tad ubiquitous at this point, but the FitBit is a truly remarkable and effective fitness and weight loss tool. It tracks not only your activity but your food intake, calories burned, and length and quality of sleep, syncing wirelessly with your smartphone and waking you up (silently) every morning. Mark has found his to be the last bit of motivation he needed to drop about 15 pounds of weight that snuck on while I was pregnant, and he wears the thing 24/7. It’s an ever-present reminder to eat better, take the stairs, and forgo the second helping of cookies….so much so that I ended up losing a few pounds too, just by being around it!

fitbit

For the coffee lover/me

I am hoping someone gets this for myself. Once a year, Dunkin’ Donuts unveils the large coffee deal card — 10 of ’em for $14.99! Seriously, I get very little sleep and need this.

Another coffee related idea, or I should say a more serious one, would be a pour-over set. Both Hario and Chemex make popular versions. Custom-brew your cup and enjoy!

chemex-8-cup-coffee-maker

Got any great ideas that I missed? Do tell!

If you’re still shopping for others in the family, don’t miss my guide to eco-friendly baby gifts, my list of must haves for little ones from birth through toddlerhood, and my own Christmas wish list from last year, a guide to gifts for new moms.

**Psst! If you’ve been waiting to buy any VTech toys, today is your day. They are on sale for up to 50% off on Amazon, right now!**

And if YOU are newly pregnant right now, like I was this time two years ago (SOB!), check out my maternity shopping guide and my tips for beating morning sickness (I am a straight-up expert). Later on, when it no longer feels like you need 20 hours of sleep a day, my prenatal fitness post may come in handy.

 Good luck finishing your shopping, everyone!

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Baby & Toddler · Holidays · Pregnancy

Eco-friendly baby gifts

Sending a care package a new mom’s way, or putting together a gift for a new arrival this holiday season? Here are my fave picks for the eco-conscious, non-toxic and environmentally friendly baby and mama. These are all companies and products we use and love for our family. But first, Georgia’s first visit to Santa!

Now on to the gift ideas you came here for.

Under the Nile

underthenile.com

This company makes one of Georgia’s favorite loveys, the pink baby buddy. All of their products are organic, from apparel to toys, and they also use PVC-free dyes. None of their products include flame retardants, Formaldehyde or other chemical fabric finishings.

Baby Soy

babysoyusa.com

We love their kimono style outfits. This green clothing line is made from sustainable and organic soybean fiber, making them soft on baby and low impact on the planet. The kimono line is their signature, and makes for cozy sleepwear with easy diaper access and convenient fold-over sleeve mittens to prevent overnight face scratches from flailing little hands. We also love their soft, knotted hats, especially for sleep.

Georgia has this in purple with pink trim.
Georgia has this in purple with pink trim.

NaturePedic

NaturePedic.com

This is where we got Georgia’s mattress (and mattress pad). It is certified organic and Greenguard certified (meaning it’s been tested for chemical emissions) and free of allergens. It meets all crib regulations, also fits a toddler bed, and is made in the USA. Best of all, it’s comfortable and firm and she loves sleeping on it. A mattress and mattress pad weren’t things I was willing to compromise on, since she spends more than half her living hours breathing them in.

LifeFactory

lifefactory.com

Creators of shatterproof glass baby bottles with colorful silicone sleeves, LifeFactory designs their products to grow with your child, so you can add a sippy cup top for toddlers and eventually a regular flat cap. There are tons of colors to choose from.

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The Honest Company

honest.com

I love, love, LOVE their products. I started out using their laundry detergent because I’m sensitive to fragrances and other ingredients in commercial soap, and now that I’ve had a baby I use nothing else. We tried and loved their diapers & wipes, and now I purchase my household cleaning products from them, too. That way, I don’t have to worry about fumes or residue affecting Georgia (or me, as a breastfeeding mom) when I clean our counters, toilets and windows. In fact, their stain remover is so amazing that I was able to get a HUGE smear of black ink — from a dropped mascara wand — out of our white nursery carpet(!) Find their “welcome baby” gift package here. I also use their antibacterial hand gel at Georgia’s changing table and in my diaper bag, and at bath time their baby wash and body oil is all we use. I even use those two products on my own body so that I don’t put any toxic chemicals near her little mouth while nursing!

Honest makes a badass diaper cake with 92 newborn diapers and essential baby products in the center. What a shower gift!
The Honest Company makes a badass diaper cake with 92 newborn diapers and essential baby products tucked in the center. What a shower gift!

Anna Naturals Tea

drinkmamatea.com

Teas that are usually recommended for nursing moms are, in a word, nasty. Not these. With organic blends for preconception, childbirth recovery, nursing and weaning, there’s an option for every stage of pre- and postpartum life.

MightyNest.com

mightynest.com

The “mindful gifts” offered at this site are free of lead paint,  heavy metals, and Formaldehyde, and are hand-picked for any age range you’re looking to buy for. Parents of school-aged children can even donate a portion of their purchase to their own district’s classrooms.

Sophie the Giraffe

Georgia can’t get enough of this teether. She loved cuddling and nuzzling it before she was teething, and now it provides a safe, soothing surface to gnaw on when her gums are sore. Free of phthalates and BPA, Sophie features natural rubber and food-based paint that naturally wears away over time. Each one is hand-painted so they are all unique! Available at most baby stores, including Babies R’ Us and on Amazon.

Babies love to chew on her feet, nose, mouth, ears…

Aden + Anais

adenandanais.com

Their organic crib sheets, changing pad covers and easy swaddlers have a trusted place in our nursery. They are available at Babies R’ Us and Amazon. Read more about why I like them in this post about newborn essentials.

California Baby

californiababy.com

We use their calming natural and organic products, especially the diaper rash cream, on G before she does her overnights. It prevents rash from wetness when she’s sleeping the longest. It has a lovely peppermint scent that really is soothing. All their products are certified organic, made in the US, allergen tested and free of peanuts, soy and dairy, with no animal testing. You can find their products at Target or Amazon.

Angel Dear blankies

angeldear.net

Georgia has two of these: an elephant and a bear, both pink. (See her cuddling one of them in this post). This San Francisco-based company is committed to organic fibers and their products are luxuriously soft to the touch. I wish I had gotten G a curved pillow to match her blankies, because I think it would have come in so handy with tummy time!

Georgia loves cuddling this elephant blanket.

A Mighty Girl

amightygirl.com

This awesome site, dedicated to matching parents with empowering, educational and fun toys for girls, has lots to choose from — but I particularly think it’s cool that they have an entire guide to children’s books about the environment. Check it out.

Baby Gap Organics

We have a new baby coming into our extended family this year right after Christmas, and I’m loving some of Baby Gap’s organic cotton gift sets for the little guy or gal (it’s going to be a surprise). This collection takes gender-neutral baby clothing beyond the realm of green and yellow, which is one reason I love it!

I also love this handmade plush toy from ABCHome, and I really want this frame from Pottery Barn Kids to commemorate G’s first year. It’s so beautiful.

What are your favorite products and brands? Did I miss any?

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I am not affiliated with or endorsed by any of these companies. In some cases, clicking specific product links will earn me a small commission. I never recommend any brand or item I don’t believe in and personally use.