Monday, December 31, 2012

Mommy Mondays: A home away from home

Thatbaby's first day of "school."
One of the biggest decisions I had to face when dealing with a new baby was finding a good place for him to be when I went back to work - Daycare.

Because if you're not the one with your child for hours every day, it's important that the people who are, are people you trust. 

We really lucked out with our daycare.  It fell in our laps at a severe time of need.  But I'll share with you what I love about it, in the hopes that it helps when/if you need to find a place for your little munchkin.

1) Location, Location, Location.  There are 3 options for a daycare - somewhere near home, somewhere near work, or somewhere between the two.  Each has their benefits and detriments.  As I've alluded to previously, we didn't have a choice with our daycare, but we lucked out in the fact it is literally right beside our home.  Which means we can (and do) walk there from time to time (in fact, on Friday before Christmas, Thatboy got off work early, came home and did some packing, and then walked down to daycare to pick up Thatbaby.)  The upside of the location is that I don't have to leave home early to get to work, and once I pick him up, I'm basically home.  And we don't have to plan who's picking Thatbaby up, since we both have to pass the daycare to get home.  So, first person to the parking lot texts the other to let them know not to stop.

2) Cost.  I'm not going to lie - daycare is expensive.  Like ridiculously expensive.  Like the cost of a month's rent expensive.  While our daycare is more expensive than many of our friends who use in-home daycare, it's less expensive than any of the other centers in our area.  And I love our center so much, I can't imagine using an in-home provider that may not offer as much.  What does our center offer that's so fantastic?  I'll tell you:

3) Communication!  This is really important!  Thatbaby gets a daily report detailing his sleep, diapers, food intake, and activities he did that day. There is a monthly newsletter filling us in on everything the children in his class are doing.  We have parent/teacher conferences to talk about how he is meeting his developmental milestones.  When he graduated from the infant room we got a little booklet highlighting pictures, activities, and artwork he created in that room.  And the PICTURES!  Every month we get a link to a private shutterfly account with pictures from that month.  (All the pictures in this post are from those monthly albums.)

4)  Willingness to meet your/your child's needs.  In daycare, your child ceases to get the one-on-one attention s/he was getting at home.  There is always a concern that the day care providers won't devote the time to your child that you do.  That your child will cry themselves to sleep in a wet diaper, missing mommy (or daddy).  Our daycare really works with each child's individual needs - and Thatbaby is a little high needs, so I appreciate everything they do.

 When he first started at daycare, Thatbaby was still being rocked to sleep.  So you know what they did at daycare?  They rocked him to sleep.  They held him while he slept if he needed it.  And now, he is a fantastic daycare sleeper.  He helps pull out his cot, climbs on it, and falls asleep.  No help needed from anyone.

 We had a bottle issue when he first started at daycare (and many of you who breastfeed will have the same problem.)  It's very easy to misfeed a baby from a bottle.  A breastfed baby does not need more than 4oz of milk at a sitting - ever.  And yet, if you continue to overfeed the baby, they will need more than 4oz because their stomachs will be stretched out from the extra milk.  Daycare was reporting Thatbaby was "still hungry" after his 4oz bottles because he was fussy (which is not uncommon since it takes less time to eat from the bottle than the breast, the stomach doesn't have time to tell the brain it's full).  Instead of giving him more ounces, we worked together to slow down Thatbaby's eating and sure enough, once they did that, there were no more complaints about his need for more.  This is especially important if you want to continue breastfeeding, because if daycare increases the baby's need, your supply won't match and you will always struggle to make enough for them to eat.

Daycare was also fantastic with our BLW endeavors.  Although they weren't familiar with the concept before Thatbaby, they quickly fell in love with the fact that they didn't need to feed Thatbaby, and the fact that he was so self sufficient.

 5) Education.  I was actually talking to Thatboy about this on our drive up to the inlaws.  This wasn't a priority of mine AT ALL when finding a daycare.  Because really?  What kind of education does a 5 month old need?  But now that he has it, I love the fact that his daycare has a curriculum.  Each day there are different activities related to language skills, math skills, social sciences, etc.  There are tactile learning experiences and group activities like "circle time" which involves stories and songs.

 Thatbaby also does loads of art projects, which I could never hope to compete with at home.

 And maybe my favorite thing is that most of these art projects get sent home!  (We're already out of room on the fridge).

There's also physical development.  Thatbaby gets indoor and outdoor play every day where he gets to climb, slide, walk, crawl, run.....

It was a big day for all of us when Thatbaby finally made it to the top of the "big climber" outside.  He had been working on that for months!

6) Social interaction.  Thatbaby's current class has 7 other kids in it.  He's been with 5 of them since his first day of daycare and it's been wonderful to watch them all grow together.  It's fun watching them light up with excitement when he shows up for the day.  They take fieldtrips around the campus together.

They learn to share and play with each other on the playground.

And Thatbaby even has a "best friend" or partner in crime.

This picture is from the day where Thatbaby's daily report told me that "Thatbaby and Bestfriend had lots of fun rolling on the floor together."

Up until the week before Christmas, we were having some real struggles with drop offs at daycare, but it's clear that during the day, Thatbaby was having a blast.  He loves it there, and I love it because of that.  I love that he has new and different toys to play with there so I don't feel the need to have every toy in creation in our home.  I love the fact that he gets reading and singing and art.  I love the fact he plays with his friends. So if you're worried about sending your child to daycare, I can assure you, it can be a wonderful thing.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Extra! Extra! Read All About It!

Many of you will remember that I have recently discovered the world's easiest way to make chicken mole.

The problem with this, is that now chicken mole has become an almost weekly menu item in Thathouse.

The problem with this, is that I always have extra mole sauce leftover. 

So I am always on the lookout for ways to use up the extra mole.  Luckily, doing a search through my Google reader for recipes that require a mole sauce has turned up some really good solutions to my Mo' Mole, Mo' Problems.

This recipe is one of those "couldn't be easier" weeknight meals.  Especially if you have the mole sauce ready to go.  Because then you're just combining tomatoes, beans, rice, and cheese and baking it.  There's no finicky meats to flip, or pasta to drain.  It's even better if you have leftover rice to use up.  And rice and beans are such fantastic partners.  Dressed with a rich sauce it's a new twist on South of the Border cuisine.

 Cheesy Rice and Bean Strata (From Branny Boils Over)
2.5 cups cooked brown rice
2 cups kidney beans
1 can diced tomatoes
1 cup chopped onion
1 clove minced garlic
1/4 tsp ground cumin
5 oz fresh spinach, washed and chopped
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup mole sauce
2 scallions, sliced
  1. Preheat oven to 350.  Spray an 8x8 baking dish with cooking spray.  In a bowl, mix beans with diced tomatoes.
  2.  Saute minced onion and garlic for 3 minutes.
  3. Add cumin and spinach and cook until the spinach wilts.
  4. Place 1 1/2 cups of rice in the baking dish.  
  5. Top with 1/2 of the bean/tomato mixture.
  6. Top the beans and tomatoes with the spinach.
  7. Add another layer of rice and the remaining bean/tomatoes.
  8. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes.
  9. Remove foil, add the cheese, and bake 5-7 minutes, until the cheese is melted.
  10. While cheese is melting, heat the mole stovetop.  Pour over the finished strata, top with sliced scallions, and serve.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Stumbled Upon Steak - Carne Asada Tacos

As I sit, shivering in my BIL's house (seriously, how cold does it need to get before people use their heat?) I think back fondly on my warm home, small enough that simply turning on the oven can heat the entire place.  That, with the warmth of the people who live there, make it cozy year round.

I also think about how we've gotten to enjoy some downright summery meals, mixed in with a plethora of soups and chilis, of course.  Because when you stumble upon some perfectly sliced carne asada, how can you say no to grilled steak tacos?

With good meat, very little seasoning is needed.  Here, a sprinkle of cumin, paprika, and salt are all you need to bring out the flavors.  And the thin cut means it needs to barely kiss heat before browning up nicely.
Carne Asada Tacos 
1 1/2 lbs. carne asada
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp paprika
salt and pepper
flour tortillas
sour cream
Chopped red onion
Queso fresco

  1. Heat a grill pan over medium high heat.  Sprinkle carne asada with cumin, paprika, salt and pepper.  
  2. Grill the steak about 5 minutes a side. Remove from heat and let sit for a few moments, then slice the meat against the grain.
  3. Heat tortillas using your favorite method, then top with carne asada, guacamole, sour cream, red onion, and queso fresco. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Shoving as much Christmas into a day as possible

Are you Christmased out yet?  Lying there with your stomach full of candy and egg nog, strewn wrapper and ribbons surrounding you, all the shiny new toys already starting to lose some of their novelty?

Well I'm here to bring back some of that Christmas cheer you're already running low on.  Just for one more day.  But boy, was it a full day. 

As most of you know, Thatboy and I traditionally journey up to his parents' home for Christmas, where we go about doing exactly nothing holiday oriented, or cheerful, or even fun.  (In fact, I am sitting here writing this on Christmas Eve while Thatbaby naps, Thatboy sets up Thatbaby's Christmas present, and the rest of his family plays on their respective computers/video games.  Our grand plans for tomorrow include going out for Chinese food.)  Keeping that in mind, we tried to give Thatbaby a lot of Christmas fun before we headed up to the land of miserable people.

We began with the Jingle Bell Run - something I've done every year for the past 3 years. This year it was pouring rain, but it let up as we headed out, and had dried up by the time the race started.

Unfortunately, the inclement weather meant there were less participants than usual, and a dearth of fun costumes among those who did show up.  Thatbaby was undeterred by weather though, kicking his feet throughout the race so that he could jingle all the way.

Thatbaby's level of participation continues to grow along with him.  Last year he slept a lot of the race, in his infant carrier in the stroller.  This year, he got to "run" a little bit - stroller free.  He even crossed the finish line - his first finish with his own two feet!

He was pretty proud of his medal, wearing it for most of the day.

After we got home from the race and dropped off Thatdog, we headed out to Coronado to check out the decorations and The Hotel Del.

 I believe Thatbaby could give McKayla Maroney a run for her money with his unimpressed look.

He did, however, love going out to the beach and running around.  Oh the joys of living in Southern California in December.

We may not have snow, but we can still make sand angels!

We sat at the Del, watching the ocean and drinking hot chocolate, apple cider, and water (you can guess who had which).  And as the sun started setting, we headed up to the Garden of Lights at the San Diego Botanical Garden.
Last year, Thatbaby loved looking at all the lights, and was fabulous with Santa Clause.  This year, he seemed a little disinterested in the whole thing, and decided this Santa fellow was not someone with whom he wanted to spend time.

In my quest to get my child to accept candy from strangers, we thought maybe we could turn his frown around by having Santa present him with a special treat.

Which worked just long enough for him to get the candy in hand.  He still looks a little shell-shocked, right?

Alright, that concludes our Christmas round-up...until we get back from the inlaws and I can post about Thatbaby's actual Christmas experience.  You know, with the presents and wrapping and how he handles services tonight.  And for those of you tapped out from heavy Christmas meals, here's a light, refreshing treat.  It's still a dessert, but a light one, to help ease you into your new year's resolution.  It was inspired by some perfect winter berries I picked up.  Because blueberries are not supposed to be this delicious in December.  But these couldn't have been sweeter, and layered between buttery, flakey, shortcake makes it a treat that'll hold you over till summer.

Blueberry Shortcake
2 cups flour
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 Tbsp sugar
7 Tbsp butter
2/3 cup milk
1/2 cup blueberries, tossed in sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 425.  Spray an 8x8 baking dish with baking spray.  Mix the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in a bowl.
  2. Cut 5 Tbsp butter into small pieces and work it into the flour mixture with your hands until it resembles a coarse meal.
  3. Slowly stir in the milk, just until the dough comes together. Tur onto a floured surface and knead for a minute or two.
  4. Pat the dough into the baking dish and bake for 12-15 minutes.  
  5. Split with 2 forks while still warm, butter with remaining butter and fill with the blueberries.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

From Thatfamily to your family!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Mommy Mondays: First Favorites (6 -12 months)

Welcome to part 2 of my toy series!  Here are Thatbaby's favorite toys from 6-12 months.  This is the time when he really started understanding the concept of toys and playing, and developed clear favorites - toys he continuously would seek out to play with.  

This is far and away Thatbaby's favorite toy and my number one recommendation for the ages of 6-12 months.  For Thatnephew's first Christmas, Thatboy and I gave him a ball pounding toy.  It was his favorite toy for years.  TSIL wanted to return the favor and get Thatbaby what would surely be his favorite toy.  We were a little skeptical at first, given that the age limit was 1 year and Thatbaby wasn't quite 6 months when the toy arrived.  We put it away for a couple of weeks, but one day opened it up.  And Thatbaby has been hooked ever since.  He didn't get the hammer part right away, or even the holes.  But he loved the balls.  He would carry them around with him all the time.  When he started crawling, he still held them.  We called him "Edward Ball-hands" as he crawled around holding a ball in each hand.  Then he got the holes and started putting everything in them - both the balls and any of his other toys that would fit.  Then he figured out that if he pushed the balls in the holes, they'd roll down.  Now, at 14 months he even can hammer them - although he still prefers pushing them with his hands.

 Push-toys are very, very popular for this age range.  This was a gift from Thatmom and we credit it fully with Thatbaby learning to walk.  When we saw his pediatrician for his 12 month appointment the doctor theorized that given Thatbaby's ability to bear weight on his legs so well, and even stand for moments, he probably just lacked the confidence to walk.  Being able to push this toy helped him get the confidence he needed to start walking just a few weeks later.   He loves pushing it around, and loves to be pushed on it - making a vroom vroom sound when he gets to go fast.  Although, his new favorite feat with this toy is standing on it and holding his arms up like an Olympic gymnast before clapping at his daring feat.  Oh yes, we'll be visiting the ER frequently in his lifetime.

 I picked this one up spur of the moment because it was on a super sale at Target. What a good idea!  Sometimes I'm so very smart.  Thatbaby is such a musical genius - or at least he loves music, so he loved having this table to play music on.  Each piece makes a different sound or song.  And he's a groover, so he dances while he makes music.  We picked this up when he was around 10 months, after daycare mentioned that we should probably help him work on his leg strength, and pulling up and standing beside the table certainly helped him with that.

I mentioned Thatbaby loves music.  His favorite thing is drumming.  He loves banging on drums!  Or drumlike things.  Or turning things into drums if they're round.  I'm hoping we have a little Keith Moon on our hands.  This drum lights up when you bang on it, and the music really isn't all that annoying - which is impressive since most kid's toys have the most annoying songs.  The handle means he can carry it from room to room with him and play for us.

Most of Thatbaby's favorite toys were gifts - these are no exception.  Thatboy received a host of toy cars for his birthday, and he loves every one.  He loves to make them vroom vroom.  He loves the top toys that work so well on our kitchen floor and shake, squeek, and are easy to pick up and hold.  The purple truck is his favorite.  The bottom car, with it's built in handle, is his favorite for carrying around.  It is often found in the car with us, or my diaper bag.

We are always aiming to encourage Thatbaby's reading endeavors.  So when we got a note home from daycare that he had spent literal hours flipping the pages of the above book, I ordered it the next day.  Thatbaby loves books, but soft books ruled at this stage, allowing him to touch and feel as he read.

Thatbaby loves bathtime.  His favorite thing to do is try to stand up in the tub (remember how I mentioned I predict hospital time in our future?) The foam letters keep him seated while he plays with them.  And Thatboy turns them into a fun teaching lesson, spelling words on the sides of the tub. 

Balls, balls, and more balls

No links necessary here, because there is no wrong ball.  Thatbaby loves balls - big balls, small balls, hard balls, soft balls, balls with bumps, balls that make noise - this kid is ball obsessed.  And the nice thing about balls?  They're relatively inexpensive, you can find them just about anywhere, and most of the time they don't make much noise.

This is another one of those toys that is really geared for older kids.  Thatbaby didn't get the stacking aspect at first, but he liked to play with the pieces.  And then he got into stacking.  He's still not fabulous at stacking them in the right order, but he likes to take them on and off the poles.  He has a couple classic wooden stackers and a plastic one that lights up and makes music.  He loves them all.

I blame L&O for this one.  Thatbaby fell in love with the play tunnel Little LO had at his birthday party, so we had to get him one of his own.  It collapses into a flat disc, which he constantly brings over to us so that we can set it up for him.  And then he crawls through it again and again.  Because it collapses it is ever so portable and easy to bring with us just about anywhere.

Next year I'll try to hit up 12-24 with a little more notice!

Friday, December 21, 2012


I'm not fabulous with social media. As anyone who knows me will attest, I am infuriatingly NOT involved with facebook, twitter, instagram or the million other ways people fill their day.  I'll admit it - I just don't get them.

The same holds true with pinterest.  I've heard people lose hours on the site, which I fully can't understand.  Whenever I use pinterest I type what I'm looking for in the search bar, scroll through what pops up, pin what I was looking for, and log off.  I usually have one board I'm working on at a time (like Thatbaby's birthday party.)

So when I got an invitation to a Pinterest White Elephant Party I was a bit at a loss.  The instructions were simple - bring a bottle of champagne, a brunch food, and a gift inspired by pinterest,.  But really, I had no clue what that meant.  I turned to my more social-media savvy friends who came up with a list of creative ideas - my very own living pinterest board!

The winning suggestion was "Sunshine in a Box," except when you live in California, no one is really clamoring for more sunshine in December.  So I decided to change the idea to "Christmas in a Box."  Same idea - a box of candy and other goodies, but red and green themed instead of yellow and white.

The rest of my party prep was easy.  Do you know what goes perfectly with a champagne brunch?  Rum cakes!  Boozy breakfast treats were never so fitting.  These cakes are not too sweet, but dipped in a rum syrup makes them quick to disappear from the table.  Just don't drive right after drinking eating them.

And the bottles of champagne were a complete necessity.  I think we went through all of them!

The rest of the spread was equally fantastic.  Many of the foods brought were inspired by - you guessed it - pinterest!

Our pinterest presents were stacked under the tree, just waiting to be chosen, opened, and stolen.

And after all the choosing, opening, and stealing, I walked away with my very own pinterest present:   

Grown up hot chocolate mix!  What makes it grown up?  Well the Baileys and Kahlua of course!

Baba Cakes (From the Fannie Farmer Cookbook)
1 pkg yeast
1 3/4 cups flour
4 eggs
1 1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 lb soft butter
1/2 cup rum

    1. Stir the yeast into 1/2 cup warm water and let it stand for 5 minutes to dissolve.
    2. Add 1/2 cup of the flour and mix well with an electric mixer.
    3. Beat in the eggs, one at a time.
    4. Add the 1/4 cup sugar, salt, and remaining flour.  Mix until the dough is smooth.  Cover and let rise until double in bulk.
    5. Beat the softened butter into the dough, bit by bit until smooth.
    6. Spray a muffin pay with baking spray.  Divide the batter between the 12 muffin cups.  Cover and let rest for 45 minutes.
    7. Preheat oven to 400.  Bake for about 20 minutes or until lightly golden on top.  Remove from pans and cool on a rack.
    8. While the cakes are cooling, mix the remaining sugar and 1 cup of water in a small pot and boil for 10 minutes.  
    9. Cool to lukewarm and then stir in the rum.
    10. Dip the cakes in the sauce and spoon some over the tops of each cake.