Beach Baby

After the holidays we left the wet and windy PNW and took Oakleigh on her first flight…to sunny, sandy Hawaii!

It was two weeks split between the Big Island (visiting my brother) and Maui. Oakleigh did really well on the flights, slept poorly (as did we) but LOVED the beach, pool and sunshine. It was a much needed break and fun chance for her to get some quality time with her grandparents! We explored the property where my brother and his wife live on the Big Island…picking macadamia nuts, sleeping in the old caretakers cabin, and swimming in a wild jungle watering hole. We also celebrated their marriage with many of their friends and family.

Maui was the vacation part: really nice condo right on the water, beaches and surfing, pool time, and lots and lots of whale watching. You literally could not look at the water without seeing a spout, breech or flipper slap! It was incredible!

Traveling with a baby meant we took things at a much slower pace, scheduling in naps and early bedtimes. The quantity of stuff in tow was ridiculous! We planned ahead, and prioritized lodging where we had a washer and dryer and used cloth diapers the entire trip.

While in Hawaii, Oakleigh was clearly ready to start eating…eyeing and reaching for our food the whole time! But we decided to wait to introduce solids when we got home.

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Our favorite moments of the trip were the simple ones at the beach and pool. She loved feeling the sand with her feet. Swimming was a fun experience, and watching us pop out of the water in front of her was met with belly laughs and big gummy smiles.

And the break from work, and the house remodel was much needed.

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White Island Christmas

Two days before Christmas, the forecast for snow became clear enough for us to call off all plans where we would leave the island, and made our own plans for a small celebration for our little family of three.

It could not have been more perfect, and exactly what we needed.

We cleaned up the construction debris and decorated the dining room. I wrapped one gift for Oakleigh. Matt and I were not even exchanging gifts this year. Our stockings were hung on the newly installed picture rail in the dining room, empty but festive. Our Christmas tree was a beautiful reminder that someday our house will be back to normal. And we took the opportunity to slow down.

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The Feast of Seven Fishes Christmas Eve tradition was replaced with delicious cioppino (with 7 seafoods but a one pot version!), and we watched snow fall.

By Christmas morning, we had a few inches of snow and we spent a slow morning snuggling Oakleigh in bed, watching the snow fall through the window.

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Then we made buckwheat pancakes. Went on a walk through the snowy woods. Watched Oakleigh “open” her stuffed bunny (or rather, eat the wrapping paper on it). Listened to our favorite album: Louis & Ella Christmas.

It was the perfect first Christmas with Oak.

Adventures in Baby Led Weaning

The concept of introducing food to a baby pulls out LOTS of opinions and different approaches. Make your own baby food, start at 5 months, start at 6 months, add baby cereal to bottles and they will sleep better, eggs are good, eggs are bad….you get the idea.

Honestly, before Oakleigh, I just assumed we would just make all our own baby food at home. Wiz up some peas and sweet potatoes and have a freezer full of yummy things to offer her. Then I learned about the approach of baby led weaning. In contrast to purees, this approach introduced whole foods that the baby takes initiative on trying, and prioritizes learning to chew over just swallowing purees. I have learned that I like rules, and appreciate the guidelines that go with this style of feeding to keep it safe. I won’t detail them all here, but highly recommend checking out other resources dedicated to BLW. In short, the rules are pretty smart and straightforward:

  1. Baby must be at least 6 months old and ready for food (there is a list of criteria)
  2. Baby is given what you eat, and eats alongside you at mealtimes
  3. Baby feeds themselves…even though this may result in not much “eating”
  4. Breastmilk or formula is still their primary source of nutrition till age 1…the food is exploratory and for fun to introduce flavors, textures and positive habits around food. You give a full feeding of formula or breastmilk 30 minutes prior to a meal.
  5. Foods are cut in appropriate sizes to encourage easy holding and minimize choking. Baby is responsible for learning what appropriate sized bites are (aided by their very astute gag reflex!)
  6. Parents and caregivers should know the difference between gagging and choking.
  7. Only foods off limits are honey and added salt.
  8. PS – it is messy!

This approach really resonated with our family, so two days before her 7 month birthday, all three of us sat down for breakfast together. On the menu: scrambled egg, sausage, buckwheat pancakes and banana. This first meal was quite entertaining, and a totally new experience for Oakleigh. She had been reaching for our food and plates for weeks, but this was her first taste. She was curious, and obviously learning what to do with this pile in front of her.

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Day two: whole new story! She knew what to do this time! Meal two was also a breakfast: eggs, sausage, banana, avocado and corn muffins. Corn muffin was the clear favorite.

Day 3: Bring on dinner! Curry coconut rice, grilled zucchini, grilled shrimp, avocado and garnishes of jalapeno, lime and cilantro. Since our jalapeño was diced finely, we gave Oakleigh a long strip (like any other pepper strip) and she loved it! I think the texture felt good in her mouth. The robust flavors did not phase her at all! Only a small % actually makes it into her mouth and then is successfully swallowed, but that is expected at this point.

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Day 4: This girl has figured it OUT! As soon as we started putting food on plates she was making it clear that she was ready to eat! Matt made fried rice with pineapple. Another messy hit.

I am pretty sure that from now on we will be hard pressed to keep her to one meal a day. She sees us eating and wants to try it all! We could not be happier with how this introduction of food is going, and are looking forward to watching her experience so many new flavors over the next few months!

Adventures in Free – as in dairy, gluten, soy, chocolate, coconut (sigh)

Breastfeeding has made my daily diet a bit wonky…I am currently doing an elimination diet to see what is making poor Oakleigh have tummy troubles. Without our go-to no knead bread (oh how I miss it!) I wanted a cornbread that I could eat with soup. So many recipes are gluten free, some are dairy free but use a dairy substitute. So I decided to give it a go with just water and see what happened.

AMAZING cornbread!!! We may not even go back…

Gluten Free, Dairy Free Perfect Cornbread

  • 2 cups stone-ground cornmeal
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • ¾ cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tsp white vinegar
  • 2 Tbs molasses or honey
  • 4 Tbs bacon fat, coconut oil or butter

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Fat for greasing pan

  1. In a large bowl, mix the cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  2. Add the water, molasses and eggs to the dry ingredients, and mix until blended.
  3. Let corn mixture sit for a half hour, stirring occasionally if you remember.
  4. Place a cast iron skillet or cast iron muffin pan in oven, and preheat to 400 (for about 30 minutes while the cornmeal continues to soak, 1 hour total)
  5. When oven is hot, mix in vinegar to the corn mix.
  6. Remove the skillet from the oven, and melt 2-3 Tbs butter/oil/fat to coat the pan. (or drop a large pea size chunk of butter or fat/oil in each muffin hole) and immediately pour in the batter. Return the skillet to the oven, and bake at 375 for approximately 20-25 minutes, or until the top is golden and the center is just cooked through. Check a few minutes early as all ovens vary and add a few extra minutes if needed. Taking care not to over-bake will ensure moist cornbread.

First Holiday Season with a Little & the Goal of Less Stuff

It is mid November. Or in our family calendar, the middle of “cake season”. It kicks off with the State Fair gluttony in September, followed quickly by my birthday then Matt’s (hence the cake…lots of birthday cake to eat!), Thanksgiving and Christmas. So much food! And then we always mange to plan a poorly time beach (ie: swimsuit!) vacation for early in the new year. Good motivation to work out I suppose!

This year is our first embarking on the holidays as a family of three. Having a little along really makes every routine, tradition and timing of it all go up for consideration. Naps! Gifts! Time in the car! With both our families living within two hours of us holidays look quite different from how I grew up. We are adjusting our routine to equitably squeeze everyone in while maintaining a sense of balance…or at least that is the goal!

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I have been inspired by some blog posts and stories online about establishing traditions that don’t revolve so much around gifts and a huge Christmas morning. Our little family has been pulling away from acquiring random stuff for some time now. I will admit that I still fall prey to new things (thank you Amazon for making it WAY too easy to get find anything and everything), but I have made a conscious effort in the past two years to a) stop going to stores just to browse and b) getting rid of random stuff in our house.

The first was hard. I drive a lot for work and would have 15 minutes to kill before going to a meeting. Why not pop into Goodwill (I love seeing what “treasures” there are), Marshalls, World Market etc even just to look? The consequence was that I can always find something I like. Even if it is just dish towels. Now with baby clothes the temptation is even greater! And when thrifting etc everything is so cheap and easy to justify. But I came to the realization that this was just an impulse waste of time and money.

So I just have stopped going in. I have even caught myself pulling into the parking lot, and then turning around. If you don’t look, you don’t buy. Period. I spend that extra 15 minutes calling a friend, catching up on my emails, or journaling in the car. And the amount of time, money and stuff I have saved adds up. Which allows me to justify investing in higher quality items of the things that we really do need or want.

Now to purging: this house remodel has been so helpful in helping us really see what we use and what we don’t. All (and by this I mean probably 90%) of our belongings are being stored in the extra bedroom. For two years now. And we have not missed it. We have seriously paired down the random kitchen items, knick knacks, magazines, books, etc that just took up space. We still need to purge our closets and shoe collection, but it really frees up so much physical and metal space to have fewer things in our house. And when we officially move back in, we will be very intentional about what we keep and what gets rehomed.

All that leads me to the holidays. And gifts. We have been thinking hard about how we want to establish traditions with Oakleigh from the start, and expectations around Santa gifts and stockings and all the different Christmases we attend. We have not come to any decisions yet (any suggestions out there? I am all ears!!!) but do like some of the ideas around the 4 gift system from parents, asking for experiences (or specific items rather than random stuff or toys), and this out there idea about a rainy day gift closet. All of these align with our family values of meaningful quality over quantity, and getting back to a life with less stuff. And taking time to pick (both in the making of wish lists and in the giving of) meaningful gifts that will be appreciated for the long haul.

I remember a fun childhood with tons of gifts on Christmas morning, but every year, it is really just one or two gifts that I can still remember. These were the highlight and were something I treasure to recall. My porcelain doll. Tiny tea set. Set of coral encyclopedias. A red hooded pea coat. That single gift from my great-grandmother every year that I knew was super special. And I remember the afternoon outing that we would do as a family. Sailing, or taking a walk. That is the part of Christmas that means the most in my memory, and we would like to focus our time and energy in making that our holiday priority.

This seems to be a common theme. When discussing with a friend the other day, a random woman came up to us and joined our conversation. She was having trouble navigating similar expectations with her daughter and grandkids. She was unsure how to ask what they would want to receive so she would be sure to pick things they wanted and would use. It was fun to have this conversation from multiple generations of perspectives!

Giving gifts and the generosity that comes with it is so touching and appreciated. And I know that everyone loves to spoil a baby! We had a great moment with my grandparents last week when my grandma was inspired to buy Oakleigh some new cloth diaper covers. This offer was SUPER appreciated and she asked some good questions ahead of time to make sure they were “right”. I was able to share with her information about what we used, and what we are needing next. It gave her the ability to help out, and we did not end up with random cloth diapers that we may not have used! Win win!

And with that, we embark on the 2017 holiday season! Wishing you and yours a time of restful, meaningful memories with your loved ones and families!

DIY Slate Blackboard Countertops – Living with Slate

In March 2016 (way way back!) I introduced our plan to make our own kitchen countertops from salvaged slate blackboards. Well, after nearly a year and a half of other projects, we have been living with these counters for nearly 3 months. The verdict: we could not be happier with them.

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The natural grain (we used the natural side up instead of the polished writing surface) is stunning, and is the first thing everyone comments on. We were hesitant about scratches and chips, and so far have had zero issues. And this is in a kitchen that we are using AND continuing to do major renovation projects (ie: tools on the counter etc). We are thrilled.

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The slate wipes off like a dream, and we have not had any issues with water, oil, wine or any other substance leaving a funny residue. We still have plans to finish them with mineral oil, but between other projects, cooking dinner, and wrangling a 4 month old we just have not gotten around to it. And they seem to be fine.

We are currently working on cabinet paint and hanging trim. And oh boy does that pull the kitchen together!!! These countertops are the star though, and truly embody the efforts of this DIY remodel.

Progress updates can be found here, here, and here for more details on this DIY project!

Amber Teething Necklaces – Baltic Essentials Review

Oakleigh is now back to waking every 4 hours to eat (totally fine by this breastfeeding mama) and sleeping soundly between. During the day naps are getting a bit longer again too. Everyone is feeling MUCH better with the extra sleep…hopefully this is the end of her 4 month sleep regression!

Another change has been drool. Oakleigh was never a big drooler in her first months, but that is changing. She constantly wants to have her fingers in her mouth (or your arm, or a toy) and SOAKS it in a matter of minutes. Like dripping down your arm soaked.

So I figured it was time to give amber teething necklaces a try. I had always planned to use one for teething, and they are supposed to help with drool too. And fussiness. And they are adorable. What was there to lose? I struggled with growing pains as a kid and they are supposed to help with that too. I would love to have something that gives Oakleigh some relief! These necklaces are not to chew on, they are worn in close contact to the skin and releases microscopic amounts of oil, as it warms with the body’s natural temperature. Baltic Amber contains succinic acid (anti-fever, anti-inflammatory), the compound that gives Baltic Amber teething necklaces the therapeutic quality.

When I went out to pick a necklace I was torn between a solid Baltic amber one and one that also had semiprecious stones. I loved the look of the mixed stones but did not want to lose the effectiveness. I contacted Baltic Essentials with my questions and they offered to let me test them out and share my story!

We choose one unpolished Baltic amber (cognac color), and the other alternating pink rose quartz, green and purple fluorite, and amber. Both are very pretty, but I am partial to the uniqueness of the mix. The necklaces from Baltic Essentials are both high quality, beautiful and arrived super quickly (important when you have a teething baby to soothe!). They were also very helpful in recommending the right necklace for my little love.

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how pretty is this?!

I started out with the mixed stone necklace. Oakleigh wears it around her neck, against her skin (it has to have skin contact to stay warm and release the pain reducing acid), and around her ankle when she is sleeping. First off, it looks adorable! She does not even notice having it on. Actually, she likes to have it put on and off because our fingers tickle her chin and neck and she loves it!

After three days, I am not noticing much difference in drooliness, but she does seem calmer. The first day she wore the necklace nighttime sleep was SO much better (this also coincided with her kicking the 4 month sleep regression so who knows, it could have been the necklace, the sleep or just total coincidence! I’ll take it!) Regardless, she does not mind wearing it at all and it looks adorable.

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This weekend I am going to swap this necklace out for the all amber one and see if it makes a difference. All amber is supposed to be more effective so I am excited to experiment!