Thursday, March 31, 2011

How to Make Baby Food - Plums

Plums are a great fruit to introduce early on to your little one. They're extremely nutritious, and I like them because of the thin consistancy they make when pureed - making it easy for babies to eat without choking.

There are a few ways you can make plums for your baby. You can bake them in the oven, or you can boil them in water. I chose the boiling method.

To start, scrub the fruit clean. You should do this with any fruit or vegetable you serve to your baby..or yourself!


Next, carve an "X" in the bottom of the fruit. This will help it to "stand" while in the pot of boiling water.



Add the plums to a small pot. (I apologize for having two very different colored ones. I told my husband to pick up at least one ripe one, but then forgot how little puree one plum makes, so I had to cook both of them!). You want the water to go almost to the top, but not cover them completely, otherwise they will float.




Bring the water to a boil, and boil the plums until you can easily stick a fork in them. You will need to turn them over at some point so that the tops cook as well. Don't worry if they start to peel..this will be helpful after you're done boiling!

When the plums are soft, drop them into cold water. This helps with the peeling process, and I usually peel them in the water, or under the faucet in cold water.



Once they are peeled, cut them into chunks, and throw away the seed in the middle.


Add them to the blender of your choice and blend until smooth. The fruit already has enough water in it, so you do not need to add any.


Be careful because the few times I've done this, I have noticed some chunks left in the mix, no matter how much I blend them. I usually just take those out, and there's enough smooth liquid left over.

Poor into the container of your choice and refrigerate or freeze!

Do note, that one plum does not make very much..maybe just a tablespoon or two, so making a few at a time is a good idea.

Enjoy!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Being Frugal: The Coupon Train

It's no secret that saving money is on just about everyone's radar these days. It's a necessity, but something that can be really difficult to do, unless you know a few secrets, and have a little time.

I can't keep secrets, and my time is precious. So, I'm excited to share with you the tricks I've been learning to save a buck or two, and also how I fit it into my already packed schedule.

Couponing is complicated. I've always really avoided it because it seemed like just too much work. But a few months ago, I decided to give it a shot. There are two ways you can coupon: you can go the quick and easy route to save a few bucks, or you can go the intense "it's a big part of my life" and save a lot of bucks. Right now, I go the quick and easy route, because that's what works for me.

The key to couponing is really only using coupons for things you'd buy anyway. If a you have a "save $1.00 on three boxes of Honey Nut Cheerios" coupon, and they aren't already on your grocery list for the next three weeks, then it's actually extra money that you don't necessarily need to spend. Look for coupons that are relevant to you. For example, I like granola bars. I buy them every week. If there is a coupon for my granola bars, I'll snag it up, because it really is saving me money. Buying a package of Kit-Kats because I have a coupon is wasting money, because I would not have bought them without the coupon. Get it?

So, given that information, I wanted to share with you a neat couponing thing that I do with some girlfriends. We've created a coupon train. The first person on the list, "the conductor," (yes, we really are that cool), takes any coupons from the Sunday paper that she feels may be relevant to the girls in the group, and sends them along to the next person in the list. Person #2, takes what she needs, removes any coupons that have expired, replenishes from her Sunday paper, and passes it along to Person #3. Yesterday, I got the train, and here's what my stash looks like. I particularly like how this train is sorted..it makes it so much easier to go through!


As I went through the stash, I took out the expired coupons, and then took the ones I need.


(I have over $10.00 of savings here!)

Then I cut out any relevant coupons for the girls in my group, and off it will go to the next person on the list!


Now, you ask, how do I have time to do this?? The whole process took me about 30 minutes. I've made couponing part of my Sunday morning routine. When I don't have a train to go through, sorting through the Sunday paper and clipping coupons takes me about 5 minutes. Some weeks I save $10-$15 in one shopping trip. To me, that's worth 5 minutes of my Sunday morning.

If you have a group of friends who are interested in saving money, I recommend this. Once you get going, you build a great stash of savings, and it's something to look forward to in the mail!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Welcome Spring!

It's the first day of spring!! Man, how I look forward to this day every year, and this year, Mother Nature decided to participate. It was in the 50's and sunny...a perfect day to be outside.

I celebrated by spending part of my day with a couple whose wedding I'm shooting later on this year. We ended up at Portland Head Light, and I snagged this quick scenic shot. The water was a perfect blue today.


You can see a few more pictures from today's session on my photography blog. (Did ya like the shameless plug?)

Welcome spring..it's great to see you!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Friday Favorite: The Angelcare Monitor

I've decided that on Fridays (well, let's be honest, my life is busy..on the Fridays that I remember to...) I'm going to highlight a favorite product. Kind of like Oprah's Favorite Things, only I'm not Oprah, and I highly doubt these products will put a flashy label on their product saying "Recommended by Kristina!" But still, I like to share what I like, so here you go.

I thought I'd start with what is hands down the most important and best purchase we made in preparation for Molly's arrival. There are a lot of baby monitors out there. We registered for a video monitor, but when we didn't get it, we considered the Angelcare Deluxe. There are three words to tell you why, as a new parent, you need this monitor: peace of mind.


The thing that makes this monitor different is the movement sensor pad - the large square thing in the photo above. This pad goes under the baby's mattress and detects any motion the baby gives while in the crib. If the pad does not feel motion for 20 seconds, an alarm goes off. It will wake you out of a dead sleep. Trust me, I know.

We've had a few scares. Luckily they were false alarms. I know parents who have not had false alarms, and this monitor literally saved their baby's life. I don't know about you, but I'd rather be safe than sorry. Molly moved into her crib at 3 weeks old. Don't judge us - she was one heck of a grunter and we needed to get what little rest we could. But we felt comfortable making the transition because of this monitor.

Another great feature of this monitor is the temperature display. I have loved being able to wake up at night, and look at the monitor and know that her room is at a comfortable temperature.

We found this monitor at Babies R Us for $149.99. Find yourself one of their awesome 20% off coupons, and you have yourself a great deal. Even without a discount though, it's a heck of a small price to pay to know your baby is safe.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

What's for Dinner?: Chicken and Biscuits Casserole

I love when I try a new recipe and my husband takes the first bite, looks at me and says something to the effect of "this can happen again." This is one of those recipes. I found this on The Pioneer Woman's Tasty Kitchen  recipe database, which is pretty similar to All Recipes. It's easy, its sooooo tasty, and it makes enough for leftovers for the next day. And best of all, its husband approved!

Chicken and Biscuits Casserole


Ingredients

  • 4 cups shredded chicken 
  • 1.5 sticks butter, divided
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 whole small yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 can (14oz) low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 can low sodium cream of chicken soup
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 cups Bisquick Mix
  • 1.5 cups sharp shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup milk

Directions
  1. Prepare shredded chicken. This can be done in a number of ways, but I chose the boiling method: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add three chicken breasts and boil about 20 minutes or until the center is no longer pink. Be careful not to overcook. Remove from water and pull apart with a fork.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  3. In a small saucepan, melt 1 stick of butter with the minced garlic. Saute for 1 minute. Set aside.
  4. Place the shredded chicken in a greased casserole dish.
  5. In a large saucepan, melt the remaining butter. Saute the onions in the butter over medium-high heat for approximately 4 minutes.
  6. Lower the heat and add flour and chicken broth. Simmer for 2-3 minutes.
  7. Remove from the heat and add the cream of chicken soup and salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Pour the mixture over the shredded chicken and mix well.
  9. In a separate bowl, mix the Bisquick, milk, and shredded cheese. Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto the chicken. (Note: depending on the size of your dish, it may not completely cover the mixture. Don't worry, it spreads when it cooks!)
  10. Baste the biscuits with the garlic butter and bake for 22-25 minutes.
I hope you like it as much as we did!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Under the Weather

My munchkin is sick. 

(Taken with my cell phone, hence the poor quality...I was a bit glued to the couch today!)

Every parent will tell you how heartbreaking it is when your baby is sick. Molly's had colds off and on throughout the winter months, and while yes, its been tough to see her not be 100% I haven't been wracked with anguish. It's winter and colds are to be expected. We've had our fair share of calls and visits to see the doctor, but overall her issues have been minor.

The drippy eyes however, started on Saturday. On Sunday she woke up with a cough. I didn't figure it was much more than what we've already been through this winter, until 1:30 this morning when she woke up and didn't go back to sleep. Her cry wasn't the normal, "hey I'm hungry" or "hey guys I'm just in a bad mood" cry, it was a "momma help me, I don't feel good" cry - the one that tugs so hard at your heartstrings that you yourself sit in the rocking chair with tears streaming down your own face because you know you can't make it better.

It was a long night. Finally the two of us ended up on the couch with her comfortable enough on my chest to sleep for an hour or so. A trip to the doctor this morning told us that we were experiencing our first ear infection.

For those of you with new little ones, here's what we learned from the doctor today:

  • Ear infections often start with a common cold which gets worse quickly and clogs up everything, causing the bacteria to grow in the ear. 
  • A sudden change in behavior such as a long fussy night, accompanied by a fever is often a sure sign of an ear infection.
  • Babies over 6 months of age can have infant Motrin or Advil which is more effective than Tylenol in bringing down a fever.
  • Since babies Molly's age still have yet to have several of their vaccinations, amoxicillian is often prescribed to help fight the bacteria. Older babies and kiddos (ages 3+ don't necessarily need the antibiotic as the ear infection will go away on it's own.
  • Antibiotics can often wreak havoc on a child's digestive system. Using a powdered probiotic such as this can help prevent serious diarrhea, yeast infections, and thrust.

So, there's my Kristina M.D. lesson of the day. I'm quickly learning that Dr. Mom may be a very real term after all. Here's hoping my kiddo is back to her giggly, goofy self in just a few days.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Our Little Musician

Yesterday Jim was sitting at the kitchen table with his laptop, and Molly was fascinated with the keys. I mentioned I bet she'd love the piano, and we both looked at each other, quickly remembering the large keyboard we have hidden away. Jim set it up and we let her have at it.

At first she wasn't so sure, but she caught on quickly and was having a ball!





And of course, we had to get a little bit of her first recital on video :)

Friday, March 11, 2011

What's for Dinner?: Grilled Chicken with Lemon Basil Pasta

If you have not yet discovered The Pioneer Woman, now is the time to do so. I won't lie, I kind of have a girl crush on her. She does it all, cooking, teaching, photography, gardening, the list goes on and on.

I recently starting trying out some of her food recipes, and this one very quickly became my new favorite dish. The first time I made it I felt like I was sitting at the Olive Garden. All I needed were the breadsticks and salad!

Grilled Chicken with Lemon Basil Pasta

Ingredients

  • 3-4 chicken breasts, seasoned (I use 2 parts basil, 1 part rosemary, 1/2 part oregano, 1/4 part thyme)
  • 1 lb penne pasta
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 1 jumbo lemon, juiced
  • 3/4 cups heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup half and half
  • 1.5 cups grated parmesean cheese
  • 20 whole fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste

    Directions
    1. Cook chicken breasts. I cook them in strips, but you can cook and strip or cube after if that's easier for you.
    2. Cook the pasta.
    3. Melt the butter over medium heat. Add lemon juice. Whisk together.
    4. Pour in cream and half-and-half. Whisk until hot.
    5. Dump in the cheese and whisk until melted.
    6. Add the salt and pepper.
    7. Pour the pasta and sauce into a large serving bowl. Sprinkle the basil over the top and add the chicken breasts.
    The only thing I do caution is to watch your timing so the cheese mixture is ready just as the pasta and chicken get done. Overall, the recipe is super easy though, and makes enough for leftovers the next day!

    Thursday, March 10, 2011

    The Red Sweater

    My brother Peter asked me to send a few pictures to him of Molly so he can print and frame them. A few weeks ago he bought her this super cute red sweater, and asked if I had any pictures of Molly in it. I didn't, but couldn't resist the photo opp, so of course, I whipped out the camera. Here's my favorite shot from our mini-session. I can't get over how big she is getting!


    Thanks for the new sweater Uncle Pete!

    Sunday, March 6, 2011

    How to Make Baby Food - Green Beans

    Before I had Molly, people often asked me if I would be making my own baby food. I very quickly said something to the effect of "hell no, that would stress me out to no end. I don't have time for stuff like that." But as we got closer to starting her on solids a few weeks back, I thought maybe I'd give it a try. While I never judge anyone who makes different choices than I do (different things work for different families), I didn't really feel great about starting her off on processed purees. So I bought an avocado. I peeled it, I mashed it, and I fed it to my daughter. She loved it, and the whole process of making my own baby food took a whopping 5 minutes. All of a sudden, this wasn't such a bad idea after all.

    After avocado, we moved on to some veggies. While they take a bit more work than peeling and mashing an avocado or banana, it is still a pretty quick and easy process. So, for those of you thinking about maybe making your own food, I thought I'd share how I do it.

    Today I made up a batch of green beans. The key to making baby food is to make enough to freeze and store, that way you aren't making it every day. I make food on Sundays, as part of my "prep for the week" chores that I do anyway.

    Babies R Us sells a bunch of food storage containers. The ones I use aren't listed on their website, but I also have some of these Annabel Karmel BPA free containers. Both sets are great because you can freeze them and then pop them right in the microwave.

    To make baby food, you'll need a food processor or something similar. I use our Bella Cucina blender, a spin-off of the Magic Bullet.  There are also neat baby food processors out there, but I personally don't think its necessary to spend the money if you already have some sort of processing device and a way to cook and steam veggies.


    When choosing vegetables to puree, you can choose fresh or frozen. I personally think that frozen are easier, and frozen veggies actually hold their nutritional value better than fresh. But, either way works. Today I'm using frozen green beans.

    Cook the beans according to the package directions. I boil water, add the beans, bring them back to a boil, cover, and let them simmer until tender, about 7-10 minutes.


    When they are tender, drain them well.


    Add the beans to your food processor. I add just a little bit of water to help thin the puree. You'll know the consistency is right if it moves around once its pureed. Make sure there aren't any chunks. If it's too thick, just add a bit more water until you have it right.



    Add the pureed veggies to your containers, label, and freeze! I put about a tablespoon in each container, but obviously the amount will be adjusted as Molly grows and eats more.


    How easy is that? The frozen food will last for a maximum of 3 months, which is great, because you can really start to build variety in your freezer!

    When you're ready to serve, just pop a container in the microwave (30-45 seconds depending on the food), put into a little dish, and serve 'em up! We tried peas today, and they were a hit!



    I'll post more baby food "how to's" as Molly start's eating more and more. Give it a try, and feel free to post any tips you may have as well!

    Saturday, March 5, 2011

    A Taste of Spring

    I had a photo shoot this morning, and it is a rainy, dreary day here in southern Maine. My friend wanted to have some pictures done at a local greenhouse however, and I wish I could project the smell of the place to this blog.



    It was green. There were flowers. It smelled like dirt. Dare I say it, spring really is on it's way. I left today's shoot with a bounce in my step.

    Friday, March 4, 2011

    Meet the Crew

    So I figure if you're going to be reading about my crazy little family, it might be nice to have a little info about each of us and a face to go with the name. So, let me introduce you to the cast of characters:

    Jim

    This is Jim, aka the hubby. 

    Likes: beer, dogs, coffee, video games, rally car, mountain biking, sleep, food, music, computers. Oh, and Molly and Wifey too.

    Dislikes: vegetables, shopping, republicans (no offense anyone), decaf coffee, and litter box duty.


    Molly

    This is Molly, aka the 5-month old, love of our lives.

    Likes: pooping, eating, sleeping, naps on Dad, singing with Mom, eating the dog's nose, and staring at the kitty.

    Dislikes: nothing. Life is ok for a 5-month old.







    Rowdy

    This is Rowdy, aka Roo, our 2.5 year old chocolate lab.

    Likes: Dad, sticks, tennis balls, swimming, the p-a-r-k (shhhh don't say it too loud), eating, and pooping.

    Dislikes: Mom (ok, it depends on the day), the kitty, the vacuum, and the Roomba.



    Naboo

    This is Naboo, aka the kitty.

    Likes: being pet, eating food, bringing "gifts" upstairs from the basement (in the form of construction gloves and sponges), and mewoing in the dark.

    Dislikes: plastic bags, being held, the dog, having her belly rubbed



    Kristina

    This is Kristina, aka Me.

    Likes: photography, Molly, Hubby, crafting, shopping, reading, traveling, and wine.

    Dislikes: pickles, intolerance (yes, I'm intolerant of intolerance), listening to people eat, grocery shopping, and cold weather.









    So, that's us, that's the crew. I hope you enjoy our stories!

    Thursday, March 3, 2011

    Here we go...again.

    Well hello blogging, I've missed you.

    I've spent quite a bit of time lately debating starting another personal blog. My husband will see this and shake his head at me a good 20 times. Life is busy. Life is really busy. I have a full time job. I have a six-month old daughter. I run a small business. I don't have time to blog. But yet, I miss it, and I've felt that without it, I'm really missing something.

    I used to have a few blogs - our family "here's what life is like" blog, a yummy recipe blog, a crafting blog, and a photography blog. But then I wondered what the point was. Anyone who was reading it saw all of my pictures and status updates on Facebook. It seemed redundant.

    But I miss the storytelling. I miss sharing what I do in more than a 15 word status update. So this blog will have a little bit of it all - the parenting, the crafting, the photography, the cooking. 

    I hope you find it interesting. I hope it makes you laugh, and I hope you get some fun ideas and projects out of it. Just do me one favor - comment. Let me know you read. Let me know you care. After all, I can't just do this for my health. :)