the best gifts for a new mama.

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NEWMAMAsince i’ve had two babies now and i’m about to have another this winter, i feel like i’m finally *just* entering that phase of life where i can maybe pass a bit of wisdom or advice along to a new expecting mother and feel like it’s legit.  don’t get me wrong, just because i’ve done this mommy thing for a few years now doesn’t mean i know what i’m doing in the slightest, although it’s fun from time to time to pretend i do. ha!

here are a few things i feel like i’ve finally figured out when it comes to giving a gift to a new mama, thanks to first hand experience twice now and through the examples of other capable and inspiring mothers around me.  for instance, i now know that buying a super cute newborn sized baby outfit for an expecting friend, however crazy cute it may be, isn’t really what she or her baby needs, and how dropping a meal off or grabbing her grocery list and hitting the store for her, are really the kind of valuable gifts any mama is grateful to receive.

here’s my list of 12 best gifts for a new mama:

  • take her dinner. and if you can, make a second batch of something that’s freezable for another night
  • come over and just hold the baby for a bit while she sleeps or showers or just rests in another room
  • if she already has little ones at home, schedule a few playdates outside her home for her little ones, or come take them off her hands for a few hours one afternoon so she can focus just on baby
  • get a hold of her grocery list and do her grocery shopping for the week. add a few fun treats to the list too. i’ve never known anyone who has complained when they’ve found chocolate covered strawberries by accident in their kitchen! or  take her to the grocery store and be on baby watch while she shops. (a girlfriend of mine in DC did this with me a few weeks after eleanor was born. josh was back to work and going out all on my own with eleanor still felt a bit daunting, but i was dying to get out besides just a walk around the neighborhood. it felt so nice to shop in a store on my own and still feel like i had backup by having a friend close by.)
  • give her a sincere compliment and hug. hearing the words “you are a really great mama” from someone you love is huge, especially when you might not be feeling that way. and i’m telling you, i’m not the hug-y type, but hugs are even better when you’re a bottle of emotional hormones
  • take the baby and give her a night out with her other girlfriends or with her husband. if it’s her first, this of course might not really happen for several months, ha! but offer (and keep offering!) to take the baby even just for a few hours while she gets out and does something with friends! she’ll eventually cave and do it, and she’ll be eternally thankful afterwards

and here are a few meaningful gifts to give if you live far away and can’t give your time…

  • a new journal or memory book for her to record all her new “insomnia” thoughts
  • book a massage for her at a nearby spa (figuring out all the new nursing positions really takes a toll on your back those first few months)
  • send her a box of beautiful thank you notes and also a big package of stamps
  • send her a fun and bright new colored lipstick and nail polish to match so she can feel “put together” even while still in her pj’s at home
  • an engraved ring or necklace with baby’s first initial or name (i wear a stack of rings in place of my wedding band with all of my family’s names on them, and i love looking down at my hand and seeing their little names on my finger throughout the day)
  • if she has a smartphone, get her a gift card for e-books or fun apps…because you’ve gotta be able to do something/anything during all those late night feedings in the dark, and sometimes doing puzzles or reading e-books is just the way to go

did i miss anything you’ve found incredibly helpful or meaningful from a friend or family member during your new time as a mama? i’d love to hear more suggestions or ideas beyond the baby clothes and baby toys gifting route. :)

over the weekend…

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one of my favorite times of the year happened over the weekend. general conference weekend! we bunker down at home eating a lot of good food, tend to all the neglected household projects on our long to-do list, and snuggle up on the sofa together as often as two toddlers allow to watch 8 hours (broken up into four 2-hour sessions of course) of general conference. it’s a time where our church leaders share inspirational messages and wisdom with us broadcast live from salt lake city.  i have a bit of catching up to do with all the talks, since i probably only really processed half of it all with the kids, but from what i did gather, it was a nice reminder of spiritual things and their importance in my life and a motivator to do my best, improve, and keep going during these crazy times.

saturday started off with a rain storm that stayed pretty consistent throughout the day. in-between sessions of conference we worked on a lot of projects. we have moved our furniture around several times the past few days, josh painted a wall in the apartment green (!!!), and i de-cluttered our apartment like it was my job. i suppose it is my job, actually. and i had been slacking.   i don’t think “nesting” ever kicked in as hard with eleanor and samson as it has with this third baby coming.  and i am loving it because we are getting things done! things on our to-do list from two years ago…. you wanna get stuff done on that weighty to-do list, have a baby. lol. just kidding.

on saturday night, it took me approximately 1 hour and 26 minutes to get the kids to bed.  usually josh and i tag team it (we each take one) and it goes much more smoothly and quickly, but josh was out for the evening at the priesthood session of conference and i think my kids decided it was the perfect opportunity to team up together and drive mama crazy.  i kept thinking, i’m the mom. i should have this. but i didn’t have it at all. and then i started envisioning what it’ll be like with three against me, and i just started panicking.  brush teeth? we are pirates, mama. you can’t brush our teeth.  3 books before bed? how about twenty, mama.  lay down? ha! neverrrr, mama.  it’s a little bit scary how quickly kids can go from testing your patience to then wrapping their arms around you and kissing you voluntarily.  how quickly all is forgiven and right once more in the world.  but seriously, my saturday night was one for the books.

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on sunday, we went to the park for a few scooter races between sessions.  everybody wins in our family, no matter who hits the finish line first. it makes for a lot of fun with this sort of set up, at least at this age.  i’m so impressed with how well both kids do on those scooters (you did well too, josh), and the weather was just perfect to stay out and race until our little legs got tired.

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here’s the 30 week baby bump! i feel like i’m carrying a hefty sized bowling ball everywhere i go at this point and then i read that my baby weighs almost 3 pounds at 30 weeks and i’m like, ONLY 3 POUNDS?! this math is not adding up! but i have the best news ever! since baby is due in december and samson came almost two weeks early, we’re kind of not sure what to expect this round timing wise.  so the other day josh is all, “maybe we put the christmas tree up before thanksgiving this year, just so everything is ready for whenever the baby shows up.” you have no idea how hard i tried to play it cool and act all, “oh sure. i guess we could do that…” while on the inside i was like, ‘BEST YEAR EVER!!!!!!!!’ so yeah, this is shaping up to be the best year ever. because christmas is coming early. and i’m really into that idea.

smoothie

for the last few weeks, we’ve been on a smoothie kick every morning.  i’m not sure how it started, but the kids request one every morning and josh gets the blender going with them while i get ready for the day.  it’s a nice way to sneak in their vitamins (and spinach) and they feel like they are really making it all by themselves, so we’re running with it.  of course i was enjoying the smoothies as well until i noticed josh wasn’t cutting off any of the strawberry stems and leafs and just throwing them into the blender with all the other stuff. doesn’t sound like a big deal but i get so nauseous so easily these days that it made me want to throw up when i found out and i got really mad.  even as i write this i’m realizing how silly it sounds but seriously, you’re supposed to cut those things off. who eats the leafs and stems on a piece of fruit?

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just when i think we might be done with naps at our home (i wish they’d nap forever, but my kids tend to give them up on the earlier end of toddlerhood, i find samson passed out at 5pm in his nursery. 5pm is the perrrrffffect time for a nap. ;) but no way am i about to wake a sleeping babe. not until they are teenagers.  of course this means our entire schedule gets off for a full day or two afterwards, but it is what it is. unpredictable and all over the place. hi to life with little ones.

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i neglected taking pictures of all the stuff we ate over the weekend, sorry. know how much everyone loves food pictures. just kidding, i know that’s just me. but this salad josh made to accompany dinner on sunday evening was delicious.  we also juiced a lot of produce over the weekend, had friends over for dinner, and i ate an entire container of trader joe mini peanut butter cups.  i don’t even like peanut butter and chocolate together! but i ate all the peanut butter cups.  all of them.

here’s to monday, folks! hope you had a great weekend, too!

ps. my striped shirt was a kind maternity gift from hatch collection. thank you so much, hatch!

toddler eats: cooking with apples!

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after coming home last week with 6 (six!!!) full bags of apples from our apple picking adventure in connecticut, i realized that despite my lack of creativity in the kitchen, i really should be able to do more than just an apple pie or apple crisp this fall for my family.  our friend kelsey nixon, who happens to be one very talented chef here in new york city, kindly showed me 4 fun and simple toddler friendly apple recipes! kelsey covers a breakfast, lunch, and dinner dish below plus the sweetest little dessert! i want her to just move into my kitchen permanently and whip this stuff up all the time, or better yet, maybe all of us can just move into her kitchen (because isn’t that space just gorgeous?) thank you again kelsey, and hope these might be helpful to a few of you as well!

Here is what Kelsey says:

One of the greatest things about early fall is apple picking. It’s become a tradition for many and if you’re like most families, you end up coming home with more apples than you know what to do with! You can only bake so many apple crisps and dip apple slices into peanut butter for so long before you end up staring at your heap of apples trying to not feel guilty that you might not get through them all! We’ve all been there. To make the most of your hand picked delicious apples, I’ve come up with a few recipes that include apples for every meal of the day (including dessert!). The best part is that everyone in the family will love these recipes – especially your toddlers!
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Breakfast – Spiced Apple Pear Butter
As a parent of a toddler, I make a lot of toast! It’s a frequent request from my little guy and we particularly love spreading this rich and delicious apple butter on crispy toast or bagels in the morning. It’s similar to applesauce, but the biggest difference is that apple butter is cooked longer and slower than traditional applesauce which allows the sugar in the apples to caramelize, turning the apple butter a deep brown color. Not only does this produce a wonderful flavor, but the concentration of the sugar gives it a much longer shelf life making it a perfect spread to keep in your fridge to get you through the fall months. The best part is that this long and slow cooking process is done in your slow cooker, making it super easy! See the full recipe here.
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Lunch – Grilled Apple, Bacon, Cheddar Sandwich
What kid or adult doesn’t love a warm grilled cheese sandwich for lunch?! This classic sandwich with a twist is the perfect combination of flavors – apple, cheddar, bacon, and mustard. It may sound a little crazy, but when all of that goodness ends up into between two slices of bread, you’ve got a match made in heaven. In way it’s like a grown up grilled cheese that still excites the kiddos! See the full recipe here or find it in my cookbook Kitchen Confidence
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Dinner – Pork & Apple Meatballs over Buttered Egg Noodles
One of my favorite ways to incorporate apples with savory flavors is using pork – the sweet and rich flavors play really well with one another. My homemade meatballs were begging for a makeover and a grated tart apple seemed like a fun addition to the ground pork base. While these started out as an experiment, we quickly realized that they are terribly addicting in the best kind of way. Watch out or your toddler may just swipe the meatballs from your own plate! These were so easy to put together, a formal recipe isn’t even required. Simply combine 1 lb. ground pork, 1 tart apple (peeled and grated), 1/2 white onion (grated), 1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs, 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, and 1 large egg in a mixing bowl and season with salt and pepper. Mix to combine but avoid over-mixing. Once combined, portion into golfball sized meatballs on a lined baking sheet. Transfer to an oven on low broil and bake for 8-10 minutes or until they start to turn golden brown on top. Serve over buttered egg noodles tossed with grated parmesan cheese and a little chopped parsley.
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Dessert – Caramel Apple Bites
An entire caramel apple is definitely too much for a toddler to handle, but there’s something about the nostalgia of a caramel apple that’s fun to enjoy as a family. These itty bitty caramel apple bites are not only fun to eat, they’re also really fun to make! Pick out your largest apples and using a melon baller or a metal 1/2 teaspoon measuring spoon, scoop out an apple ball from your big apple. A large apple should yield about 8 apple bites. You can use your favorite homemade caramel recipe or simply melt down the wrapped caramels that you find in stores this time of year to create a caramel sauce perfect for dipping. Insert a toothpick (with a dull end on the opposite side preferably) and dip your apple bites into the warm caramel sauce. Transfer the bites to a baking sheet lined with wax paper to cool before enjoying.
What’s your favorite unexpected way to incorporate apples into your cooking this time of year?
All photos by Kylie Whiting.

vieques, puerto rico!

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hello!  josh and i took a little trip to vieques, puerto rico last week! it was one of those trips we debated for the past couple of months… do we try and get away before we have a third baby just the two of us? do we take the kids? do we leave the kids? who would we leave the kids with?!  are we (well, me) strong enough to really truly spend a few days away from them?! we went back and forth for a long time, especially since we’ve only spent a single night away from eleanor and samson at a nearby hotel for josh’s birthday last year. but last month, we decided to just do it.

josh and i have both been working long hours around the clock on several different projects and entrepreneurial endeavors, along side taking care of our kiddos each day. full disclosure, while incredibly exciting and liberating to be one’s own boss, work feels to never actually sleep when you’re working for yourself, so naturally, we’re never sleeping either. (advice from fellow self employed or freelance readers willingly accepted in the comments below, please!)

anyway, while i might have a been a bit of a mess the night before we left at the thought of leaving E and S, my sisters flew into the city to spend the next few days with them and having our little ones in trusted family hands left me at ease. also, it appears that both the kiddos did really well without us! sometimes they didn’t even really care to FaceTime, they just wanted to get back to whatever they were doing with their aunties! we really couldn’t have asked for a better arrangement as we took off, and having time to just fully unplug from everything work related (i also unplugged from all things blog and social media related, too) and spend time together away from the kids before baby arrives – was wonderful.

we stayed at the W retreat and spa on vieques island.  a few months back, SPG Resorts kindly offered to host a little babymoon for us, so we took them up on the opportunity and had a wonderful time at their W resort in vieques. we flew into san juan and then took a teeny tiny plane (you can see it in the video i made below!) to a smaller island, vieques! i’d never been on such a small plane and that was both thrilling and terrifying at the same time!  the small island of vieques was absolutely beautiful, with wild horses literally everywhere. (they have more wild horses than people on the island!)

here’s a little video i made and a few photos of our time in vieques below…

and a few photos…

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^^^if i could camp out on that reclining chair in the water looking out over the ocean for the rest of my life, i would.^^^

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^^^me and my 29 week baby bump!^^^

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^^^all the little crawlers and fish and lizards and snails and crabs…. it was one of those bittersweet moments each time we saw one where we were like, oh E and S would be dying right now! so we took lots of pictures and video whenever we passed some to share with the kiddos once we got home. (they’ve especially been loving the video of the crab running around the beach!)^^^

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^^^the “living room” at the W is just spectacular!^^^

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^^^breakfast in our room at 8 in the morning. it’s a hard thing going from a home with two early-rising toddlers 7 days a week to a chance to sleep in a couple mornings in a row. our bodies weren’t ready for it. on the plus side, no one is really on the beach or at the pool that early, so we got to have them to ourselves. ^^^

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^^^the resort offers an early morning strala yoga class each day on the deck looking out at the ocean.  josh, myself and my baby bump went one morning. first, let me just say i was kind of blown away by my man here handling himself just fine with each pose and transition and even stretching (i was like, wait. how are you doing that?!) but also what a beautiful experience for my body and mind to share outside of a yoga studio in busy manhattan and in front of a calming view of the ocean.  it was one of the highlights for me, most definitely. ^^^

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^^^we enjoyed a tasting of the new menu coming out next month at sorcé, the main restaurant at the W. our favorite part was the new arugula salad with these spicy candied almonds, manchego cheese and a guava vinaigrette.  the arugula is grown close to the resort (the chef told us it can be difficult to bring in all the food to this little island, so a lot of it is grown or raised locally nearby), which made it just perfectly fresh and crisp.^^^

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^^^i don’t even know what this is, exactly, but it was so good. a sort of popsicle i guess….a piece of green melon slightly frozen and glazed with some sort of delicious orange syrup and zest. we enjoyed them at the pool and i need to find a way to replicate them here. ^^^

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^^^and this lobster frittata at sorcé for breakfast one morning, also heaven.^^^

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vieques is home to the best preserved bioluminescent bay in the world, which we were able to kayak through late one night under a dark new moon. UNREAL. sadly i don’t have any photos or video of the bay to show you, but you can get a bit of a feel for it through these photos i found online.  you put your hand in the water and as you bring it up you feel like you’re covered in magic fairy dust as the glowing little organisms trickle down your hand and arm! i’m still not sure i understand how it works entirely, but the luminescent water lights up as it’s “triggered by dinoflagellates, oceanic plankton which are able to generate an emerald green and ultramarine illumination when water is physically disturbed.”  it was incredible! i hope to go back and experience it again someday with the kids! kayaking through that bay is most definitely in my top ten most amazing life experiences.

this trip felt like a dream. i’ve been avoiding the real world a bit since returning back to new york city… trying my best to bring that calm back with me into my everyday.  and goodness as a pregnant mama with two toddlers can that be hard sometimes! i’m working on it! this trip was so good. it felt extra special to have josh all to myself for a few days, before we welcome our third little one, too.

thank you again to SPG Resorts and the W retreat and spa in vieques for hosting us!  and a million thank you’s to my sisters, for being the best aunties around and spending a few days in new york with our babies!

apple picking!

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one of our favorite family traditions is to go apple picking in the fall!  we went up to silverman’s farm in connecticut as a family and had a great time running around, picking apples, picking rocks (samson) and petting all the sweet animals they have on the farm. i was so surprised how few apples remained on the trees, but because of the weather this year, they said their apple season came quickly. the did have large buckets with fresh crisp apples in every few rows or so, so we still brought home six big bags full of fruit.

since apple picking a few days ago, i’ve been asked by my kids to “start” maybe 17 apples – times two! (you know what i’m talking about right? where you take the first bite so it’s easier for your little one to have a place to begin to eat around the apple?) and i’ve also finished maybe 17 apples times two after both E and S have made their way around the apple just once with tiny bites.  “all finished!” they’ll say. and i’m like, “well, not really, but OK. i’ll eat a fourth apple in a row right now, sure.”  but, can’t complain! we had a great time together and there is an abundance of apples around this apartment now which is a very good thing.

a few photos below if you’d like to see, because you don’t go apple picking and not take your camera! i mean, who would ever do that?! ;)

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^^^starting off with this photo, because it might be a new favorite of mine. i picked up samson because he wanted to be held and asked him to look at papa for a second (who was behind the lens) but instead he leaned in and gave me a big kiss! i melted.^^^

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^^^oh these babes and their sweet eyes that play tricks on their mama. four seconds before you wanna leave em at the orchard and come home alone because they aren’t exactly listening to you whatsoever, and then they shoot you a look with eyes like that and you’re all, give me ten more babies, stat!^^^

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^^^apple picking is memorable for the adults, the wagon rides are probably the main thing these two munchkins will remember from the day!^^^

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^^^this beautiful face is just growing up too quickly!^^^

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^^^just helping himself to some good ones!^^^

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^^^so glad miss eleanor was with us to spot all the high apples and get them down for us!^^^

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^^^it was like he’d just graduated from college, his “i did it!” each time he pulled an apple off the tree!^^^

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^^^i love my people.^^^

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^^^once apples get to be a bit boring, you can bet you’ll find this one wherever rocks might be hanging out!^^^

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^^^family photo of 3 1/2 of us and one flying rocket ship! we’ll take what we can get.^^^

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^^^jumping off haystacks. you have the best hair, samson.^^^

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^^^new baby bunnies!^^^

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^^^petting and meeting the most beautiful llamas ever!^^^

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^^^met the three little pigs, too! although they were very preoccupied doing stuff like this while we were there. haha!^^^

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^^^this afternoon was a good one! past years of apple picking HERE and HERE!^^^

ps. my maternity jumpsuit was a gift from isabella oliver (thank you!) and eleanor’s cute dress and kitty cat ears (aren’t those so fun? i can’t help myself with the animal ears accesories everywhere these days) are from wunway kids for those curious.