Holidays · parenting

Best Easter Basket Items for a Toddler Boy

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Easter is a time for celebration, but the religious concepts that are the basis for the holiday are a little too advanced for a toddler. You can start to build associations for them though – that Easter is a happy time, it involves family and Springtime – a time of renewal and rebirth (and also chocolate and the Easter Bunny because why not let them be kids for a while…)

Maybe its because I have a newborn and want to be sure my oldest doesn’t feel forgotten, or maybe its because the day I went shopping for Easter was my first time at a store in weeks after the birth of my daughter, but I did go a little overboard with my sons Easter Basket this year. As I went back over all the items I had to actually assemble the basket, I saw that some of my choices were better than others.

Here are the best items to assemble a well-rounded, fun, and affordable Easter Basket.

Sand Toys – Summer is around the corner, and there’s not much that little boys (and girls) like more than playing in the sand (and getting dirty in general). If you don’t have a traditional Easter ‘basket’ you can even use a sand pail as the basket itself which would be super cute.

Books – Basically any occasion that calls for gifts (holidays, birthdays, etc) I include books. My son does love to be read to, but I also want him to associate books with presents – so that he’ll be excited to get a new one. There’s nothing I like more than getting a new book (I’m actually guilty of buying books constantly. I read obsessively, but my ‘To Read’ list is long and the stack of books in my nightstand waiting to be read is substantial – which makes me happy). For the basket, I wanted to include some Easter books but also just some books I know he’ll love. Here’s what I chose:

Puzzles – puzzles actually have a ton of benefits for early childhood development, and yet they are disguised as toys! Some of the benefits:

  • Cognitive – Color, letter and spatial awareness skills 
  • According to the Child Development Institute “a child’s brain development is influenced significantly when a child acts on or manipulates the world around him or her. Puzzles provide that key opportunity. Children learn to work directly with their environment and change its shape and appearance when they work with puzzles”
  • Confidence – the sense of accomplishment that comes with completion of the puzzle brings a ton of satisfaction to a child. Overcoming the challenges involved in solving puzzles gives them a sense of pride and self-esteem.
  • Motor Skills Development

I chose this Fire Truck puzzle for my son’s basket (he LOVES firetrucks) but also had a custom one made from Shutterfly, where you can add any photo you want to the puzzle, this picture is the moment he met his sister for the first time 🙂 and dinosaurs, of course.

Candy – He doesn’t get much candy, but he sure enjoys it when he does! He likes gummy bears and chocolate, but his Easter basket will have bunny chocolates (and the bag is cute too). Fun fact – 59% of Americans eat their chocolate Easter bunnies ears first.

Play-Doh – my son loves play-doh, and we need to keep replenishing the supply. I’m happy for him to play with it as its creative and quiet 🙂 These are perfect because they come in eggs and pastels for Spring!

Bubbles and Truck – For my son, if there wasn’t a car or truck involved then you’ve failed. He’s just obsessed. After a recent trip to the zoo, when I was asking him about which animals he saw and what was his favorite thing, all he could talk about was the tractor he climbed. Yup, that’s my son. I also included the bubbles because he’s finally old enough to hold it and create the bubbles himself, another activity that’s perfect for nice weather.

Stickers and Coloring – More creative, quiet, and affordable items – win, win, win! This sticker book is perfectly Easter and the Thomas (invisible ink unless you color on the page) will be a big hit!

That’s it! Throw it all in a basket (or bucket) with some Easter grass and have a great day! Maybe buy some extra chocolate for yourself too 🙂

diastasis recti · Exercise · parenting · postpartum · self care

Make the Most of your Postpartum Time : Week 3

Diastasis Recti and Baby Tummy Time

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This week I started thinking about getting active again, and about getting my body back. It’s not the priority – my priority is having this special time with my little lady, making sure I take time to just hold her, just stare at her beautiful teeny tiny face (corny but true), nurse her, sing to her, keep her alive 😉 you get the idea…

However, self-care for mom is important too, and for me that includes getting back in shape. Prior to pregnancy I was very active – I typically work out at least 4 days a week (often more). I try to eat healthy, but balanced – I love food and wine (in moderation).

So over the last three weeks, even though I was mostly ignoring these thoughts until this week, I did measure myself – because the truth is a lot of progress has already been made without taking any action – just by letting nature run its course (the human body is amazing, and knows what it’s doing!).

When my daughter was 1 week old – the largest part of my belly measured : 39″ (99cm)

At 2 weeks old : 34.5″ (87.5cm)

Today, at 3 weeks old :

At the 1 week mark, I started wearing my belly bandit. I’m not sure if I believe in this product yet. I didn’t use it with my first child, and did (eventually) get my belly back to its pre-pregnancy size – even though I don’t believe the stomach muscles ever fully returned. This time, I’m older, its my second child, and I just thought it might be worth it to try the product out – it certainly can’t hurt.

Wearing my Belly Bandit

This week (PP week 3) I started dealing with my diastasis recti. Keep in mind I am not a health care professional and am only sharing my personal experience.

  • What is diastasis recti?
    • Short answer – diastasis recti is separation of the abdominal muscles during pregnancy
    • It is officially defined as a distance between the two sides of the rectus abdominis muscle of two centimeters or more
    • It affects at least 60 percent of women six weeks after birth and 30 percent of women have it a year after birth
    • It is caused by pressure on the rectus abdominis muscles leading to overstretching, which is why it occurs so commonly during pregnancy
  • Do I have it?
    • Technically, we should wait at least 6 weeks to check manually for DR – the reason being that before 6 weeks the uterus is still working/shrinking and your body is still recovering in general (for many women the separation will correct itself by 6 weeks)
    • My midwife checked me in the hospital before I left, and the early check indicated that I do have a significant separation
    • To perform a manual check –
      • Lie on your back with your knees bent, and the soles of your feet on the floor.
      • Place your fingertips just above your bellybutton
      • With your abdominal wall relaxed, gently press your fingertips into your abdomen.
      • Roll your upper body off the floor into a very small ‘crunch’ – lifting your head off the ground but keeping shoulders on the ground
      • Check how many fingers can fit in the ‘opening’ created by the cruch
      • Repeat and test for separation a few inches higher above your belly button and below your belly button.
      • Two fingers of separation would indicate possible DR (to check again at 6 weeks PP) – Three fingers could indicate a more serious separation and you should consult with your doctor or a physical therapist (this is always a good idea).
    • Truthfully – the actions to correct diastasis recti are beneficial for anyone, so there is no harm is proceeding with an assumption of DR
  • How do I fix it?
    • There are some specific exercises that can help you, and some that can really hurt you (make your diastasis worse)
    • Avoid:
      • abdominal sit-ups
      • crunches
      • oblique curls
      • double leg lifts
      • upper body twisting exercises
      • exercises that include backbends over an exercise ball
      • yoga postures that stretch the abs, such as “cow” pose and “up-dog” pose
      • pilates exercises that require the head to be lifted off the floor
      • lifting and carrying heavy objects
    • Make sure you consult with a doctor before starting any exercise postpartum.
    • For me, I started with these exercises this week. I kept a close eye for any bleeding or other signs that I might be overdoing it, and especially focused on the Alternating Heel Drops, Seated Tummy Flex and Hip Bridges as these were specific exercises stressed by my midwife.
Alternating Heel Drops
Hip Bridges

This graphic below is from https://www.pinterest.com/pin/426223552234538866/

Now, speaking of tummies – I also started daily tummy time with my daughter this week. This is time the baby spends on her stomach while awake and supervised.

Why is tummy time important?

  • Helps baby develop head control
  • Promotes motor skills
  • Prevents conditions such as flat head syndrome (given that our babes always go to sleep on their backs, tummy time offers them a different position to spend some time).
  • Tummy time helps your baby build strength needed for sitting up, rolling over, crawling and walking

When should I start?

  • Your baby can start tummy time right away after coming home from hospital
  • Each session should last about three to five minutes at first.
  • My first week or so at home I tried tummy time with my little one periodically, but this week we completed two to three times a day.
  • Don’t be surprised if your baby doesn’t enjoy tummy time at first – it can be uncomfortable for them compared to the position in which they regularly spend their time. Just take a break and try again later. Tummy time is easy to skip especially if you have a baby that doesn’t enjoy it, but stay committed mama!
  • As your baby gets used to tummy time, place your baby on his or her stomach more frequently or for longer periods of time. Aim for around 30 minutes a day of baby tummy time by the time he is 2-3 months old.
  • You can even arrange age-appropriate toys within his or her reach once they show interest in toys – mirrors also work really well!
  • Your baby should work up to an hour of Tummy Time per day by 4 months of age.
  • Eventually we want to see baby pushing up on her arms and picking her head up on her own
  • Then keep the practice up until baby can roll over on his own, a feat many babies accomplish around 6 or 7 months of age.

How do I do it?

  • There are a few options, I try to incorporate all of them throughout the day:
    • Lay your infant facedown on your stomach or chest or across your lap (this is perfect after feeding assuming babe stays awake) – I also think this is the best method when starting out as it keeps baby calm.
    •  A blanket or a tummy time mat on a firm, flat surface (floor). Here we would lay right next to her so we are in her line of sight. As a bonus, I could do some of my DR exercises while laying on the ground with her!
    • Boppy Nursing pillow – I use this for breastfeeding (I actually have 2, one upstairs and one that stays downstairs) but it is great as a tummy time pillow as well – it creates a slight elevation.
  • The purpose is for baby to try lifting her head, so if she doesn’t do this just as a result of the positioning, try to engage her! Put your face close, or a rattle, etc. 
Its hard to see, but she is lifting her head here – we start small!

Remember – every bit of Tummy Time with your baby makes a difference and adds up, so keep going!

If you have done plenty of Tummy Time with baby, but are concerned they are not meeting their milestones, bring your concerns to baby’s pediatrician or healthcare provider.

Meal Prep · parenting · postpartum · Recipes

Healthy Postpartum Meal Plan #2

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The plan for this week includes some lactation boosting foods, some family crowd pleasers, and some very quick and easy ideas because we need to be realistic. This is my meal plan – a target, not a requirement. Sometimes I stray from the plan, and there’s certainly no reason to feel pressure to follow it. When you’re a mom you really only get ‘pockets’ of time around the kids schedule and needs. It may be 10 or 15mins here and there, and I use that to chop veggies or cook rice, or get other prep done. When I was making the chickpea tomato salad for example (which is literally such an easy dish that it takes less than 10 minutes to assemble) I was interrupted twice. I just stopped what I was doing, fed my babe, and then came back to it.

I will once again enjoy the work I put in before the baby came by taking advantage of a few of my freezer items – the Cinnamon Apple Oat Bake, Smoothie packs, and Fennel Orange Chicken.

I realized later that I missed some ingredients on this list! I had to send my husband to the store on his way home from work to pick up my Baked Ziti ingredients (see recipe below).

Meatless Monday

Apple Cinnamon Oat Bake (freezer meal)

From my postpartum freezer meal prep, I had forgotten how much this recipe made! I definitely don’t need all of this in one week, so I thawed it out just slightly enough to be able to divide it in half, and refroze the rest. It’s about 10 servings total. (That missing corner down below was from the day I made it, a cook has to taste her work 😉

Chickpea, Pesto, Tomato Mozz Salad

This is delicious and so stinking easy, I’ll be revisiting it often.

INGREDIENTS (makes 2 servings)

  •  1/2 pint chopped cherry tomatoes
  • 1/4 of an English Cucumber, sliced into thick rounds and then quartered
  • 1/2 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  •  2 Tbl pesto (this time I used jarred, but my husband makes an amazing pesto – I’ll include that recipe next time….)
  •  1/4 cup shredded mozzarella (this would be amazing with fresh mozzarella, but I was keeping it simple and reducing the number of items on my shopping list this week)
  •  Salt and black pepper to taste

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Assemble all ingredients in a bowl, mix and enjoy !

What to do with the other half can of chickpeas? I roasted them – makes a really good snack and very easy. Heat oven to 350 degrees, cover chickpeas in a generous amount of olive oil, lightly salt and roast until crispy, about 20 mins. You’ll definitely want to blot with paper towel to get some of the oil off after roasting.

Vegetable Stir-Fry w/Soy free Teriyaki Sauce

Have you noticed how soy seems to be an ingredient in EVERYTHING? Even things where its pretty unexpected. In general, I’m trying to avoid too much soy, so I went searching for a good stir-fry sauce without it, and found a Paleo Teriyaki. You can of course use bottled teriyaki or another sauce to keep it simple if you prefer. If you are making the sauce, my advice is to make it ahead of time (in one of those mom pockets of time).

Soy Free Teriyaki Sauce

INGREDIENTS

  • ½ cup coconut aminos
  • ¼ cup fresh orange juice or water
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp fresh grated ginger
  • 3 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
  • 1/8 tsp chili flakes
  • 2 tsp tapioca flour (optional- if you want your sauce to be thicker, I did not use)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Mix the coconut aminos, orange juice, honey, ginger, garlic and chili flakes in a small saucepan and heat it over medium heat. If you are using tapioca flour, mix it with 2 tablespoon of cold water and add the mixture into the sauce and cook until thicken. If not using tapioca, just simmer the sauce until thickened.

Veggie Stir-Fry

INGREDIENTS (serves 2)

  • One bell pepper, roughly chopped
  • One white onion, diced
  • handful Mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbl olive oil
  • 1 green onion (optional) sliced
  • 3/4 cup brown rice (dry)

INSTRUCTIONS

  • First cook the rice, this can also be done early (even the day or 2 before). I cooked a double batch (1.5 cups dry) so that I would have some ready for my pesto rice salad later in the week. I used my rice cooker per manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Heat a large non-stick skillet or wok, over high heat.
  • Add the olive oil, onions, garlic, sprinkle with salt, and cook covered for about 15, or until onions are caramelized, stirring occasionally.
  • After onions are caramelized, remove them and place in a small bowl; set aside.
  • Add the mushrooms, peppers, celery and teriyaki sauce and simmer uncovered for 3 to 5 minutes, or until slightly reduced.
  • Add the onions back to the skillet and cook for about 1 minute
  • Put 3/4 cups of rice into each (2) bowls and divide the vegetable & sauce mixture amongst them
  • Sprinkle green onion on top (sesame seeds would also be good to add)

Tuesday

For Breakfast I just heated up another piece of the Apple Cinnamon Oat Bake and made a decaf cappuccino.

I actually didn’t end up making the Pesto Rice salad today because I still have some leftover Beef Chili from the weekend, and didn’t want to waste it. So I’ll push the Brown Rice Salad to Wednesday.

Since I didn’t have to make breakfast or lunch (and baby girl has been sleeping a lot today) I decided to make the PB & Jam cookies. I actually wasn’t sure if I would end up making these this week or not (I planned to, but wasn’t sure if I would be able to make it happen) as they are more effort for a ‘snack’ than I might have available, but it worked out. They are a great postpartum snack because they include some of our lactation boosting superfoods (oats and flax) and they are filling and tasty.

PB & Jam Cookies

I got the recipe from Sweet Peas and Saffron, who is a meal-prepping goddess, and I didn’t make any modifications.

INGREDIENTS (yields 6 cookies, I kept 3 for this week and froze 3)

  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil melted
  • 2/3 cup natural peanut butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup ground flax
  • 6 tablespoons jam of choice (I used no sugar added Smuckers Fruit & Honey, and yes those are my son’s matchbox cars in the background)

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Heat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  • Melt coconut oil in a large bowl. Stir in the peanut butter, eggs, vanilla and honey until smooth.
  • Add the rolled oats, flour, baking powder and ground flax. Mix until completely combined.
  • Scoop out 1/4 cup portions and shape them on the baking sheet into a round cookie with an indent in the middle.
  • Spoon in 1 tablespoon of jam in the center of each cookie.
  • Bake for 13-15 minutes, until edge around the bottoms start to brown.
  • Cool completely before storing away for 3-4 days in a sealed container.

Infused Water

For this week, I’m doing cucumber ginger infused water since I needed those ingredients for other dishes as well. I took 1/4 of an English cucumber, chopped and 2″ of ginger, peeled and chopped. I will refill the water in the jug over the next 2 days as needed, then dump the cucumber/ginger and make a fresh batch on the third day.

Baked Ziti w/ Chicken

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2lb ziti pasta
  • 1lb Ricotta Cheese
  • 1/2cup grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 3 cups shredded Mozzarella Cheese
  • 3 cups pasta sauce – I recommend a hearty sauce with garlic for this dish
  • 3 cups shredded chicken (I recommend a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken to keep this simple)

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook ziti in boiling, salted water until al dente (firm).
  • Drain pasta and place in a large bowl
  • In a medium sized bowl combine the Ricotta and half (1.5cups) Mozzarella
  • Add cheese mixture to ziti and mix
  • Grease a 9×13″ pan (or separate into two smaller pans to freeze half for another meal – this is what I did)
  • Cover bottom of dish with half of the sauce
  • Spoon the ziti mixture over the sauce
  • Add chicken evenly through the dish
  • Cover with remaining sauce
  • Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and the remaining mozzarella cheese
  • Bake for 20 to 30 mins
  • Remove from oven and let stand for 10mins for easier serving

Wednesday

OK – yesterday my little one slept really well, and was on a regular schedule eating every 2-3hrs and sleeping in between – it was great, but it didn’t continue through the night. Last night she wanted to feed pretty constantly from 1AM to 5AM, and was very unhappy anytime I’d put her down. So lets just say I’m exhausted today, and I foresee miss fussy pants will continue today as well (so far at least).

So I didn’t make an omelette this morning, but just warmed up some more Apple Cinnamon Oat Bake, and my coffee today is half and half (half caffeinated, half decaf) because mama needs a pick-me-up. Luckily my toddler was happy to have some Oat Bake as well, and I was able to gobble up my breakfast in 5 minutes flat.

Sometimes, the little one just want to be held, so let yourself get nothing done and just be with the newborn. I know how quickly this period flies by and I want to make sure I spend that special time with my baby and give myself a break if everything else (except for my son, of course) falls by the wayside.

Snuggle Time

I’ve been drinking this Organic Milkmaid tea Organic Milkmaid Tea by Earth Mama | Supports Healthy Breastmilk Production and Lactation, Herbal Breastfeeding Tea Supplement, 16 Count – its delicious and I feel like it does help with supply, but today I got the perfect message on my teabag, it says “its OK to not love every single minute”. Isn’t that the truth? Some days its hard to have a newborn, that’s a fact – and we need to take it easy on ourselves (and each other). Sometimes I feel like Supermom and other days it feels like a struggle, but I know I love this little lady and that is all that matters in the end!

I did manage to make my lunch, even though it took a couple tries to get through it. I was able to feel some sense of accomplishment for eating a healthy lunch!

Brown Rice Salad with Pesto Vinaigrette

I found this recipe at From the Larder, to keep it simple I left out the fresh parsley and dill (I added the almonds after I had snapped the pic).

INGREDIENTS (for two servings):

  • 175 g brown rice
  • 2 celery stalks diced
  • 1 yellow pepper diced
  • ½ red onion finely chopped
  • ½ cucumber de-seeded, diced
  • 150 g cherry tomatoes halved
  • 40 g flaked almonds toasted
  • 2 large handfuls parsley finely chopped
  • 1 medium handful dill finely chopped

pesto vinaigrette:

  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • juice of ½ small lemon
  • 4 tablespoons pesto (any kind, homemade or shop bought – whatever you have in your fridge)
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Cook the brown rice according to the packet instructions then leave to cool (or hopefully you have some leftover cooked rice from Monday)
  • Meanwhile mix all the salad ingredients together in a large bowl and add to the rice once cool.
  • To make the vinaigrette, whisk the Dijon and lemon along with some salt and pepper in a small bowl until thickened.
  • Whisk in the pesto then drizzle in the olive oil whisking all the time until the dressing has come together.
  • Pour over the rice salad, mixing in well.
  • Store the salad in the fridge until needed.

Thursday

Today little miss and I ventured out into the world for the first time (other than her doctor’s appointments). We went to the coffee shop where I shamelessly enjoyed a delicious donut and iced coffee (decaf) and then the grocery store. I didn’t attempt a full shopping, just fruit, veggies and essentials. I plan to order the rest via delivery from Whole Foods, which is such an awesome service – definitely take advantage of grocery delivery if your local store offers it! I do find that I don’t receive the best produce when I go with the delivery option though, which is why we made our little trip. It was great to be out and about, and she basically slept the whole time (cars tend to have that effect) so I’m declaring it a victory!

Tuna Tomato Melt

This is a great little lunch. Low carb but filling, and looks pretty too! I got the idea from Skinnytaste but just made my typical tuna salad that I like (I don’t use mayo) and I’ve included my recipe below – and snuck in some Cape Cod chips.

INGREDIENTS (for 2 servings)

  • Tuna filets in olive oil – I love this brand, high quality and they also have flavors like w/oregano or w/jalapeño (which would work great for tuna salad). Its even more expensive in the store so I like to buy via Amazon for a better price! I use all the tuna and about 1 tablespoon of the oil in the jar to mix into the tuna salad
  • 1 tsp Mustard (I use the olive oil from the tuna and mustard as the ‘sauce’ of my tuna instead of mayo)
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 1 small carrot, diced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 large tomatoes
  • 2 slices cheddar cheese

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Mixd the first 5 ingredients together in a small bowl.
  • Set oven to Broil and arrange rack 1 note down from top
  • Slice the top of each tomato and clear out some of the seeds.
  • Fill each tomato shell with half of the tuna salad
  • Cover each tomato with 1 slice of cheese
  • Broil tomato sandwiches for ~2 minutes until cheese is fully melted

I moved my freezer meal – Chicken with Orange and Fennel – to today, just wanted to take advantage of work that was already done 🙂 The important thing to remember for the freezer meals is to thaw overnight or very early in the morning before you plan to cook it. This one, (recipe in my post on freezer meal prep) cooked on low for 6 hours and was really tasty – something a little different with chicken is always welcomed.

Friday

I still had a little Apple Cinnamon Oat Bake left, so I finished it off for breakfast. I made it a little special with strawberries, blueberries and whip cream – my toddler had some berries in whip cream too!

My mother-in-law is visiting from out of state (to meet her new granddaughter!) so we were a little off plan today – we went out for pizza for lunch! So I’m going to push the turkey sloppy joes to next week, we have to be flexible!

Saturday

Brunch! I am happy to report we successfully went out to brunch with both kids and it wasn’t a disaster. This may never happen again….

French toast with blueberry compote, bacon, coffee, chicken and waffles for my husband – delicious!

Bacon anyone?
Sleeping Beauty

She’s in there – I promise! This nursing/carseat/stroller cover is a lifesaver – I use it to cover her up in public, it shields her from some of the noise and light in a restaurant for example (which helps keep her calm and sleepy) but I also use it on her stroller to completely shield her from the sun (just be careful it doesn’t get too hot in there) and then its also a nursing cover/scarf – score!

Chicken Wild Rice Soup – Instant Pot

You may have noticed I like gadgets – kitchen gadgets. This has been especially true since becoming a mother – where before I may have been able to perfectly cook rice on the stovetop every time, now I prefer the dump it and leave it approach. As my toddler likes to say, “I too busy”. The rice cooker is definitely one of my most used items, it is great for meal prep because you can make a batch of rice or quinoa on Sunday for healthy meals throughout the week!

For rice or noodle based soups, I always cook the rice/pasta separately. If I’m making a big batch of soup (and plan on enjoying the leftovers) I definitely don’t want leftover rice in there – it ‘drinks’ up all the broth and gets totally mushy. I find it works better to cook it separately, then just add a little into each individual bowl when its time to serve it – then the next day I do the same and can enjoy the leftovers longer. This recipe is inspired by The Kitchen Magpie, but I made a handful of changes.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 3 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1 white onion diced
  • 3 carrots peeled and diced
  • 3 stalks celery diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3/4 cup wild rice, dry

This recipe only calls for two chicken breast, and the package comes with three, so I saved one that I’ll bake tomorrow and use for salads/lunches next week.

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Cook wild rice in rice cooker or other method
  • While rice is cooking, add all ingredients except rice into the instant pot
  • Press the Soup button and cook for 45 minutes
  • When ready, remove the chicken breasts onto a plate and shred them. Mix back into the soup.
  • To serve add ~1/5th of the rice to each bowl and spoon in soup.
  • Store leftover rice separately from leftover soup
Big batch of soup!

Tomorrow (Sunday) I’ll mostly eat leftovers – my remaining PB & Jam cookie, soup, etc and start prepping for next week. Here’s my next postpartum meal plan:

parenting · postpartum

Make the most of your Postpartum Time : Week 2

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Time already feels like it is moving by too fast! This week I was able to get back to some of those ‘To-Do’s’ I had put off and add a few more things into my routine.

  1. Thank you notes
  2. Birth Announcements!
    • This is a fun one. The hospital where I delivered has an in-house photographer, so we were able to have the pictures taken within the first couple days of our daughter’s life. I had packed a special outfit, and they came out great!
    • I ordered the actual announcements from Minted Birth Announcements at Minted– they make it so easy to create a cute layout, and to have all the envelopes pre-printed with addresses for delivery, saving me precious time!B
  3. Walking
    • After a New England winter, any sign of Spring is so welcome and enjoyable. We had a couple of warm days this week and I took advantage by getting out for walks with the stroller. Baby was pretty bundled up and shielded from the sun, but the fresh air does us all good! My son has also been loving playing outside after being cooped up all winter, so walking (or even bringing the strider bike and helmet along) is an easy activity we can all do together.
  4. Pumping
    • After spending the first week focused on ensuring my baby was getting enough milk and gaining weight, this week I started pumping.
    • I pump for two reasons – (1) I will be going back to work (sooner than I would like) and need to get started storing some milk away. (2) Pumping can help to increase or keep up supply.
    • Pumping while breastfeeding full-time is a lot of work. This milk is “extra” – over and beyond what baby needs, so there won’t be much milk per pumping session, which can be discouraging but is totally normal.
    • Pumping in addition to breastfeeding can help increase supply as it fully drains the milk from your breasts and signals to your body to make more.
    • There are a few things I try to do to be sure I’m getting the most out of my pumping – after baby feeds I pump. I get very little milk, (~0.5oz total) but its more about completely emptying my breasts.
    • Sometimes I will pump and nurse simultaneously so both breasts are engaged at the same time, then I still have the baby switch over to that side after the pumping is done. This results in a little bit more milk to store, but I have to admit I don’t love doing this. It just kind of ruins the nice, calm nursing session for my babe, but is sometimes necessary.
    • One thing about the pump itself, having the correct size shields can make a difference. If you’re going to put in all this work pumping, you want to yield the best result possible, right? So its worth checking that your shield is pulling in the right amount of your nipple and aureola to maximize effectiveness. I actually use two different sizes, as one of my nipples is slightly smaller than the other!
Medela Guide to Breast Shield Sizing

I can’t really talk about pumping or milk supply and not mention drinking water! This is a big focus for me every day because I know how important it is. The issue is not that your supply will be affected (you will continue to produce milk until you are significantly dehydrated), the issue is that you will suffer. Your body will take care of the baby first, making sure the baby and breast milk is taken care of, but you may be left dehydrated and symptoms include tiredness, lack of energy, moodiness, headaches, etc – not what we need with a newborn!

I consistently see the recommendation of about 1/2 to 3/4 of an ounce of water per pound of your weight. So if you weigh 140 lbs, this would be 70-105 oz of water per day. Of course we do get water from other sources (coffee, tea, juice, vegetables we eat, etc) so you could figure at least 10% of your targeted consumption will come from what you are eating.

Keep in mind that water intake varies per individual and your needs may be more or less than the recommendation given. Best advice is drink to thirst and check your urine color to determine the right amount for you.

I like to make a pitcher of infused water every few days to supplement my plain old filtered water. This just helps to keep it interesting and tasty. This week I was doing lemon and strawberry.

Meal Prep · parenting · postpartum · Recipes

With Love from my Kitchen – healthy Postpartum Meal Plan

In my last blog post on the first week post-partum, I introduced a meal plan (shown below). This isn’t necessarily low-calorie (depending on your calorie needs and your serving sizes) since I am exclusively breast-feeding and need to keep calories up to ensure supply, but it is a healthy, balanced meal plan. Based on Myfitness pal logging (love that app) I was consuming between 1400-1700 calories each day. A given as part of the meal plan is water. Hydration is SO important for breast-feeding mamas, and as part of a healthy lifestyle in general. I was getting in around 80oz a day.

After I laid out my plan and completed my shopping, we received a wonderful surprise, my mother delivered a huge pot of Beef Bourguignon, complete with mashed potatoes and buttery carrots! This is one of my mother’s specialties (a Julia Child recipe I will supply below) and one of our absolute favorites, so my meal-plan had to modify a little to accommodate, which I was happy to do! I dropped the freezer meal, that’s easy to save for next week.

My new meal plan became:

Meatless Monday

Low-Carb Waffles

Completed as part of freezer meal prep or as detailed below. Adapted from All the Nourishing Things.

  1. Cover 3/4 cup raw cashews in water and soak overnight (or 8 hrs)
  2. Drain and rinse the soaked cashews, then add them to a high-powered blender
  3. Add the remaining ingredients, in the order listed, to the blender:
    • 1/2 cup water
    • 3 eggs
    • 3 tablespoons coconut flour
    • 3 tablespoons coconut oil
    • 3 tablespoons Sugar (or leave out for savory waffles)
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla (or leave out for savory waffles)
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
    • pinch salt
  4. Start by blending on low speed, then increase the speed to medium-high, then back down to low.
  5. Blend until completely smooth.
  6. Pour into your waffle maker, and cook according to the manufacturer’s instructions. (Everyone told me I’d never use my waffle maker when I registered for it before getting married, but I use it all the time – waffle junkie!)
  7. Add cooled waffles to freezer bag – to reheat, just pop in toaster oven (or actual oven) until warm and crispy!

A simple garden salad and whole wheat english muffin grilled cheese for lunch, with a side of red grapes.

Mushroom and Artichoke Fettuccine

Made the Mushroom & Artichoke Fettuccine from DamnDelicious for dinner. This was easy, hearty and well, damn delicious.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 12 ounces fettuccine
  • 1 (14-ounce) can quartered artichoke hearts, drained
  • 8 ounces cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium high heat, combine fettuccine, artichoke hearts, mushrooms, onion, garlic, basil, thyme, red pepper flakes and 4 1/2 cups water; season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  2. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until pasta is cooked through and liquid has reduced, about 12-15 minutes.
  3. Stir in spinach, Parmesan and butter until the spinach has wilted, about 2-3 minutes.
  4. Serve immediately.

Tuesday

Lactation Smoothie

Completed as part of Freezer Meal Prep (be sure to thaw in the fridge overnight to be able to blend in the AM) or as detailed below.

  1. Add 1 banana, 1/2 cup frozen strawberries, 1/4 cup old fashioned oats, 1 tbsp peanut butter, and 1 cup almond milk to blender.
  2. Sprinkle in flax seeds.

Asian Style Chicken Salad

I can’t really explain why this is call ‘Asian-style’ as there aren’t too many ingredients that I would normally associate with an asian dish. However it is really tasty and a perfect lunch. The chicken and dressing should be prepped ahead and then its a quick and easy assembly each time you’re ready to eat it. This dressing recipe makes a large batch, so you can expect to have some leftover.

INGREDIENTS

  1. 2 heads iceberg lettuce (or mix in some darker greens for added nutrition, but the iceberg has a nice crunch)
  2. 4 chicken breasts – par boil slowly
  3. 1/4 cup poppy seeds
  4. 1-3/4 cups slivered almonds
  5. 3 scallions – finely chopped
  6. Chow mein noodles

Dressing

  1. 12 tsp red wine vinegar
  2. 1-1/2 cup salad oil
  3. 3/4 tsp pepper
  4. 3 tsp salt
  5. 6 tsp sugar

Dressing should be refrigerated overnight before serving.

Beef Bourguignon

When I got married, my mother had assembled some of her best recipes, some of my childhood favorites, and some Holiday recipes into a book – I use it often, and Beef Bourguignon is included there – of course! Given that I am breastfeeding, and you might be too, the first thing you might notice is that there’s a fair amount of booze in this recipe! Yes there is, but it cooks for a long enough time that all the alcohol burns off, so it is nursing friendly. I wouldn’t neccessarily recommend making this yourself if you have a newborn though, it may be a little too involved. File it away for later or see if you can get someone to make it for you, hehe! All the other recipes I have been choosing are super quick and simple, because I don’t want to take on too much – the babe is the main priority…

Wednesday

Spinach and Cheese Omelette

  1. Mix together 1 cup of chopped spinach, 1/4cup shredded cheddar cheese, and two eggs in a same bowl, season with salt and pepper. (This is 1 serving)
  2. Heat a small skillet over medium-high heat until hot, spray with EVOO and pour in egg mixture.
  3. Gently tilt pan and push cooked portions from the edges until the full omelette is cooked. Serve immediately.

Lemon Garlic Salmon

This time I cooked in a foil packet on my inside grill, but you can bake the salmon as well and it will be delicious.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound wild salmon fillet
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (or avocado oil)
  • 1 tablespoon Herbs de Provence, dill, or Italian Seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 large lemon sliced into rounds

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat your grill to medium-high
  2. Place the salmon on one large sheet of foil
  3. Mix the lemon zest with oil in a small bowl
  4. Drizzle fish with oil mixture and coat the flesh of the salmon in oil. Sprinkle with seasoning of choice and sea salt.
  5. Place lemon slices on top of the salmon fillet and wrap in foil to create a foil packet.
  6. Place foil packet on the grill and cover the grill. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes, or until salmon is cooked through (or reaches desired done-ness). Cook times will vary depending on the thickness of the salmon.

Thursday

No new recipes for today!

Friday

I took the pack of chicken and separated into 2 large breasts to use for Caprese chicken, along with some chicken strips to use for the garden salad. I just simply bake the chicken strips with olive oil, Italian seasoning, and a little salt and pepper for about 20 minutes.

Caprese Chicken and Spaghetti Squash

From Confessions of a Fit Foodie recipe (with small modifications)

INGREDIENTS (for 2 servings)

  • 2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • olive oil cooking spray
  • 1/2 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • kosher salt
  • black pepper
  • 1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 red onion, diced
  • 2 tbsp. shredded basil
  • 2/3 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 spaghetti squash

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cut Spaghetti Squash in half length-wise. Spray insides with EVOO and sprinkle with salt/pepper
  3. Bake squash cut side down on a cookie sheet (covered with aluminum foil) for about 20 minutes or until outside shell is soft.
  4. While squash is baking, heat a large skillet with olive oil and season chicken with salt and pepper.
  5. Cook chicken over medium heat until golden and cooked through, about 6-8 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.
  6. Lower heat to medium low and add the two teaspoons of olive oil to the pan. Add onion and stir for a few minutes or until they begin soften.
  7. Add garlic and stir for 1 minute or until fragrant.
  8. Add tomatoes and balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with salt and let simmer until soft, about 4-5 minutes.
  9. Stir in a tablespoon of basil. Return chicken to skillet and nestle in tomatoes. Top evenly with mozzarella and cover with lid to melt cheese.
  10. Remove spaghetti squash from oven and use a fork to scrap out ‘spaghetti’ into bowl.
  11. Spoon tomatoes, chicken and sauce over spaghetti squash and garnish with remaining basil.

Delicious and Healthy!

Saturday & Sunday

Instant Pot Beanless Beef Chili

This meal is great because it is so quick and easy – from start to finish 30 mins. I didn’t end up adding the bell pepper to mine as I was short on time, and reduced some of the quantities (beef, tomatoes w/chilies) as I was only cooking for 2 adults, but otherwise I followed this recipe from Confessions of a Fit Foodie as written. I will definitely make this one again – really good. If you are breastfeeding, you may also want to reduce the heat level do be sure it will agree with the baby 🙂

INGREDIENTS

  • 1½ pounds ground beef
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1 1/2 cups carrots,peeled and diced
  • 1 cup of bell peppers, diced
  • 2 cups of zucchini, cut into half moons
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 15-ounce can tomato puree or tomato sauce
  • 2 small cans of tomatoes with green chilies

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Set your Instant Pot to Saute and brown beef until beef is thoroughly cooked, adding garlic for the last minute. Drain excess fat, set aside.
  2. Add oil, onions, celery, carrots, peppers, and seasonings to the Pot and saute until onions are translucent. Add zucchini, cooked beef, tomatoes, and sauce to the pot and stir.
  3. Cover IP and be sure valve is set to sealing. Set to manual and cook for 20 minutes. After cook time, switch to venting for quick release.

Next Week’s Meal Plan

Here’s my plan for next week! Planning to be healthy and keeping it simple!

parenting · postpartum

Make the most of your Postpartum Time : Week 1

The first week after the baby is born is all about recovery and settling in. Whether this is your first baby or you’ve been down this road before – this is a special, hectic, messy time!

Today (or tonight, really) my newborn will be turning 1 week-old, so here’s how my first week went.

After the night of my delivery, I spent two additional nights in the hospital. As much as I wanted to get back to my own home, own shower, and own food, I know how valuable this time is – round the clock professional care for myself and my baby? Yes, please! My priority was for my husband and I to get some sleep while we had all this extra help, so we let the baby go to the nursery in between feedings each night. This also works out well for the hospital staff as they have numerous checks and vaccinations to complete, etc – that they would schedule during the same time.

Another important goal during the hospital stay is to help your body heal – I knew that once I got home I would be moving around so much more (chasing after a 2 year-old as well) that my bleeding and pain/discomfort would increase – and it did. So during the time at the hospital its was important to rest, get into a care routine where the peri-bottle and ice packs became my best friends, and stock up on disposable undies to use later!

Lastly – I took advantage of the lactation specialist during my stay. I had nursed my son for 9 months, and my goal is to do at least the same for my daughter. Even though I had nursed for such a long time (and it wasn’t that long ago) I still found it extremely helpful to hear from the specialist. Reminders on how to latch, different position options, how to tell if she’s feeding correctly, etc. All extremely helpful. Since most babies lose weight in their first couple days of birth (especially exclusively breastfed babies) if you are breastfeeding you are going to want to feel confident that your baby is getting enough to eat. Proper form also reduces pain and complications for the mother and helps keep your supply up. The baby is the best pump for you and if she feeds correctly your supply will be plentiful! So my main job after returning home was to establish a good feeding “routine” (essentially feeding on demand at this point, sometimes she would be hungry after 30mins, sometimes 3hrs) and to make sure she was gaining back the weight she lost. We have a small baby scale we purchased for my son (you can see it was from Babies R’Us, still so upset they are gone because it was so convenient to be able to run out and get whatever little thing we needed right away) and this is great to eliminate any question on if she’s gaining weight or not.

Fortunately, we’ve had a productive week and she is well over her original birth weight. The general guidance is that most babies should regain any lost weight by days 10-14 of life, and most babies lose 5-10% of their birth weight in the first 5 days or so of life (breastfed babies will typically at the higher end of this range).

What worked for me is to offer the breast anytime she woke or was fussy. If she didn’t take it – then I would look for another source for her crying or discomfort, but 90% of the time, she’s hungry! This is really a learning from my experience with my first-born. With him I tended to think ‘he just finished eating 30mins ago, he couldn’t possibly be hungry’ – well I was wrong, the poor kid was probably hungry all the time! Especially early on – they do a lot of cluster feeding, and also nurse to soothe themselves, so expect to spend a lot of time nursing!

This week your baby will also have their first Well-Baby visit – the first of many visits in the first year of baby’s life. There are numerous things to check and discuss at this visit:

  • Measure baby’s weight, length and head circumference – here’s a good reference on newborn averages
  • Check how baby’s umbilical cord and circumcision (as applicable) are healing
  • Check baby’s heartbeat and breathing
  • Check baby’s reflexes
  • Check baby’s skin color looking for signs of jaundice
  • Check baby’s genitals
  • Check baby’s Fontanels (soft spots) and the shape of her head

You’ll also discuss the how the baby is feeding and sleeping, and this is the best time and place to ask any and all questions you may have (there’s no such thing as a stupid question when you have a newborn).

Just completed my first check-up!

Given how much went on this week (its amazing how quickly your life can change!) there are also a couple things I didn’t worry about this week

  • My weight or getting my body back – this week, I didn’t worry about my diet, other than wanting to make sure I was eating enough to help establish my milk supply. I didn’t even think about exercise, as I wanted my body to heal. There is time for this in the weeks to come, but was not my priority this week.
  • Thank you notes and other ‘To-do’s’. With various baby gifts arriving the thank-you notes are on my list but will have to wait. Returning phone calls and emails or messages will also have to wait. This is a special time for our little family of four and its ok to be a little selfish.

One important reminder though – get that baby added to your insurance. This is one ‘To-do’ I checked off before leaving the hospital.

So, what did I feed my family this week? The first night we got home we dug into one of our Freezer Meals that I had prepared before baby arrived – what a lifesaver! We went for the turkey lasagna rolls, and this was dinner for mom, dad, and brother for our first two nights back – it was delicious, even though it looks a little messy. Timing worked out that we were actually all able to sit down and eat together too which my toddler loved, “we’re all together” he said happily.

Otherwise I ate fruit, cereal, or Lactation Cookies (also from my Freezer Meals prep) for breakfasts, sandwiches for lunch (tuna sandwich with a small cappuccino shown below), and we even did a ‘breakfast for dinner’ night with a spinach omelette – quick to make and good to eat!

Looking forward to my Post-partum (PP) week 2 however, I do want to start getting back into my normal groove of planning a weekly menu of healthy nutritious meals for the family. Here’s the plan:

I like to do Meatless Monday – but if you are following no meat on Friday’s for Lent you could easily switch the days around to accommodate. I did not do a big prep session for this week, thats a little too ambitious for me for week 2. I plan to prep as I go during the week and fit it in between feedings, snuggling with the baby, etc. We’ll see how that works out!

Since today is Monday, I’ve already started following this plan, the Low Carb Waffles (also from Freezer Meals prep) were delicious – like crave-worthy delicious.

Here’s the recipe I’ll be using for the Mushroom & Artichoke Fettuccine from DamnDelicious – it looks yummy and hearty which is perfect for a vegetarian meal!

I can’t wait to try it!

parenting · pregnancy · Sibling

Preparing your Toddler for the End of the World (or for the birth of their sibling)

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In some ways, the birth of a sibling is the end of the world for your toddler, especially as they know it. Your first-born will now have to compete for your attention, will see you caring for another child, singing and reading to someone else, etc; and that is hard. We’ve all heard stories of kids asking to ‘return’ the baby to the hospital after a few days. One friend told me the story of her 3 year-old daughter packing a suitcase for the new baby and leaving it at the door. She was ready to take action! It’s impossible to predict how your child will react, but there are some things you can do to help prepare your little one and hopefully avoid the apocalypse – this is a happy occasion after all!

1. Start Early

As soon as we knew we were expecting, we starting talking to our son about his new sibling, then sister once we knew it was a girl. This gave him a nice long runway to get used to the idea. As my tummy grew, he would help me feel for movement and we started practicing how to be ‘gentle to sister’ right away.

We also got a book called I’m a Big Brother by Joanna Cole that went into rotation of our nightly story time. There were times he would reject it, “I don’t want brother”, and I would just put it down and move on, but overall it started to familiarize him with some key concepts.

2. Include him or her in Preparations

When it came time to start pulling the nursery together, I once again enlisted my toddler’s help. At baby stores I would ask his opinion – “which pillow would sister like?” We also picked some of his toys and books that he had outgrown to give to his sister. Even though a few of the things he had picked he eventually decided to take back “this not sisters, this Sean’s”, I think it still helped to understand that he’ll need to share with her. He loved going into sisters room often and making sure everything was in order.

3. Remind him of his own Journey

We spent a fair amount of time looking at his newborn pictures. I’m not 100% certain that he fully understood that those were pictures of him (he only recently turned two) but he was very interested in the photos. I thought it would be good to remind him how much love and attention he received as a little baby so he wouldn’t feel jealous of his new sister. This is something we’re still doing during this first week of having the baby hone, to make sure he feels special.

4. Make it as Fun as Possible

For us, my son went to stay with my parents for the time I was in labor and recovering at the hospital. He loves Grandma and Grandpa, but had never spent this long away from us, so I wasn’t sure how he would do, but he did great! He had so much fun I was afraid he wouldn’t want to come home! They took him to some fun places, and know how to be perfectly silly with him, but there were also a few things we did that worked out well:

To make sure he wouldn’t miss home:

  • Packed a few of his favorite toys
  • Packed some his favorite foods
  • Packed his blanket and pillow
  • Recreated the bedtime routine including his 30mins of Mickey Mouse’s Clubhouse (this is the only tv he watches in a day)

To make sure he knew we were thinking of him:

  • Bought a couple new toys from Mommy and Daddy for him to open when he arrived at Grandma and Grandpa’s house
    • A ‘big boy’ puzzle fit for a big brother
    • New coloring book
    • New stickers
    • Customized Book – Sean the Great he loved this – I found it on the Hallmark website and you can customize with your child’s name and likeness, there are a few options to choose from. Since he has been home I’ve probably read the book to him a dozen times already.
  • I also bought him a gift ‘from sister’ that I wrapped and packed in my hospital bag – we gave it to him when he came to visit us. This was a huge hit and I highly recommend it. Not only do these little things help him associate his sister’s birth as a positive experience, it also just makes him feel included. The report from my folks was that he kept repeating that the toy was ‘from sister’ and loved playing with it!

5. Don’t let his whole World Change

To the extent possible, keep things unchanged. If you had special activities, games or jokes, try to keep doing them. In my case, we made sure his bedtime routine was unaffected. After dinner he has a bath, pajamas, then comes downstairs for an episode of Mickey’s Clubhouse and his milk. I bring him up and read him a couple books, then switch with Daddy who gets in him his crib and spends a few minutes with him. This way, our son still gets his special time with each of us at the end of the day.

Now, I foresee that when I return to work this may change, and certainly in time we’ll need to establish a bedtime routine for our daughter as well – but for now at least it seems we’ve been able to avoid the end of the world.