Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Mommy Reviews - Must have List for Months 2 and 3

Aiden at 3 months - Feb 29, 2012

Aiden at 2 months (waving at mom - ok, not really.  But it was the least blurry picture!)
In my original Must Have List - Month 1 post, I stated that it was my goal is to do a few things on a monthly basis.  The first was to take pictures of Aiden sitting in the same chair with the same bear and a little picture frame that says what month it is.  That actually got accomplished! The second goal was to make a list of my "must-haves" for that month as a new mom.  After reading every review and product must-have-list out there when I was pregnant, this is my take on what is a must-have month to month now that he's here.  Posting about these must-haves each month is still a goal, but as you can tell from the title of this post, I am combining month 2 and 3 because month 2 did not get done!  Not a lot of change in what we thought was a must-have from month 2-3, so I'm good with it. So here is my "Must Have List" for Months 2 and 3!

1) Baby Bjorn (my absolute #1!!!  And if you can swing it, get 2!)
Let me first start by saying, we did not pay full price for this baby bjorn - but now that it is our Golden Ticket - I would if I had to do it again!  We got this baby bjorn at a baby-consignment sale last March for 5 bucks!  Yep, we were 6 weeks pregnant and I grabbed it up. I had no idea how to use it or how helpful it would be, but I figured it was worth 5 bucks!  So they retail at the store for around $150-$175.  Again, REALLY pricey, so if you can, get one second hand.  But with that said, having a fussy baby that will not let you put him down and has to constantly be "seeing the world" facing forward (difficult to hold in that position long term) - this is Awesome!  In the picture below we are at the PA car show and he slept in it for 4 hours!  Not a peep - he LOVES it!  I do dishes with him in it, do the laundry, put clothes away, organize the closets, and just walk around if he's too fussy for anything else.  We have a second one (different brand - Infantino) that I got for free for spending so much at BabiesRUs.  Ryan uses that one.  It's great having 2 because we are so different in height and size.  That way we don't have to readjust each time we need to put him in it.  However, the baby bjorn brand is much better and keeps him a lot more supported.  I'm going to another consignment sale this week and I'm going to be on the look-out for a 2nd baby bjorn for Ryan to have.  Don't care what it costs - gonna get it!

And yes - before you ask, his head is fine. : )

2) Pack-n-Play with Mobile
This is our little man's favorite place when he's not with us during months 2 and 3.  See the little monkeys on the mobile? Well, they are Aiden's best friends!  He "talks" to them and looks at them all the time.  We say "Do you want your monkeys to dance?" and he smiles - then we crank the thing and he gets super excited and will just stare and stare at them.  It was really great watching him track the mobile when he first started paying attention to it (around week 5/6).  We're still going strong - and I hope he doesn't lose interest anytime too soon!  My only complaint - the mobile doesn't last all that long when you wind it (3 minutes at most).  Next child - I'm getting one on a remote with batteries!

3) Snap and Go stroller (x2)
I cannot stress enough how much this little wonder has improved our lives and saved our backs!  When we were first looking for a stroller, I read all the reviews and thought I knew what I wanted.  Then we went to BabiesRUs and I tried the strollers.... um yeah, I basically could not lift any of them or fold any of them up without Ryan's help.  I'm short, my back end on my SUV is tall, and I have zero upper arm strength according to my family.  These snap and go strollers are great for when you're using the infant seat/carrier.  It's just the frame and then the child stays in the car seat and it just "CLICKS" in.  We bought 2 of them, both off of craigslist.  We got one for 15 bucks and one for 20.  When we bought 2 - my friends thought we were nuts... but I'm SO glad we did!  There have been times where we "switch the baby" between Ryan and I when I'm out running errands and then neither of us has to go without a stroller.  They retail at BabiesRUs and other stores for around $75 (but I'd check craigslist - I see them on there all the time).

4) 2 Changing Pads - 1 for changing, 1 for sleeping
Alright, I know.  You might think we're crazy - but this works for our child!  We had a really tough time transitioning Aiden out of his swing to get him to sleep.  He was getting too heavy for the swing (the motor had a hard time keeping up) and would kick his way out of it at night.  I noticed that he would fall asleep on his changing table on the pad when I was changing him or putting away his clothes - but when I laid him down in his crib on the regular mattress... nope - not having it!  So I went and got a second changing pad ($26 for the Serta brand at BabiesRUs) and he's been sleeping in his crib like a big boy ever since!  We did this at 6 weeks and I wish I would have done it sooner.  I think the sides coming up a bit on the pad help him feel protected and cozy.  Again - whatever works!

5) Kick-N-Play crib piano
Ahhh - this thing is AMAZING!  It runs on 3 double A batteries and runs forever!  We've had it for about 7 weeks now and have only had to change the batteries once.  We use it constantly and he loves it.  I have it on the side of his pack-n-play so he can look at it and when he wants to kick it, he just spins himself around (turtle style) and kicks it.  The music is not annoying (hard to come by that) and there are 2 different volume levels.  This will keep him entertained and put him to sleep no problem!  We probably use it at least 1-2 hours everyday during play time.  It was $32 at babiesRus (fisher-price brand) and I remember thinking... this is really expensive when I bought it.  I'm telling you right now, I'd go back and buy 4 more if I had to.  It has been great!

6) Swaddle-Me
He has a burp cloth over the top of him in this picture, but the bottom is the swaddle me.  This helped us get him to bed from about week 4 to week 10.  He's now a "big boy" and just in footed sleepers and doing great with that - but he MOVES in his sleep.  This child kicks, does fist pumping and ab crunches all night long.  Not sure how he stays asleep doing that, but the swaddle-me's helped us keep him somewhat contained during week 4-10 when he would wake himself up.  Notice his arms are out in the pic... week 4, we could still get his arms in.  Week 5 - our little Houdini figured out how to get his arms out in no time and we gave up!

7) Radio/Mp3 Player/CD Player in the nursery
Aiden and I do "dance party" about once a day (man, I'm going to miss that now that I'm back to work : ( ... ) We have a CD Player in his room and run a Baby Einstein CD with classical music on a continuous loop when he's sleeping.  We also run a white noise machine with the sound of a heart beat.  The white noise machine we got is pretty awesome - it lets you pick a ton of different sounds and also hook up an MP3 player to it.  It has a blue night light (enough for me to do a diaper change at night) and is small enough that we can travel with it.  Between the 2, we use them all the time. 

8) Mini Boppy Pillow for tummy time
You'll notice that there is no picture of Aiden doing tummy time.  It's because he HATES tummy time.  We have a spitter on our hands - and the pediatrician told us that tummy time can be difficult for spitters.  Luckily he's a happy spitter.  Eat, major spit up, on to the next!  This mini boppy pillow that came with our activity gym (ours is pictured below) has really helped us get him used to tummy time.  He has amazing head strength - little bugger just doesn't want to push up on those arms!  (takes after me I guess... arm strength, optional.)

9) Pacifier Clips
These are great to have if you're going to be out and about.  We have used ours when he's in the baby bjorn - no way to keep the pacifier in his mouth after he falls asleep and also in his car seat.  Now that he's more "expressive" - he's great at shooting things out of his mouth!

10) Monkey Mirror - well it's a monkey at our house. 
But any mirror would do.  He loves cooing and gooing at himself in this mirror.  He has been reaching for himself in it (developmentally he doesn't know it's him) and the smiles have been awesome.  I read that mirrors are a great way to socialize babies - especially first borns, because they don't have a sibling to interact with.  We do more than our fair share of interacting with him too - we can't seem to get enough!
12.5 weeks here.  This shirt is from his Aunt Erin - she loves her little "Stud Muffin"

Notes on Clothing:
Gerber runs small! Gap Baby runs big, but all of their pants seem to be "slim cut".  I don't know about you - but most babies packing on the pounds are not "slim".  Reee-diculous!  Gymboree makes the nicest quality clothes in my opinion and they run pretty true to size, but they are expensive.  Wait for a sale and buy sizes ahead! Carter's seems to be in the ballpark of accurate sizing, although some things run small.  Target Circo brand runs a bit big, but once it's washed it's usually dead on (a lot of shrinkage there).  Koala Brand from BabiesRUs/ToysRUs runs slightly large in their more expensive stuff, especially in the pants - but the cotton outfits shrink like crazy and always seem to be too short!  Little Me Brand (found at VonMaur - not sure where else) runs at least 1 size big!  When Aiden was born the Premie stuff was too big on him.  Jumping Beans at Kohls runs true to size, but also tends to shrink over multiple washes (I could care less though - I get stuff at such good prices there, it's okay if he only wears it 4 or 5 times).  Chaps - ahhhh - I love me some chaps! It is true to size and doesn't seem to have a problem with shrinkage. 
Aiden at 8 weeks - outfit from Gymboree.  The shoes are my absolute favorite!

Here's an example of where we're at:
3-6 month Gerber onesies are too small and don't snap over his diaper anymore.  Carter's 3-6 month are fitting and a bit roomy. Gymboree 0-3, he's just growing out of and has room to grow into 3-6.  Circo is 3-6. Koala is 0-3 for pants and 3-6 for tops. Little Me he's just now getting into his 3 month and is absolutely swimming in his 6 month.  Gap Baby 3-6 month pants, but 3 month onesies (they also tend to be big around the neck... a lot of big headed baby at Gap???) Chaps 3 months - he wore the cutest little red sweater vest the other day and he looked extra preppy : )  Borderline too preppy according to Ryan ; )
Ok - seriously, is this little chaps sweater not the cutest?  The model is pretty cute too I think ; ) 12 weeks in this pic.
Repeats from Month 1 list:
1) Video Monitor 
5) Diaper Champ
6) 2 different changing stations
7) More than 1 days supply of bottles (12) and Avent Formula Travel Container
8) Infant bath tub with newborn insert
12 weeks - just about out of the "infant" sling in the tub.

9) Plenty of burp cloths and footed sleepers
10) Bundle Me for the car seat
Aiden at 5 weeks - this Bundle Me was so great to have in the winter.  We just took it off last week, but it's been unseasonably warm this year.
He's grown up so much already!!!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

White Chili

Another new recipe - we're knocking them out around here!  Original idea came from E-meals, but I changed it up (that seems to be a theme).  Here's what we did:

½ lb extra lean ground beef
½ c onion, chopped
1 tsp of prepared minced garlic (equal to 2 cloves of fresh minced garlic)
1 can chopped green chili peppers, drained
1 t chili powder
1 t oregano
½ t cinnamon
cayenne pepper and black pepper to taste (just a dash of each of these)
1 can cannellini beans, undrained
1 can chicken broth (14.5oz)
1 c shredded mozzarella cheese

Combine beef, onion and garlic in pot and sauté until beef is browned. Stir in chili peppers, chili powder, oregano, cinnamon, cayenne pepper and black pepper. Add ½ can of cannellini beans and chicken broth. Mash or puree remaining beans and stir in along with the cheese. Simmer until cheese melts.

Serve with corn bread or corn bread muffins.

This was an easy recipe to make and it's a good alternative to when we want chili but didn't think ahead to make it in the crock-pot like we normally do.  Also cuts down on any heartburn after affect because there are no tomatoes (Ryan is a fan of that!).

Friday, February 24, 2012

Banana Cake - Sugar Free : )

I've seen a recipe floating around online for banana bread - so I made some changes and made a banana cake with substitutions that work for me and that make the cake/bread much healthier!  This is my weight loss surgery friendly version.  YUM!

1 box of sugar free yellow cake mix (Pillsbury Brand)
1/3 cup no sugar added cinnamon applesauce (mussleman's brand)
3 eggs
1/2 cup of chopped walnuts
1 cup of mashed ripe bananas (2 large or 3 medium)

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bundt cake pan. Mix cake mix, applesauce, eggs and bananas until cake mix is completely mixed.  Stir in nuts.  Pour in greased cake pan.  Bake for 25-30 minutes.  Let cool for 10 minutes in pan.  Take out of pan and allow to continue cooling for at least another 30-60 minutes.  Serve! (I served with sugar free whip cream and a few strawberries).

Chicken Enchiladas and Cinnamon Crisps

Tonight was mexican night at our house!  I tried a new chicken enchilada recipe and some quick cinnamon crisps to have with the enchiladas.  It was all good and worth doing again!  Both ideas came from e-meals, I just changed up the ingredients to make it healthier.

Chicken Enchiladas Ingredients:
¼ c lite mayo
¼ c flour
1½ c skim milk
1½ c shredded cheddar cheese, divided
1½ boneless chicken breasts; cooked, chopped and shredded
¼ c salsa
4 flour tortillas
Ingredients needed for enchiladas.
Done - right out of the oven.
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.  Mix lite mayo and flour in saucepan until well blended. Gradually stir in skim milk. Bring to boil and stir until thickened. Add ½ c cheese; stir until melted. Set aside ½ c sauce. Stir chicken and salsa into remaining sauce; spoon chicken mixture down center of each tortilla; roll up; place 4 rolls, seam down in baking dish and top with remaining sauce and cheese. Bake @375 for 20 minutes or until heated through.

Cinnamon Crisp Ingredients:
2 flour tortillas
½ t cinnamon
1/8 c splenda
2 T margarine

Preheat oven to 375 (same as for enchiladas above). Combine cinnamon and splenda. Spread butter over each tortilla and sprinkle with cinnamon mixture. Cut each tortilla into 8 triangles, place on dark cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes or until crisp.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Healthy Baked Potato Soup

Another good and easy recipe tonight for dinner.  We changed up the original recipe that we got from E-Meals to make it healthier.  Our version is below.

2 baking potatoes, unpeeled
14 oz can of low sodium, low fat chicken broth
1 c skim milk
2 T onions, finely chopped
1/2 pkg turkey bacon, pieces crumbled
¾ c shredded 2% cheddar cheese, divided
¼ c lite sour cream

Pierce potatoes, microwave on high for 10 minutes; cut into chunks. Combine potatoes, broth and milk in extra large microwaveable bowl. Microwave on high for 3 minutes; stir. Microwave on high for an additional 3 minutes. Slightly crush potatoes and stir in the onion and half of the bacon pieces and shredded cheese. Heat in the microwave on high for an additional 2-3 minutes. Serve each bowl topped w/ remaining bacon, shredded cheese and sour cream. Makes 3-4 servings.

Serve with mandarin orange lettuce salad (Romaine lettuce, no sugar added Del Monte mandarin oranges - drained, roasted sliced almonds and balsamic vinaigrette dressing) and a dinner roll.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Spinach Lasagna

We're still using E-Mealz (Now called E-meals) to help plan our dinners and our grocery lists.  We switched to the 2 person - Any store plan and so far have been pleased with the portions.  Last night we had Lasagna and it was great!  I've only ever made lasagna one other time and it was a crock pot recipe.  This was pretty easy to make and was on the table an hour and 15 minutes later (50 minutes of cook time).  You could probably do it quicker - it was just the first time we were doing it, so it took a bit longer.  The actual title of this dish on the E-mealz menu is Turkey and Spinach lasagna - but we changed it up a bit - hence the name change.

½ lb extra lean ground beef
¾ c chopped onion
1/8 t garlic salt
24 oz jar marinara
1 c skim ricotta cheese
1 egg
1/8 c grated Reduced Fat Parmesan cheese
½ T dried parsley
1/8 t pepper
½ bag chopped spinach; thawed, drained (about 4-5oz - we used 1/2 of a frozen box)
8 no-boil lasagna noodles
1 c shredded mozzarella

Preheat oven to 350. Brown beef w/ onion & garlic salt in skillet. Add 3/4 jar of marinara sauce. In separate bowl, combine ricotta cheese, egg, parmesan, parsley, pepper & spinach; stir well. Spread remaining marinara on bottom of 4x8 dish coated w/ cooking spray. Arrange 4 noodles over marinara; top w/ cheese mixture & half of mozzarella. Spoon half of beef mixture on top; arrange remaining noodles on top of beef. Top w/ remaining beef mixture & mozzarella. Bake for 40 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

We served with fresh cut strawberries, steamed dill carrots and a slice of garlic bread.  Yum!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Russian Chicken

So we're on our 4th night of using E-Mealz to help with our menu planning and budget.  So far so good!  We stayed WELL under budget last week at the grocery store (thanks to my stock pile of staple food in the pantry/freezer) and the meals have been relatively easy and good so far this week.  Tonight's dinner was especially easy and good, so I wanted to share.  I thought it sounded crazy when I saw it on the menu, but we both really enjoyed it. 

Russian Chicken Ingredients (for 2-3 adult servings)
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts (around 1 pound total)
1 can of whole cranberry sauce (not the jelly - it needs to say Whole Cranberry on the can)
1 - 8oz bottle of Kraft Catalina dressing
1 packet of lipton onion soup mix

Mix cranberry sauce, catalina dressing and onion soup mix in medium to large crock pot.  Cook thawed chicken breasts in sauce for 4 hours on low.  Serve chicken over rice (we used brown rice) and spoon the extra sauce over the chicken/rice when plated.  Serve with some sort of vegetable and whole wheat rolls.  

Yum and Healthy!

Other meals we've had this week:
Sloppy Joe's with Onion Rings, Sausage and Zucchini Soup with corn bread (actually really good - didn't think we'd like it) and Chicken Tetrazzini. 
Still on the menu to make:
Beef Burgundy over egg noodles and Slow Bake BBQ Chicken with sweet potatoes.