Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Baby Mim - 4 Months

Dear Mim,

Can I just start this post with a big giant THANK YOU for being my baby.  You may just be the greatest little peanut in the world and I have no idea how I got so lucky to get you as mine.  I am so crazy madly in love with you.  Borderline obsessed, is more like it.  You make me happier than I ever thought possible.  
You have been so much fun this month.  It's amazing to watch your little personality develop and has been such a pleasure getting to know you.  You are such a happy laid-back baby.  You love to smile, squeal and laugh.  You quietly watch your big brother so intently when he's around; like you're trying to memorize him and study everything he does.  But as soon as he's not around, you take over the show with big laughs, screams and funny noises.  You have become quite the talker and are super chatty with everyone.  You make the cutest little love noises and squeals.  You love to laugh and will bust out laughing, just because other people laugh, which makes us all laugh even harder.  You give smiles freely and just one smile makes everyone around you fall in love with you.  You are ticklish, which I absolutely love to no end.  Mainly under your chin and on your belly.  Your giggle is the greatest noise ever.  You also just started singing back to us when we sing to you.  I love this!  You're such a big music fan and love it when daddy sings to you or plays you the guitar.  I have a feeling you're going to much more musical than your brother, which will make your daddy so happy.
You are growing like a weed and I'm surprised every day by just how big you're getting.  At your 4 month pediatrician appointment you weighed almost 15 pounds and were 25 inches long.  You're much more of a chunk than your brother was at this age and it shows in your chubby cheeks and amazing thigh rolls.  You're wearing size 2 diapers (but probably not for much longer) and 6 month clothing.  Your eyes are still blue right now, which surprises me.  I thought for sure they'd have already turned dark.  Some days I think they're darker than other, but they're still blue.  As for hair, you still have very little.  Mac's hair was starting to come in blonde around this age, but we're still not sure about your hair color.  The little that you do have on the back of your head is dark, but the top is getting lighter.  That's still a mystery.  
You absolutely love your hands and fingers.  It's probably a combination of self-soothing and early teething, but you chew and suck on your hands/fingers all day long.  Your hands are always in your mouth and your sleeves are always soaked.  I don't even want to think about how much dog hair you're probably swallowing a day.  That's protein and helps building immunizes, right?  
Your sleep right now is good.  You usually wake up once a night for a bottle - we either do a dreamfeed with you before we go to bed or you wake up on your own around 3:00 a.m.  And then you are up for the day around 6:00 a.m.  Of course, we'd love it if you slept in a tiny bit longer (since Mac's not usually awake before 7:00), but it's really hard to complain when you're such a good little sleeper.  We have our bedtime routine figured out and you usually go down very easily at the end of the day.  I love giving you a bath and rocking you to sleep every night.  It's actually my favorite part of the workday because it's such a sweet quiet time that I get you all to myself to love on you.  You are such a snuggle bug as we cuddle up in your rocking chair under a blanket.  You wrap your hand around my fingers every night while you eat and fall asleep in my arms, breathing on my neck.  It's perfection.  Most of the time your middle of the night wake-ups are short and you go right back to sleep after you eat.  Occasionally you'll be wide-awake and talkative in the middle of the night (like last night), but I can leave you in your crib and you'll just chat away until you fall asleep.  Your naps are less consistent.  The first one is about 90 minutes after you first wake up, but the rest of them are pretty unpredictable and can last anywhere from 10 minutes to 3 hours.  
We're still swaddling you at night, but you always manage to get your hands up to your face, so you can chew/suck on your fingers.  I'm telling you - you love them!  We're probably close to the end of the swaddling days as you're just starting to roll over now.  You've rolled from your back to your tummy a few times while unswaddled and playing on the floor, but haven't shown any inclination to roll at night in your crib while swaddled.  Breaking the swaddle habit was hard for us with Mac - I really hope it's easier this time around.  
I don't even really know what else to say, other than you are an absolute delight and we are so happy to have you in our lives.  I just can't seem to get enough of you right now, which makes it nearly impossible for me to leave to go to work in the mornings.  It is so easy to be with you and to love you.  You make everything better.  Sometimes when I'm holding you and rocking you to sleep I get overwhelmed with emotion and worried about how to keep you safe.  The recent events in our city makes me so sad and nervous and frustrated.  I struggle with how I'll ever be able to properly talk to you about our world and teach you how to be a caring, open-minded, fair and generous person.  Sometimes I just wish I could keep you small and protected forever.  
You are just so wonderful, little one.  I don't even really know how to put down into words just how lovely you are.  People that meet you are usually blown away by how sweet happy and beautiful you are.  No one can seem to get enough of you.
So again, thank you for being amazing.  For being so sweet.  For being you.  For being my baby.

Love, 
Your mama
Likes:
- laughing
- smiling
- your fingers/hands
- baths
- watching your brother
- grabbing the rings on your playmat
- squealing
- singing 
- music
- standing up 
- sleeping
Dislikes:
- being cold
- being overly tired
- being in the car seat while not moving


For comparison:

Friday, November 21, 2014

Light & Creamy Wild Mushroom Pasta


There's something about cool crisp weather that makes me crave warm and creamy carbs.  But of course, this time of year is also notorious for rich, gluttonous food, so I've been in search of lightened-up pasta recipes that are easy to make during the week in big batches, so we have plenty of leftovers for lunch.  So, when I was asked to create a recipe using the newly formulated I Can't Believe It's Not Butter!® I knew I wanted to create a lightened version of one of my favorite pasta recipes.   
The new I Can't Believe It's Not Butter!® is made from real, simple ingredients – 100% taste, 0% artificial preservatives – and is still unbelievably delicious.  This new recipe is offered in the Original, Light, and Olive Oil varieties.  The new I Can't Believe It's Not Butter!® is made from real, simple ingredients like plant-based oils, purified water and a pinch of salt.  It's the first spread from Unilever in the U.S. to be made from non-GMO sourced ingredients and is available in grocery stores nationwide beginning October 2014. Visit us at www.icantbelieveitsnotbutter.com to learn more.
For this collaboration, I started with a recipe for a wild mushroom pasta and played around with it to lighten it up.  Instead of full-fat butter, I used the new I Can't Believe It's Not Butter!®, cut down on the cream and added some veggies and spice.  I absolutely LOVE the way it turned out (it was just as good, if not better than the original recipe) and despite me making a huge batch, we ate the entire pot and didn't have any leftovers!  I think that's the sign of a good dinner.  Even Mac had a couple bites, despite telling me 600 times that "I no like mushrooms."  
The mushrooms are definitely the main focus of this pasta dish.  The recipe calls for a mix of exotic mushrooms, and I used a blend of baby portabellas/cremini, shikati and oyster mushrooms.  Mushrooms are low in calories, fat-free, cholesterol-free, gluten-free, very low in sodium, and provide important nutrients like selenium, potassium, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin D and more.  When I was pregnant with Mim, I craved mushrooms for months and made this pasta at least a dozen times.   You can probably use any blend/combination of mushrooms you want.  
Light & Cream Wild Mushroom Pasta

Ingredients:
- box of pasta (rigatoni or bowties)
- 12-16 ounces of wild mushrooms (cremini, shitaki, oyster, button)
- 3 tablespoons of I Can't Believe It's Not Butter!®
- 1/2 cup chopped onion
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 3 teaspoons salt, divided
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 cup whipping cream
- 2 cups fresh spinach
- 1/2 cup grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Directions:
1. Cook pasta according to package; drain.
2. Melt butter in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add onion, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, black pepper, red pepper and mushrooms to pan.  Cook 12 minutes or until liquid evaporates and mushrooms are tender, stirring occasionally.
3. Add wine and broth; cook 5 minutes or until liquid evaporates, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat.
4. Add cooked para, whipping cream, spinach, cheese and 1 tablespoon parsley.  Tossing to coat.  Stir in remaining salt (add more (or garlic salt) to taste, if necessary).  Garnish with rest of parsley and Parmesan.
You are going to LOVE this recipe.  It's creamy, without being overly thick or heavy.  The spinach and parsley give it a light fresh taste and the red pepper flakes give it a tiny bit of spice.  Feel free to add more pepper for more spice or substitute snow peas for the spinach.  The mushrooms give the pasta such a nice earthy nutty flavor. This is a vegetarian dish, but would be great if you added some shredded chicken or maybe a turkey sausage.  Make it your own!  
But of course, serve with wine!  


The new I Can't Believe It's Not Butter!® offers a fresh butter taste to add flavor to any meal, and can be used for spreading, topping, sautéing, cooking or baking.  In stores now!  



Anyone else a mushroom lover?
What are some of your favorite fall meals?


*I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Maxi-Cosi Kaia Stroller Review

Ok mamas, raise your hand if you're a stroller addict...

I know you're all out there.  You cannot hide.  Admitting you have a problem is the first step.  Come on...

My hand is currently raised high in the air.  I am finally admitting it.  I'm a stroller addict.  We currently have four strollers.  Only four.  But if I had my way (and unlimited funds and a second garage), then we'd have a dozen.  Or at least one for every day of the week.  I had no idea how much I liked strollers until I had one. They're amazing.  Strollers are basically a big apparatus that contains/restrains your wild unruly child, holds your beverage and stores all your crap so you don't have to carry anything. What's not to love?

We currently have a designer "jogging" stroller (that's not a jogging stroller), a double stroller, a real jogging stroller and a car seat carrier/stroller.  What I didn't have was a lightweight, fully-collapsible stroller (umbrella stroller).  So naturally I was thrilled when we got the chance to review the Maxi-Cosi Kaia, as part of their new Bohemian Blue line of products.  Yes please!  
The box arrived at our house a few weeks ago and from the moment I saw it, I was in love.  I am so pleasantly surprised at how light and compact the stroller is.  Compared to all of our other strollers, this one is so lightweight!  To date, I've never taken a stroller with us on vacation or any trips because the ones we have are so heavy-duty, compared to this one.  The Kaia is definitely one that we could easily travel with and take on a plane without a huge hassle.  So bonus points right there.    
I also appreciate how easy it was to put together.  I've left the other strollers up to my husband to assemble because they've been beasts and the instructions are 80 pages long.  This stroller took me less than 10 minutes and was a breeze to do by myself.  Pop on the wheels, the canopy and the cupholder and you're basically done. 
I love the color.  I wasn't sure if this was going to be too loud for me, but I love it.  It's bright, it's fun, it stands out in a sea of boring other strollers, which means I get lots of questions and comments about it from other moms.  The colors are really pretty and I love the stripes on the seat. 
The Kaia is also a breeze to collapse.  One pop of the back foot lock and then just squeeze the handles and the whole thing folds up into a nice compact package, that even stands upright on its own.  This is HUGE because it means that I can put it in our hall closet without it falling all over the place or laying across the floor.  It's so nice having a stroller that doesn't take up massive amounts of real estate in your house.
Mac was thrilled to get a new stroller and so excited when I asked him if he wanted to take a walk around the neighborhood to try it out.  He thinks that all the packages that come in the mail are his, so obviously this is "his" stroller.  And for now it is, so I just let him believe that.  The Kaia fits children 6 months and up (up to age 4 or 50 pounds), so Mim is too little to use it.  However, unlike other lightweight umbrella strollers, this one has the ability to be a travel system and can be used with a Maxi-Cosi infant car seat, with the adapter (which is included).  We have a Maxi-Cosi convertible car seat (which is crazy nice and very plush), but not the infant seat, so we're a bit out of luck there. Although, based on how much we like the convertible seat and the stroller, it's definitely a brand I'd consider if I was purchasing a new infant seat.  
But Mac seemed to really like the stroller.  He liked pushing it, he liked playing with it, climbing on it and even riding in it!  He fit in it really well and said it was comfortable.  A few things to mention...
First, there is a 5 point harness buckle on the stroller that was a bit different than most of the other buckles on car seats or strollers.  This one was interlocking, like a puzzle-piece, which made it much harder for Mac to undo by himself.  I didn't have any problem with it at all and therefore really liked that he had a harder time unbuckling himself.  Maybe this will keep him in the stroller and restrained, which is exactly what I want when I put him in it.   
I also noticed that the seat was a bit more inclined (even in the fully upright position) than some of our other strollers.  I didn't know if this would bother him, but he didn't seem phased by it in the slightest.  I asked him if the seat felt comfortable and he said yes.  The seat does incline with a strap system, but not all the way back, so you can't use it with a small baby or anything. 
This stroller also has an adjustable leg rest, so you can extend it to use with smaller babies or drop it for bigger kids.  There is a foot rest below that which is actually much lower than the foot rests on other strollers. I love this feature because Mac is very tall for his age and even at 2, I feel like his long legs are soon going to outgrow his strollers.  He still has a lot of room to grow into this one.  
Built in cup holder.  SCORE.  It's included.  It stays put.  It doesn't slide around.  It fits most drinks (and my evening cocktail).  It can be put on the other side, if you're a lefty.  Need I say more?
The only thing I'm not really happy with is the sun shield/canopy.  It's small.  I wish it was bigger.  Much bigger.  And I wish it had one of those see-through peek-a-boo windows so I could spy on him from above instead of having to stop and walk around to the front of the stroller.  But really, that's my only complaint.

So, how does it handle?  Really well.  A few days after our initial inspection, Mac, Mim and I took it out for a spin around the block.  Don't let our grumpy faces fool you...we were actually having fun.  I think...you can never be too sure with a toddler.
Mac loves being pushed around in "his" stroller.  We took a long walk this afternoon and he sat in the stroller without any complaint.  The wheels turned very easily, it handled bumps and dips in the sidewalk/street with ease and the foot break was really easy to use.  And while it was easy to push/maneuver while I was hands-free (with Mim in the Bjorn), I realized that I wish it had a crossbar steering handle that you could push one-handed.  
And remember how I said he couldn't undo the buckle?  Well, he still couldn't, but he did manage to slide the shoulder straps off to the side in an escape attempt.  His plan was foiled and he remained my prisoner.  Bahahahahaha!
And here we are again!  Another day, another stroller ride.  Mac can't get enough.  I wasn't even going to take pictures this time, but he was just too cool for school this day and it needed documenting.  
Who is this kid?  And again, we put the stroller to good use.  Mac decided that the cup holder was the perfect place to store dead crickets he found. 
And he showed me just how many sticks we could fit in the storage basket below the stroller (which is very big, by the way, since I haven't mentioned that yet).  I asked him how many sticks could fit and he said two-eleven o'clock...which I think is a lot in toddler-speak.
So there you have it.  All in all, we're big fans of the Maxi-Cosi Kaia.  This coming from a stroller addict, herself.  I hope this might help you make up your mind if you're in the market for a lightweight umbrella stroller or travel system.  Welcome to the family, Kaia!  
Pros:

  • lightweight
  • easy to collapse
  • 5 point locking harness
  • large undercarriage storage basket
  • stands upright when collapsed
  • cup holder included 
  • car seat adapter included
  • foot-operated brake
  • long foot-drop for taller kids
  • adjustable leg rest
  • bright fun color

Cons:

  • small sun canopy
  • no peek-a-boo window
  • double handles instead of crossbar handle
  • seat is pretty reclined, even in fully upright position

Anyone else a stroller addict?  
How many do you have?
What are you favorite or must-have features?


* I was provided with this stroller free of charge for purposes of a review.  All opinions expressed, commentary and bad jokes are 100% my own.