Unexpected Breaks…

I’m back…after a long unexpected break. My computer crashed. HUGE bummer, and I hadn’t backed up anything in a while (lesson learned), but luckily was able to retrieve some important documents, and thankfully kept copies of all of our treasured pictures on our SD Cards and also online (I have a Shutterfly account, and the app on my computer and phone to upload copies of all my fav pictures directly, which saves a lot of time!).


I opted to order a new laptop from Costco.com, as the prices were unbeatable, but little did I know it would take 3 full weeks to get it delivered! However, there are some really neat discoveries that came out of waiting for a new computer:

1. I had forgotten how much I missed reading for pleasure!

2. Not being on my laptop in the evenings (I also run a small business), “guilted”  the hubby to keep his work computer packed away in the evenings, and we enjoyed uninterrupted conversations, and even got some movie-watching in! Amazing.

3. I learned that you can actually do quite a lot from your smart phone or tablet (okay, maybe not such a “healthy-balance” type lesson I was going for, but seriously–there are some cool programs out there, and many sites have really advanced mobile-versions!).

4.  Sometimes being forced to slow down, take a step back and really evaluate priorities, the direction we are headed, goals, and the necessary vs. the “usual” tasks, and even taking time to celebrate achievements or milestones, is REALLY therapeutic. Plus, it gives you time to evaluate what can be cut out, or how you can become more efficient, so you have time for the most important things in life!

5. My hand-written paper systems actually serve me pretty darn well! I keep a notebook with me for scheduling time blocks throughout the day, keeping track of important to-do’s, and making sure I carve in “me time” so I stay centered, refreshed, and have love and energy left to offer my family.

Notebooks/Organizers I love:

The Mead “OrganizHER” (available at Target)


Meet the next best thing to a personal assistant. Inside this memo book you will find answers to everything from, “what’s for dinner?” to “what’s our budget?” Scheduling, Organizing, Expense Tracking, and Meal Planning are all tabbed sections, each one specifically designed for a life in constant motion.

Magnetic Days of the Week Notepad (Etsy, or dollar section at Target!)

Magnetic List Notepad Days of the Week


Use it for Meal Planning so those groceries in the fridge don’t go bad as you wonder what the heck you will cook for dinner. I also use ours to list Larger Activities/Events for each day that week, therefore I know which days I might be able to fold in errands, or a get-together, etc. Having a “picture” of our week helps us stay on top of things and not fill up the days too much.

MeadCambridge Limited Action Planner Business Notebook 













Perfect for larger Project planning. List your Project title at the top, and then related to-do’s underneath. Keeps things really organized and easy-to-follow.

Daytimer Family Plus Planner (found at Target)



Includes a Monthly Goal-Setting Section, areas for individual family member schedules, Meal Planning, and lots of space for notes.

What are your favorite Paper Systems or Products to keep organized? Leave a comment or email me! MakeSimpleHappen at (@) gmail dot (.) com.

5 Simple Changes to Greater Happiness

Happiness Definition

I’ve been on a personal fulfillment journey the last several weeks. A restoring-love-inside-of-me type of journey. Check out my recent post on finding balance! And through that journey, I’ve discovered a few simple, and pretty quick daily “tasks”, if you will, that have noticeably increased my happiness.

1. A 15 minute “Power Clean” of the House Each Morning & Each Night (including making the bed right when we get up).

I hate cleaning! But, I thrive in a clean house–it feels better, it’s easier to enjoy time with my family in a clean space, I’m more productive when things are “in their place”, etc., and so I use those feelings as fuel when doing the dirty work. Confession: (and my husband would roll his eyes while I make this distinction), but this is more of a Power Straightening, rather than a power cleaning (aside from the kitchen and food surfaces that get a thorough deep cleaning several times a day). The deep cleaning takes place during a dedicated time slot on Saturday Mornings (or else it would be months in between toilet scrubbings because that is such a pain!). But the straightening is easy to do daily (twice a day, in fact). And I have to give my hubby tons of credit for sharing in this duty with me. He is incredibly helpful!

The first place I start is the bedroom. Just making the bed makes the space look 90% better, and it takes all of 2 minutes. Well worth that little effort, if I do say so myself. I never understood the importance of bed-making, until I tried it for a week and noticed what a huge difference it makes. P.S. You can use that nice bed to fold, sort, and then put laundry away (right away), instead of stacking it in some unused corner for weeks. In fact, you have to put it away before you can go to sleep. This keeps it from building up into multiple loads of folded clothes that sit and rot for weeks. The smaller batches are so much more manageable! Pretty soon, you won’t even mind finishing up the laundry…okay, I won’t go that far!!

Washing Laundry Joke

I finish the power clean after breakfast/during morning nap time (before that everything is mostly in its place throughout the rest of the house, because I’ve finished the previous day with a quick power clean. How WONDERFUL it feels to wake up to an organized house! BTW–it will take a little prep work organizing the house to make sure items each have an orderly place, making it easier to do a quick run-thru. We use lots of baskets and bins, and cubbie organizers, throughout the whole house and garage. Everything has its place. We all know where we can find things, and it makes clean up a cinch!

Target has a great selection of these types of storage solutions!

home storage

Another big change in the cleaning department. We unload the dishwasher  (and do any last minute touch-up’s to the kitchen) first thing in the morning, so we can rinse and load the dishes right away after meals. It sounds like a pain, but it actually makes the kitchen cleaning go soooo  much faster, and frees up counter space for meal prepping, which cuts down on frustration, which makes cooking such much more enjoyable….

So there you have it. The lessons learned through our 2x Power Cleaning each day: I feel less stressed, more productive, and a lot more happy around the house. In fact, I never really noticed how much a clean house impacted my mood in a positive way. I actually like my house more than I did last week–and so I don’t mind spending so much time in it.

Now that I read back, it sounds like we lived in a pigsty pre-power cleaning habits. Definitely not…it was pretty clean according to most standards, but it just FEELS better to clear some of the extra clutter and free up space to enjoy ourselves, worry free of lingering “to do’s” no longer piled up around you!

2. Scheduling Time Blocks Each Morning (or Even Better–3 days in advance)

This is a really helpful tip I received from a certified life coach. I have always been a list-maker. There are stickies and note pages all around the house with our ‘To-Do’s”. However, I never felt like I was very productive in tackling those lists until I learned how to categorize, and schedule the tasks into time blocks for each day.

Over my morning cup of coffee, I look over my bulleted list of have-to’s, prioritize them by what I need/would like to complete for that day only (trying to be as realistic as possible). Then I break up that list into main categories. “Household” “Work” and “Personal” for example. I look at my time slots for the day–this obviously varies based on your personal set-up and familial schedules-but I usually get between 2-3 “go-time” slots  (usually when munchkin is taking naps, with another caretaker, or in bed for the night). So I will plug in one category into each of the time slots (once you get your kiddos on a regular nap and bedtime schedule, it will be easier to plot out when those go-time slots will happen for you, but you don’t need to know exact times to make this successful. The goal is to have a plan of action, rather than a specific hourly agenda.)  That way, before I even get to my first time slot, I know what I need to power through and can jump right into it. I don’t waste time trying to decide what project I should start, or even worse, not getting any projects done because it feels too overwhelming. When I have a mini plan, I get so much more done, thus making me more satisfied, and happy!

Of course, there are always times when I have remaining items on the list to tackle another time, or when my expected time slots don’t pan out, and therefore adjustments need to be made. Being flexible, and forgiving, is key! And note how personal goals are always part of the plan. This is key to living a balanced life. Schedule yourself in too, don’t just leave those items to the “if I have time” category.

3. Meal and Grocery Planning

There are a ton of resources on this topic, so I won’t waste your time outlining the specific steps here. I’ll just say that before I started sitting down and flipping through my recipe ideas BEFORE I did the shopping, then making a quick list of meal ideas for the week, along with a corresponding shopping list, I got really annoyed with cooking–and also with the amount of waste when things spoiled in the fridge before we’d made them.

Now the meal list goes on the fridge for easy reference, and all of my ingredients are stocked and ready to go when it’s time to cook. When we need to make adjustments (happens frequently), I just switch one meal out for another (one that for instance might be easier and quicker to prepare).

Not stressing about meals (plus saving money because we waste less, and eat at home more), makes me much happier!!

4. (At Least) 15 Minutes of ME-TIME Every Day

See my finding balance post! Making time for ME each day has been so incredible. I’m talking about spoiling yourself during this time (not doing household chores or running errands). Read, do yoga, take a bath, work towards a personal goal, call a girlfriend…just spend that time giving some love to yourself. Once you are in the habit of 15 minutes each day, start to increase the time a bit. You will find the time, if you value the time enough! You deserve it!

By giving back to myself, I feel more grounded, more energized, more appreciated and valued (that I get some TLC too!). All of those things lead to increased happiness.

5. Changing My Attitude to Be More Loving!

It’s amazing what a little shift in attitude can do for you! When you decide to start viewing yourself and those closest to you with more LOVE, you see them, and your role as a parent in a new way. It sounds so cliche, but through fueling myself with more love, feeling more balanced and happy, and trying to release expectations from my life, and just live it all in and enjoy, I’ve been able to find more joy in the little things again. Even cleaning doesn’t feel so much like a burden anymore. When I think of cleaning the kitchen so I can use it to provide another healthy and nourishing meal for the family I love so much, then it feels more like a blessing, than a dreaded responsibility. Cheesy, but surprisingly a very satisfying shift in perception! I’m beginning to really like this rejuvenated me–and I can tell my family is too🙂 A Gratitude Journal has been key for me in this department.

Bonus: When I feel happy, I empower those around me to feel happy too! I like being in charge of my feelings, and helping guide the way for my spouse and children to create and thrive in a happy and joyful home too!

Happiness from love

I’d love to hear your tips for creating more happiness in your life and households. Please leave a comment.

Finding Balance–Love Begins with Me

I recently came across an article by Ruth Soukup of Living Well Spending Lesstitled “Mom Sets the Tone” and it really got me thinking. The premise is that a mom/wife really leads the charge when setting the mood for the entire household each day. I am sure you are familiar with the popular phrase: “If momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy” and in some ways I dislike this phrase because it paints a negative stereotype of all of us moms being  grumpy, mean, demanding beings that our families have to tip-toe around, which is rarely the case! But if you dig a little deeper (and even test out the theory a bit in your own homes), you may find that a MOM really does “control” and set the tempo for how the rest of the family feels and acts around the house. When you feel peaceful, happy, fun-loving, blessed, energized…those feelings come through in your actions, and EMPOWER your other family members (spouse, children) to feel and act the same way. When you feel angry, exhausted, overwhelmed, overburdened, unappreciated, those emotions come through your actions, and many times create a chain-reaction of others around you getting defensive, grumpy, angry at your anger, or feeling anxious and overwhelmed as well.

A wonderful book by Marianne Williamson entitled: “A Return to Love”  outlines how important it is for each of us to find LOVE in ourselves again, so we can share that love with those around us. “Something amazing happens when we surrender and just love. We melt into another world, a realm of power already within us. The world changes when we change. The world softens when we soften. The world loves us when we choose to love the world.” -Marianne Williamson
love image

In yoga the other night, the intention for the evening was to let go of the old, the baggage, the pain, and feel the love within your soul. She repeated LOVE BEGINS WITH ME! I CANNOT GIVE LOVE FULLY TO OTHERS UNTIL I FEEL LOVE FULLY WITHIN MYSELF! How empowering of a statement is that? You, the Mom, have an immense power to not only be more loving to yourself, (which means taking care of yourself, and asking others to support you in that mission!) but share that love and joy with your family, to set the tone for each of their days, for how you want the feeling of your household to play-out, how you want your children to remember home. That power is within you, and is a wonderful gift! You are so much more than a diaper changer, a maid, a cook, etc. You play a powerful role in your family’s joy and well-being.

BUT, you become useless–and sometimes even toxic–in this department when you neglect yourself and your own well-being, feeling like you are bending over backwards to serve the needs of all other family members, but never taking the time to refuel your own tank! As moms, this is an easy position to find ourselves in. It comes from good intentions, and love for our family. We want to give our all to ensure they are happy and well taken care of–that is our number one priority. However, we forget that we will only last a short time if we give, give, give, but never replenish, never re-energize, when we sacrifice our health, our peace of minds, when we build up anger and resentment because we are so worn out, so tired, feeling terrible emotionally, spiritually, physically… then how do we bring much of anything positive to our family?


Rediscovering that love within ourselves starts by building in time and making priorities to take care of MOMMY, so we can also take care of FAMILY:

  1. MAKE TIME FOR YOU EVERY DAY! (Even if it is only 15 minutes. Read your favorite book, take a bath, do yoga, go for a walk, call a girlfriend, lay down and meditate…Start with just 15 minutes, and slowly build upon it as it becomes a habit. Value yourself enough to take care of yourself–not just some days, every day!)
  2. START A GRATITUDE JOURNAL (Grab a new notebook. Date the top, then make the longest list you can of everything you are grateful for in your life. Do this as often as needed to remind you of how lucky you are, and re-program your brain to think of the beauty around you.)
  3. FIND PERSONAL SATISFACTION–SET WEEKLY GOALS (Your personal dreams and aspirations are still important, even after you become a mom–although it is so easy to get consumed by taking care of everyone, and often forgetting about our own needs/desires. Make a list of your top 3 personal priorities–things you wish to accomplish over 6 months-a year– and then break them down into smaller steps that can be accomplished each week, and each day. The most important step is to then make time for them during your week. Schedule the time (or it won’t happen)–perhaps during naps, after the kids go to sleep, over the weekend–to making those goals come to life, and celebrate your accomplishments along the way.)
  4. FIND A LIFE COACH (or a person you feel comfortable checking in with each week to hold you accountable to achieving those personal goals, give you advice and pep-talks, and to get heavy things off your chest–you need an outlet and a coach to keep you going!). I highly recommend YourCoachChris.com.
  5. REPROGRAM YOUR THINKING (The mind is so powerful! When you become more mindful of your self-talk, and are able to stop the negative chatter, and change it to something more empowering and encouraging, you will be amazed at how the positivity helps fuel your emotions, and then your actions, throughout the day! Maybe even jot down some positive phrases on sticky notes to place throughout the house– LOVE BEGINS WITH ME)

From Grouchy to Great_Joys of Motherhood

Check out this great series from TheBetterMom.com!

There will be good days, and there will be hard days–but remember, no matter what, you have LOVE at the very core of you. Take the time to release the negative emotions/burdens through intentional, daily habits and positive thinking, and embrace the POWER of setting the tone of happiness and joy in your household.

I’d love to hear from you! What are positive ways you rediscover the love inside of you, or tips for setting a healthy tone in your household? Share in the comments.

New Baby Momma $aves a Dolla

Okay, in a seriousness, saving money is extremely important with a new babe in the house!

Just throwing out some stats:

Raising a child costs the average couple $241,080. IN THE FIRST YEAR ALONE,  the average middle-income family will spend roughly $12,000 on child-related expenses. (Read the full report here). This includes anything from hospital costs from the birth, all the new gear, perhaps a bigger condo or house to hold all that new gear, diapers, formula/baby food, childcare, doctor appointments, etc.

Cost of Raising a ChildImage: USDA

So, to start with here’s a list of 10 budget-saving tips for new families that really help:

  1. If possible, Set & Practice living off your “After-Baby Budget” before you have the baby.  For example, if you will be going down to one income after your child is born, then start putting away as much of the second income salary as possible into savings during your pregnancy and see if it is doable to only “live” off the one. Additionally, pay off your credit card balances, start setting aside money in the savings account, and practice living a bit leaner. That way you will already have good habits when junior comes along. (TIP: Pay off the smallest credit card balance first. The excitement of paying one off will motivate you to tackle the next one).
  2. Shop at Consignment Stores for Maternity, Baby Gear, and Baby Clothes. Most of these items are only used for such a short time and thus in great shape (some are brand new with tags), yet cost a fraction of the price at retail stores. (TIP: You will get soooo many cute outfits, and blankets, from friends and family throughout the first several months–more than you ever will possibly use, so don’t waste your money buying them for yourself).
  3. Borrow Gear from Other Mommy Friends: Trust me, that bunny swing, the exersaucer, the bumbo…all of which are only used for 6 months max just end up taking up precious space in your friend’s garage. Lots of mommy friends will offer to lend, or even give you, the gear to free up precious space. 
  4. Ask Other Mommies What You Will Need: There are so many items marketed to new moms that you really just don’t need. Take a poll of your fellow mommy friends to see what their favorite items were, ask them which things they really never used, and then stick to the basics. (And, refer to #3: BORROW what you can!). 
  5. Create a Detailed and Realistic Registry: Friends and family love to spoil new parents, so make sure to create a well-thought-out gift registry with small- and big-ticket items (they make perfect group gifts!). Ask close mommy friends to help review it before you publish to make sure you aren’t missing any “must-have’s”). View my favs! If you publish it far enough out, you can direct your family members to pick items off your registry for the holidays or your birthday too, rather than just for the shower, which will help you stock up on items you’ll need when baby arrives. 
  6. Shop Around, Use Coupons, Stock Up: This is pretty much common sense for those wishing to save money, but these days with price matching guarantees, it’s especially important to compare retailers before making big purchases (heck, even just do a google search for the product on your iphone before you reach the checkout and find a lower price for them to match at the register. Babies R Us will even match Amazon prices–pretty cool!). If there is a product you love, make sure to keep your eye out for sales, and then stock up when the price is right (hello 16 for $20 organic food pouches!). Also, once you start using coupons at your favorite stores, they start sending you more! YES! I get a pack of Target, Babies R Us, and Ralph’s coupons at least every other week in the mail and they save hundreds of dollars a month. 
  7. Subscribe & Save: Speaking of Amazon, they have terrific prices and free shipping for many baby and household items. Sign up for a monthly delivery of items you use frequently (diapers, wipes, tp, paper towels) and you save about 15% off retail prices. It takes a few times to learn what quantities and how often you need a shipment, (you can adjust your account any time you need under your online profile), but once you get it down, it is so nice! Friends also swear by Diapers.com
  8. Host a Toy Exchange Party: Is baby getting bored with his current selection? Host a toy exchange party with friends who have children all around the same ages. Everyone brings 5 clean and well-maintained toys, and then leaves with 5 “new-to-them” toys. You save money, your kid gets to play with new and exciting toys, and you don’t have to store a bunch of items they no longer use. 
  9. Save on Sitters and Switch off with Friends: Don’t have grandparents in town? Set up a date-swap with friends and take turns hitting the town while baby stays to play with a buddy. This can be hard with conflicting bedtimes (most little ones find it hard to go to sleep at a new house), so day-time or late afternoon outings may be best. Even get a set date on the calendar each month! You won’t regret it!
  10.  Store Loyalty/Discount Cards (READ: NOT CREDIT CARDS): Do some research on your favorite retailer’s websites, and you can find some fantastic money-saving ideas (along with links to sign up for coupons, view the weekly ads, etc). Many retailers have sweet deals for frequent shoppers. Target has their Red Card that saves you 5% on all purchases, plus free online shipping. Opt for the debit version which pulls from your checking account, rather than racking up a credit card bill. Babies R Us has a reloadable V.I.B card which gives you 10% back on purchases of diapers, formula or food. If you are shopping at these stores already, do your due diligence to see how you can save $. 

Other tips? How do you save money for your family? Send me a comment.



Washing vegetables and fruit

Great tips! Anyone else use white vinegar to wash produce?

Food for the little tastebuds

After selecting what to feed our little ones, making sure the produce is ready to use is the next basic step.

I always choose organic produce, but I still wash them carefully (very, carefully) because of germs and dust and the transport… yuck!

This step is really not complicated. I fill up my sink with water. I put 1 cup of white vinegar in the water. I dump all my fruit and vegetables in, give it all a nice stir so my produce gets evenly coated – then let it sit for 5-10min. After that, I give it all a good rinse (try to rub as you rinse) in cold water, pat dry and done!

White vinegar is very good to kill germs and just to clean in general. The beauty of it is that it evaporates as it dries. So when you rinse your vegetables, whatever residue might still…

View original post 47 more words

Food Safety 101

I’ve always been curious about food storage, freezing-and-defrosting tips, expiration dates, and food safety in general (and probably erred on the [extreme] side of caution, and ended up wasting food that was actually perfectly fine, just because I didn’t have the right information).  Now that I am cooking for a little guy, food safety is an even more important priority for me. I’ve found some great resources below –and learned a ton of great new information!! Now I am off to clean my refrigerator–yikes! (Does anyone else do this on a regular basis? It’s such an easy space to forget about…).

Food Safety & Your Refrigerator

fridge layout

Image from: Food Republic.com

3 Steps to Helping Protect from Food-Borne Illnesses: (source: FDA.org)

Chillat the Right Temperature

  • Your refrigerator should register at 40°F (4°C) or below and the freezer at 0°F (-18°C).
  • Place a refrigerator thermometer in the refrigerator, and check the temperature periodically. Adjust the refrigerator temperature control, if necessary. Next, check the temperature of your freezer.

UseReady-to-Eat Foods ASAP!

  • Use ready-to-eat, refrigerated foods as soon as possible. The longer they’re stored in the refrigerator, the more chance Listeria and other harmful bacteria has to grow.
  • Click here for an amazing Refrigerator/Freezer Food Storage Reference Chart from the National Center for Home Food Preservation. PRINT and keep this handy for sure!

Cleanthe Refrigerator

  • Clean your refrigerator regularly.
  • Wipe up spills immediately. This is particularly important, so Listeria doesn’t have a place to grow and then spread to other foods.
  • Clean the inside walls and shelves with hot water and a mild liquid dishwashing detergent; then rinse. Then dry with a clean cloth or paper towel.

Ever Wondered Which Produce Need Not be Refrigerated?

 Foods-you- should- not-store- in- Fridge
Click Here for a wonderful (extensive) list of fruits and veggies and the best storage and use tips from FarmFreshToYou.com
Cut an inch off the bottom of asparagus spears. Submerge ends in water and refrigerate (32-36°F). Steam or sauté until just tender – do not overcook!
Keep carrots refrigerated (32-36°F). Remove tops and store in a perforated plastic bag. Eat raw as a snack or sauté with olive oil and garlic.
Store whole onions in a cool, dry, dark place (55-65°F) with good ventilation, away from potatoes (which absorb the onions’ moisture). Always refrigerate cut onions. Heat a pan over medium-high heat, add butter or olive oil, and then add the cut onions. Cook until caramelized and add to any dish for a deep, rich taste!
Sweet Potatoes
Store whole sweet potatoes in a cool, dry, dark place (45-50°F) with good ventilation, but do not refrigerate. Cut in half lengthwise and place on a baking sheet; top with olive oil, sea salt and freshly ground pepper, and bake at 400°F for 30 minutes. You can also top the sweet potatoes with butter and brown sugar and bake in the same manner.
Ripen avocadoes in a paper bag on your countertop; when fully ripe, store whole avocadoes in a cool, dry place (45-50°F). Mash the avocadoes and add a bit of lemon juice, salt and pepper for a simple guacamole.
Strawberries & Bush Berries
Fresh berries are highly perishable. Store them in the coldest part of the refrigerator (32-36°F), loosely covered with plastic wrap. Do not wash until ready to use. Serve plain or in a fruit salad.
Check out these Safe Handling Guidelines for Raw Produce from FDA.gov

Internal Cooking Temps and Tips for Working with Meats, Dairy and Eggs

cooking meat

Chart: Safe Minimum Cooking Temperatures from FoodSafety.gov

  • Tip: When in doubt, cook to 160 degrees. Ham and pork are done at 140 degrees.

Safely Defrosting Meats

defrosting meats

Image: The Kitchn.com

• Safest Option: In the refrigerator: This is the easiest method but it takes a long time, so you must plan ahead. (A pound of meat can take a entire day to thaw.) Advantages to this method are that it’s hands-off and the refrigerator keeps food at a safe temperature. You can thaw dinner during the day while you’re at work.

Other Options: In cold water, In the microwave, Under running water. Read the full article from The Kitchn.com

**Rule of thumb is to not ever refreeze items that have previously been frozen and then defrosted. Either refrigerate and then eat them with in 1-2 days, or dispose of them.

What about Shelf-Life of Pantry Items?

By the way, how fantastic is this baking station from Now At Home Mom.com?


Check out this great printable chart for the Shelf Life of all of your Pantry Items from Frugal Living. Time to toss a ton of my baking items! What about you?

Do you have other storage, or safe handling tips? Leave a comment.


Mommy/Baby Must-Have’s

Below is a list of my top five favorite and genius (READ: invented by real parents) products to make your life easier with baby! Spice up your registry, or find the perfect gift for a new mama!

1. Wubbanub Pacifiers


Perfect for the new baby learning how to use and keep a pacifier in his mouth, as the stuffed animal provides both comfort, and a little stability for the pacifier (it lays gently on the baby’s chest and tummy), so it isn’t popping out all over the place. They come in many fun animals and colors, and are hand-and-machine wash safe!

2.  My Breastfriend Nursing Pillow

Breastfriend Nursing Pillow

By far the most comfortable and practical of all of the pillows. It actually straps around you to stay in a comfortable position holding baby level with your chest (and once your little one falls asleep, you can stand up and walk them to the crib without worrying about the pillows and blankets piled on your lap. Just stand up and walk with it!). The pillow has a back rest, arm rests, and rounded areas on each side for your baby’s head to rest. The pocket is great for storing your cell phone or water bottle. PLUS, they sell portable ones that deflate for easy travel. This is a must-have for at least the first 9 months when your baby is small and needs to be boosted up for nursing. Nothing else compares to the comfort and ease of use. (And believe me, I tried a lot before being gifted this pillow from a fellow mama friend).  I spent so much time with this strapped around my waist in the early days, I sometimes wished it came with suspenders and a food tray! Visit their website for product info. 

3. The Cushy Closer Door Cushion


For some reason babies are über sensitive to the clicking sound of the bedroom doorknob. The slightest noise from the knob rattling or latching into place can undo all that hard work in getting them down to sleep in the first place–NOOO!  This clever device handmade by a duo mamma team wraps around the handle (round or strait) holding the latching mechanism in place allowing you  to quietly pull the door open and closed without having to rotate the knob (yet it is thin enough to still allow the door to fully close to limit outside noises!). Now you can use the bathroom after the baby is asleep without fear of the closing door waking them up! Pick from tons of colors and patterns and grab one for the nursery, bathroom and master bedroom doors! $10 is so worth keeping your baby sleeping while you move about the house!

From their website:

-Allows quiet entry and exit while checking on sleeping children (without turning the knob/handle)
-Helps prevent children/adults from being accidentally locked in or out (bathrooms, bedrooms, house, etc.)
-Snug fit helps muffle door sounds (slamming, rattling, closing) while allowing the door to close completely and quietly

(And I would add: keeps little fingers from getting slammed in the door!).

Find them on Etsy!

4. Chewbeads


We all know babies LOVE to tug and chew on mama’s jewelry. Now it’s safe (and cute!) to let them. Chewbeads are non-toxic, dishwasher-safe necklaces that you will feel good about wearing, and comfortable letting your baby suck on. Strangers will never know they are made for teething!  (Bonus: Grab a Chewbeads bracelet and use it for remembering which side you last nursed on.) Find them on the Chewbeads website.

5. My Little Seat Infant Travel High Chair

My Little Seat

This great little travel seat fits over most high-back chairs and provides an instant high chair on the go! Folds up into a mini sack, and is machine washable. Works for any baby/toddler who can sit well (approx. 6 months and up) and holds them securely to a chair for meal times. Use on vacations, or for dining out.

Find it on Amazon!

Do you have a favorite, life-saving baby product? Leave me a reply and share all about it!

Meal-Time Essentials

You really don’t need a lot for baby in this department, but here are a few items that will make life easier!

1. Stay-Put Bowls

  • These bowls by Munchkin have a suction base to help prevent spills by baby, or you–can’t tell you how many times I have been reaching for something across the table and knocked the full dish of freshly made baby food right on the floor! Not any more!. (Around $8)

Stay-Put Bowls

2. Soft-Tip Baby Spoons by Gerber ($3)

  • Sometimes the old faithful is the way to go. These are the perfect size for little mouths, are nice and soft for sensitive gums, and the handles are easy to grip. The spoon isn’t too deep, so baby can easily slurp the food off even when they are first learning to be fed.

Soft Bite Infant Spoons

3. Skip Hop Bibs (around $6)

  • These waterproof bibs are lightweight, easy to get on, easy to clean in the sink or washing machine, and even have a tuck-away pocket to fold up the dirty bib on the go and stick it your diaper bag until you get home. Best bibs ever!

Skip Hop Bib

4. Time-Saving/Space Saving High Chairs (range from $60-150)

  • There are so many options out there, but a few features will make things easier for you, including a chair that has double-stacked trays (pop the top one off to run in the dishwasher while you feed your munchkin on the second tray beneath. Genius!), and one with a removable washable cover for easy cleaning. Also, if you have high-top bar stools, or have tighter space in the dining room, check out the space-saver options like this one!

High Chair

After-Meal Clean-Up Must-Have’s

1. Moistened Gentle Hand & Face Wipes (around $5 for a pack of 100)

  • When baby is messy, it’s super helpful to have this pack of wipes within reach. Safe for hands and gentle on the face, these help with quick clean-ups and in the minute “No-don’t-rub-your-eyes” moments during mealtime!

Face Wipes

2. Baby Safe Dish Soap (around $3)

Dish Soap

Be sure to grab a natural liquid dish soap for cleaning food trays, baby bibs and dishes, such as this one from Seventh Generation. Bonus, it’s hypoallergenic, and specially-formulated for tough milk and baby puree spills, yet gentle on bottles and dishes.

3. Dishwasher Basket for Baby-Related Items

Dishwasher Basket

Pop all of your bottle nipples, spoons, pacifiers, teething rings, etc. into these large capacity baskets to keep small items stacked in an upright position for best cleaning, and to keep them from falling through the cracks of the dishwasher racks. Fits easily in all dishwasher top racks, and comes in an an assortment of colors. Find them on Amazon.

Cookin’ for Baby–Kitchen Gadgets

PLEASE READ: YOU DON’T NEED EXPENSIVE BABY FOOD MAKERS! You’ll only be making straight purees for such a short-time anyways before baby is ready for some more advanced textures and finger foods. Instead, fold in (or update) a few simple kitchen staples to help simplify and speed up the mealtime prep, and keep things nice and healthy for baby. Bonus: you’ll find that the rest of the family will start eating better too!

Here’s what I recommend:  *You probably already have many of these at home. If you need to make a purchase, shop around at Target, Amazon.com, or Ross. No need to go with the top ($) brands on anything. The basics will do!

1. Utility Cutting Board (around $10)

Cutting Board

  • I recommend picking up a new cutting board when it’s time to start making baby foods to ensure you have a clean bacteria-free service to prep. (We keep 3 separate cutting boards. One for veggies/fruits only, one for breads, bagels, etc., and the other for meats). Opt for a cutting board with a non-slip and non-porous plastic surface that is dishwasher safe.

2. A Few Sharp Knives for Chopping Vegetables and Fruits (you can find a set for about $30)


3. Vegetable Brush and Vegetable Peeler (around $8 each)

Vegetable PeelerVegetable Brush

  • The easiest way to clean those veggies and fruits with skin is with a little brush–pop it in the dishwasher when you finish so you are not recontaminating the next batch of foods. Additionally, babies have an easier time with some veggies and fruits if you remove the skin for them (especially before they have many teeth to cut through that crunchier outer layer of skin). Make sure to get a dishwasher safe version.

4. Pot with steaming tray and lid (around $25)

Steam Pot

  • Simple and fast way to cook the veggies for baby! Boil some water, throw some chopped veggies in the tray and steam away. I usually steam 4-5 batches of veggies back to back and just keeping the water boiling underneath as I switch out the varieties (carrots, zucchini, spinach, broccoli, summer squash, green beans…). TIP: The veggies will cook faster if you peel and chop them before steaming. If you are going to mash the foods, chop them into small chunks before steaming, and then mash with a fork after removing them from the pot. For finger foods, you can choose chunks, oval shapes, or long, finger-like sticks for baby to hold and chomp on.

5. Mini Food Processor ($40)

Food Processor

  • Great for pureeing, or mincing up food for the early stages of baby-food making, or even for great recipes down the road!

6. CorningWare (or similar) Oven/Microwave/Dishwasher Safe Casserole Dish (around $20)


  • A great way to roast veggies (or cook in the microwave–especially potatoes!), or cook up your favorite casserole. You can even store the leftovers in this dish and then transfer it right back to the microwave or oven to reheat, then wash it in the dishwasher. Hassle-Free!

7. Microwavable Rice & Pasta Cooker (around $15)

Rice Cooker

  • Not essential, but it will save you time! Get one that has heat-resistant, BPA free plastic and is dishwasher safe too.

8. Glass Storage Dishes ($18-25/set)


  • These are must-have’s! Add freshly chopped or cooked foods into these glass tupperware containers with locking lids and pop them into the fridge or freezer. You can easily see what the contents are, they keep food fresh with their tightly locking lids, and you can move them from the fridge to the freezer, to the microwave and back without having to change dishes. Plus, just throw them in the lunch box for an on-the-go meal! Our favorite brand is WeanGreen!

9. Single Serving Size Freezer Trays ($25)

Freezer Trays

The Kitchen “Nice-to-Have’s” List:

  1. A Slow-Cooker!
  2. Magic Bullet

Beginning Solids

When we introduced solids to our little guy, I felt like I had no straight answers, and conflicting bits of information all over the place. I wished so many times for a simple breakdown of “baby approved foods”, common allergens, and simple recipes–a handbook for when and how to introduce solids. I created a notebook and kept it next to the highchair as we went along in our journey, and added tips based on lots of research, meetings with our pediatrician, reading tons of cookbooks and creating new recipes myself, and of course, lots of pow-wows with fellow mamas!

Below are some of the findings I feel are most helpful when beginning your venture into solid foods with your baby.


Image: nonGMOproject.org

***Important: Each baby is different. Please talk to your doctor before introducing solids. Be sure to monitor your child closely during and after mealtimes for any allergic reactions to new foods and if you notice swelling, hives, vomiting, trouble breathing, or any other symptom, please seek immediate medical attention for your child. It is recommended that you only introduce new foods one at a time, waiting 4-5 days before introducing an additional new food, so that you can accurately pinpoint food-related allergies. The below tips are opinions and not meant to be taken as medical advice.

A Simple Guide for the First Year:

When & How Much:

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends waiting to introduce solid foods until 6 months of age, and exposing your baby to a wide variety of healthy foods and many textures. (This of course is in addition to breastfeeding or formula). Most of the food you first introduce will just be an experiment for your child to play with the texture and get a little taste–their main nutrition with come from nursing or bottle-feeding. A new eater only needs 1-2 tablespoons of each food and will gradually increase to 3-4 tablespoons as she gets older (AAP.org).

The most important thing is to pay attention to the cues from your baby. He will let you know when he is interested in trying a food, and how much he wants to eat, by reaching for the food, getting upset when you start to pack it away, etc. Because their main nutrition (especially before about 9 months of age) is still breast milk or formula, you want to make sure you are not force-feeding them with a spoon. Let them guide you in how much they eat, and be sure to provide them with many different foods to try (NOTE: Sometimes babies need to be offered a food 10-15 times before they begin to eat it–so don’t give up after a try or two. If they spit out all of the zucchini, wait a few weeks and give it another go. Their taste buds will change as they get older.

You’ll also discover that you don’t need to prepare a large portion of food for meal time (unless of course you want to divide it up and freeze portions to save time later on!). I find it works best if you prepare foods that you as parents, and your children can enjoy together. Feeling like asparagus for dinner? Great, cook it for the whole family, and then just slice up a small bit of the larger batch for your little one. That way, you don’t end up spending your whole life in the kitchen making separate meals for each member, and you won’t feel like you’ve wasted a bunch of food if your baby isn’t in the mood for asparagus just yet. (See below for hints on recipes and healthy ways to serve food, i.e., you won’t want to add a ton of butter or salt to the baby’s portion!).

How Often

Our pediatrician recommends working up to 2 meals a day of solid foods by 8 months (you pick the times of day that work best to intersperse the meals with nursing/bottle-feeding), and 3 meals a day of solid foods by 9 months (breakfast, lunch & dinner). For the first several months, our little guy wasn’t eating enough solid foods at the table (more just playing with the food in his hands, rolling it around his mouth and spitting it out), so I would nurse him after a “meal” as he was still hungry. By 8 months, he was getting enough nutrition during his mealtime in the highchair, so we were able to use the solid foods, in lieu of a nursing session at those times.


To make things simple for you and the rest of the family, it works best to try and time the solid food mealtimes around the same time the rest of the family is eating breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  Even better is when you can enjoy the same foods as your baby–that makes things really much easier, and you’ll find yourself eating more healthy too.

Our Sample Eating Schedule at 9 Months (remember, every baby is different–you’ll find your own schedule based on your baby’s needs and appetite).

  • 6am: Nurse first thing when waking up
  • 8/8:30am: Breakfast in the highchair (see meal ideas below)
  • 10:30am: Nurse
  • 12/12:30pm: Lunch in the highchair
  • 3pm: Nurse
  • 5:30pm: Dinner in the highchair
  • 7pm: Nurse before bedtime

As you move closer to the one year mark, you can start folding in healthy snacks between mealtime and slowly cut out some of your nursing sessions. The first-thing-in-the-morning and bedtime nursing will typically be the last ones to wean.

What to Feed

Chat with your doctor about what is best for your own child. Below are some healthy ideas. Also, check out my post on Food Safety 101 for helpful storage, cooking, and shelf-life guidelines.

6 months:  Single-fruit/veggie pureed or mashed up bland foods, fed to your baby with a spoon. Examples: Rice Cereal, Pureed vegetables and fruits (banana, avocado, sweet potato, applesauce, peaches, prunes, peas, carrots, butternut squash–these items seem to be well-received because they are smooth, bland and slightly naturally sweet).

7 Months: Continued pureed varieties and introduce a few finger foods. Examples: Rice Rusks, Organic Rice Puffs, Teething Wafers, and pureed veggie and fruit combos, either self-made, or organic baby food pouches.

Favorite Baby Food Products:

Baby Mum MumsHappy Baby PuffsPlum Teething Wafers

8 Months:  Once your baby has figured out how to self-feed a bit (shoveling with their fists might be the first step!), and maybe even got their pincer-fingers working (index and thumb grasping objects), you can start to add in some more lumpy textures, or even chop your fruits and veggies in long finger-like sticks, or round cracker-sized shapes and allow baby to gnaw on the foods at their own pace–you’ll still need to roast or stem veggies to soften them up. You can also try offering finely minced or small strips of meat or low-mercury fish.

Food Examples: Zucchini, Summer Squash, Green Beans, Pears, Watermelon, Grapes (cut into 1/4ths, ie “quartered”), Salmon, Tuna, Chunky mashed potatoes, Pasta (twisty pasta is easiest for little hands to grip), toasted whole wheat english muffins with cream cheese or hummus. 

9 Months: Baby is really starting to figure out this whole eating thing by now and building up quite the appetite. Feel free to add in more finger foods, turn the spoon over to your baby to start figuring out silverware (just make sure it has a baby-soft tip), and strive for a balanced mealtime (Greens & Fruits–eat your colors!, Protein, Dairy, Healthy Fats, Carbohydrates). Examples Include: Yogurt, String Cheese, simple casseroles or soups containing healthy meats and vegetables. *A note about cow’s milk: typically you’ll want to wait until a year to introduce straight whole milk, as it is harder for your baby to to break down, however, processed versions of dairy are generally safe in small doses before the 1 year mark, such as yogurts, cottage cheese, string cheese (just choose baby-versions of the products when possible, as they tend to have lower sugar and salt). You can also typically start using milk for cooking/baking, just hold off on offering milk as a drink option until at least 12 months.

Yo baby Yogurt

10-11 MonthsDepending on the number of teeth your baby has, you can probably start adding in some crunchier or more clumpy soft versions of healthy foods. Additionally, he may be able to pick up very small pieces of food and manage eating rice or small grains. (WATCH OUT–now everything they come in contact with will go from pincer fingers to mouth. Make sure you monitor your baby carefully as they crawl or walk around the house). Baby also might be ready to start stabbing food with a baby fork, or scooping up with a baby spoon! Examples of foods to explore: cucumber (cut into thin, long sticks for them to bite on), celery (remove the outer strings), whole fruits such as ripe soft pears (take a bite out of it first to give your baby a starting point–and peel the skin if you’d like, otherwise, babies usually find a way to navigate around it, or spit it out if they don’t like it), meatballs, strips of chicken. Offer a full variety of textures, shapes and colors!

12 Months: At this point, many healthy meals can be easily adapted for your baby (yay for only making one meal for the whole family–as long as you keep the ingredients healthy, and avoid extra salt, grease, and sugar)! Check with your doctor, but you may be able to start offering cow’s milk (whole) as a beverage option, or to replace a nursing session.

Check out this great Baby Food-by-Age Chart from BabyMeals.net! And this other helpful Food Chart from Homemade Baby Food Recipes.com!

Foods to Avoid

Salt–a baby’s kidneys are unable to process large amounts of sodium. Try flavoring food with lemon, lime, or healthy herbs instead, and read labels for any processed or frozen foods before offering them to a baby or toddler.  Salt hides in breakfast cereals, baked goods, ham/bacon, and canned or frozen foods.

Sugar/Or Any Junk Foods–your baby is just learning to process solid foods, so you want to give them the best options possible. Why fill them up with empty calories, or teach their taste buds to crave unhealthy food? Plus, as soon as those teeth come in, you’ll want to protect them against decay!

Honey–wait until at least the first year to give anything with honey to your baby. It can cause a dangerous infection called botulism.

High-Fiber Foods (Such as Bran)–These foods can interfere with the absorption of fiber and other essential nutrients, so they are not recommended for babies. Choose whole wheat versions, rather than wholegrain, or high fiber options. (Source: “Baby-Led Weaning Cookbook”. Check out my resources below).

Common Allergens/Possible Irritants

Most pediatricians recommend waiting until at least 1 year to introduce these foods, and then being especially careful to monitor for signs of reaction. Talk to your own doctor before trying the following:

  • eggs, especially egg whites
  • cow’s milk
  • soy
  • peanuts and tree nuts
  • strawberries
  • soybeans
  • seeds
  • chocolate
  • shellfish
  • acidic foods (oranges, mango, pineapple, tomatoes, peppers…can all be tough on those little tummies, and even cause a painful diaper rash).
  • Any foods that you have a family history of allergies too. My husband is allergic to bananas and avocados (bummer, because these foods are delicious, and perfect for mashing up for a baby!), so we were very cautious when introducing these foods to our child, making sure we worked through a plan with our doctor’s advice.

What about Drinks?

Babies will get the bulk of their hydration from breastmilk or formula, however, after about 6 months, your pediatrician my give you the OK to try a sippy cup with filtered water during mealtimes. Juice can be given occasionally (for instance, prune juice if your baby is feeling a bit constipated), but should be whole fruit juice, no sugar added (look for organic and/or juices made specifically for babies), and then you should be diluting the juice with water. Try 1 part juice for every 3 parts water. They’ll get the nutrients from the breastmilk/formula and any whole foods you are introducing, so you don’t need to give juice on a regular basis; in fact, it’s really just empty calories that can cause fill a baby up before mealtime, or contribute to tooth decay. Juice should always be given in a small baby cup (never a bottle), so you can monitor how much is being consumed, and so you can refrigerate leftovers before it spoils. Additionally, to prevent choking or tooth decay, it is recommended that you never send your baby to bed with a bottle of any kind.

Recommended Reading:

1. Baby-Led Weaning

Baby Led Weaning Cookbook

This is the cookbook version of the Baby-Lead Weaning Series, but contains 40 pages up-front of helpful food safety, prep-tips, info on when to know when your baby is ready for certain foods, and other great information before the recipes section. (So in other words, you can skip the first book, and jump right to the cookbook because it provides a lengthy summary). I will note that our baby needed to move much slower with the food discovery than the book’s timelines. It took him time to learn to chew and swallow chunkier or harder textured foods, so we were behind the timeline grids of the book,  but I highly recommend moving at the pace that your own baby decides. Additionally, many of the recipes do include some common allergen/irritant foods (eggs, milk, tomatoes), so you’ll have to decide when you are comfortable offering some of these selections to your baby. We’ve followed the “wait until the 1 year mark” advice.

Another helpful tip from this book: To cut down on frustration during mealtime, offer your baby both foods you know your baby likes and is good with eating, along with some new foods or shapes or sizes to explore. They will get to push themselves to learn greater hand-eye-mouth coordination and develop new tastes, while at the same time having access to familiar foods and easy-to-eat options so meal time doesn’t become a negative and frustrating experience for them.

2. Baby Center Logo First Foods: How to get started

3. Wholesome Baby Food Logo Homemade Baby Food Recipes

4. Weelicious.com and Cookbooks from Catherine McCord!

Weelicious hc c

This mama and formally-trained chef provides fantastic ideas and delicious (yet simple) recipes starting from 6+ months on up to the grown-ups. Find sample recipes straight from the cookbook here!

Have a recipe or food-related tip you’d like to share? Message me!