Gift Guide for a One-Year-Old

We’ve had a one year old in our house for a few weeks now, and, I have to say, one is fun! We’re enjoying this age so much as Lyla becomes more and more of a tiny person. Lyla got really good gifts at her birthday party and I’ve been looking into Christmas gifts. I compiled all her favorites along with what I’m thinking of getting her into this guide. A couple of these will overlap with my Favorite Toys in the First Year post, but I wanted to have all my recommendations in one place. If you have a one year old in your life, hopefully this will give you some good ideas! Share your own suggestions for this stage in the comments!

Crawling toy: I bought this for Lyla around six months and she was terrified. #momfail. I brought it back out the day before she turned a year old and she’s obsessed with it. She smiles and claps when it lights up. It has settings for carpet and hardwood, and attempts to redirect itself like a robot vacuum when it gets stuck.

Shape sorting toy: There are hundreds of versions of this classic developmental tool. You can go with the OG Fisher-Price version, Montessori (aka hipster) style with a wooden option, or choose an activity toy that encourages pretend play. Lyla has this Leap Frog picnic basket and loves it. It has multiple settings she will be able to use for imagination play as she gets older. In a similar vein is this tea set she got for her birthday. I could hardly get her to open her other presents because she wanted to play with it right away!

Crawling tunnel: I wanted to get Lyla one of these for her birthday, but we’re saving it for Christmas. I’m still deciding between a few different options: a crawling tunnel by itself, a tunnel with a tent, or a more aesthetically attractive tent.

Palm Crayons: We don’t have these, but I put them on Lyla’s Christmas list as soon as I read about them. They’re designed in an egg shape, for babies who might enjoy coloring but are too little to safely be given a regular crayon.

Large stuffed animal: Lyla fell in love with her stuffed animals at this age. She takes turns hugging them and handing them to us to love. About 12 inches in length is a good size at this age. They can really bear hug it. She also LOVES her Squish-Mallow. Just make sure to get one that can be machine washed. They will likely go through a lot!

Suction Kupz: This is another item Santa Clause might be bringing Lyla. These multi-use silicone cups sold me when I learned they could stick to the fridge for her to play with while we try to get dinner on the table. (Is than an Olympic sport in anyone else’s house, or just me?)

Push walker: I mentioned the Sit to Stand walker in my favorite toys post. Lyla loves hers and a walker of this type was suggested by her pediatrician as being a good developmental toy for encouraging independent walking.

Wooden puzzles: These are in every nursery, classroom, and daycare for a reason. A puzzle with knobs on the pieces will go a long way in helping babies at this age conceptualize matching the shapes.

Building blocks: I’ve been wanting to get these for Lyla forever, and I think she’ll finally be the right age at Christmas. I like that these come with a bag for storage.

Lyla’s First Birthday Party

Let’s be honest, first birthday parties are for the parents. I chose a donut theme for Lyla’s party for two reasons. One: I used to work for a photographer who did a lot of one-year sessions. Moms would buy these cute smash cakes for their babies to tear in to, and the babies usually just stared at them. Additionally, Lyla gets uncomfortable when a lot of people are looking at her. I wanted to avoid a big buildup to the moment she would eat her cake, so I started thinking about alternatives. Two: Andrew loves donuts. I mean he is literally passionate about them. I knew if I chose a theme he was excited about, too, it would make planning the party a lot easier. Below, I’m sharing my inspiration for the party along with some photos from the day.

Source: Twinkletwinklelittleparty.com

The colors:

The first thing I choose when I’m decorating something is the color palette. Color is what makes the most sense to me in design and the first thing I notice. Lyla’s signature color is lavender, but most girl stuff is pink. I went with a purple, pink, and teal color palette to make choosing my decorations easier.

The invites:

I found tons of cute, customizable options on Etsy. I chose these and asked for the design to be tweaked just slightly to match the party colors. I had them printed on cardstock at Office Depot and picked up A7 envelopes while I was there.

The food:

We ordered from a local donut shop called Munal’s Donuts. They customized an icing color for us at no extra charge! We did donut kebabs using these paper straws, also from Etsy. Andrew built the donut board and I have hopes to use it for future parties. Rumor has it the Krispy Kreme recipe originated at Munal’s Donuts. An employee there branched off and created Krispy Kreme. They have a non-compete contract clause that states Munal’s cannot lay claim to the Krispy Kreme recipe, but Krispy Kreme can never open a location in the Paducah area. Paducah is so cool!

Since the donuts were so sweet, we also served healthy and savory finger foods. We did a vegetable tray and Chik-Fil-A nuggets. I wish I always had a tray of nuggets in my house. For drinks we did milk, coffee, and bottled water. We went very simple with the food and I felt like we had plenty. I don’t think anyone shows up to a child’s birthday party expecting a huge meal.

The decorations:

The decorations ended up being a little challenging. I had everything picked out from Party City, but they kept canceling my order as soon as I placed it. I had to make do with what I could find at other stores, and most places aren’t stocking party supplies right now. I ordered this set of serving pieces from Amazon. Full disclosure: the color on the plates and napkins is a yellow-ish ivory, not white. I got a lavender plastic tablecloth at Target and a banner from Hobby Lobby to go over the food table. I put together a backdrop with the intention of using it for photos with the birthday girl, opening presents, and to sit her hi-chair in front of for her donut & singing “Happy Birthday.” I got a fringe curtain from Amazon, a tassel banner from Michael’s, and balloons from Target. I’m not linking the fringe because it fell down approximately one minute after being put up. It was adhesive but if you do something similar, I would tack it in with thumbtacks. The banner had to be strung and tied so I’m not linking it either because I found it super frustrating that it didn’t come assembled. And the balloons ended up being a hassle. We had to find somewhere to get them inflated, the place we went had obviously not trained anyone on how to use the helium, and the balloons ended up deflating by the time of the party. So my dreams of Pinterest perfection were dashed. But for a brief, shining moment we had a cute backdrop.

I also made two banners for the party, one to go on her hi-chair and one to display her monthly photos throughout the first year. I used thin purple ribbon from Michael’s. For the “ONE” banner, I used scrapbook paper, cardstock, and sticker letters from Hobby Lobby. I am cursed with being creative but not artistic, so I had Andrew cut out the pennants. For the photo banner, I got square prints of her photos and used mini wooden clothespins from Hobby Lobby to hang them. I loved it so much I hung it in her nursery after the party!

The favors:

Since most of the guests at the party were going to be either adults or babies who can’t have anything that would present a choking hazard, I opted not to do favor bags. Instead, I ordered these thank you stickers from Etsy and put them on food-safe white bags from Michael’s so people could take home a donut. I knew we would have extra and the personalized stickers were such a cute touch.

We had so much fun at Lyla’s party! She did great and she had a blast getting all the attention. It was a bittersweet day for me as my family was unable to be there while my Dad fights leukemia, but we were blessed by the family and friends who were able to join us. My best friend since 5th grade, Victoria, even drove up from Mississippi during some of her rare days off from being an ER doctor to be there! It felt too good to be true!

I’m linking my Pinterest board for the party below for more inspiration! Hopefully this will give you some ideas for your next party!

Best Baby Buys

 

We’ve almost made it through the first year with our little Lyla Rose! Over the course of that year, we’ve come to know and love baby products that have made our lives easier. There are so many baby products out there, things can get overwhelming fast. That’s why I’m sharing the things we’ve used the most. Of course every baby is different, and what works for one may not work for another. But each of these products is certainly worth a try! I also wrote a post about baby registry tips that you can read here!

Fisher Price Sit-Me-Up-If I had the brain space, I would write a love song to the Sit Me Up. We got so much use out of this thing. Lyla loved it, and it allowed us to be hands-free with her while knowing she was both safe and entertained. I squeezed her in it until she couldn’t squeeze no more. This is truly my favorite piece of baby gear.

Hatch baby rest & portable sound machine-If you’ve read a baby products post in the last year, you’ve read about the Hatch Baby Rest. It’s a white noise machine and nightlight that can be controlled from your phone. White noise is an essential component for baby sleep, and this thing is worth every penny. You’ll also want a portable sound machine for on the go. I’ve heard great things about the Rohm, but I think just about any sound machine that has the option to plug in and use battery will do. We have this one.

Fridababy Baby Basics Kit-We had used everything in this kit by the time Lyla was 4 weeks old. The silicone brush is great for cradle cap, the nail clippers and file are so helpful for those impossibly tiny fingernails, the gas passer saved us on a couple occasions in the newborn days, and the snot sucker is legendary.

Fisher Price Space Saver Hi-Chair-I’m always interested in products that can transition through different phases with baby. This hi-chair can be used for bottle feeding, starting solids/table foods, and as a booster seat in the toddler stage. It also saves space by attaching to a kitchen chair you already have. Every part of it is machine washable or dishwasher safe. I even take the straps off once every couple weeks and run them through the washer in a garment bag. We love this thing!

Aden & Anais Burpy Bibs-These burp cloths cover the most surface area, are soft and absorbent, and have a snap closure for use as bibs. They come in so many cute prints and colors. We’re still using them as we approach one year. I can’t promise you won’t get spit up on (actually I can promise that you will), but I can say these are your best chance for keeping everyone’s outfit clean.

Zarabee’s Daily Bottom Balm– This is the only diaper cream we’ve found that truly keeps diaper rash at bay. Lyla never had a problem with diaper rash until she started solids. This was the cream that cleared it up, and we’ve stuck with it ever since. If she does happen to get some redness, it’s gone within 24 hours. We apply it every night as a preventative. And a bonus–this cream is more like a gel than a thick paste, making application easy. And it doesn’t stick to every surface like some of the creams we’ve used.

Ubbi Weighted Wipes DispenserWe received this as a gift from one of my dear college friends whose eye for practicality I always trust! It keeps your wipes from coming out one million at a time. It fits every pack of wipes we’ve tried, and the simple design doesn’t clash with nursery decor. Trust and believe, it will be a diaper changing game changer!

Hello Bello Diapers & WipesIf you can’t tell by now, diapering is a huge part of the first year of baby’s life. I first tried Hello Bello diapers because they were significantly cheaper than Pamper’s in the bulk size. I’m always skeptical of celebrity brands, but I’ve been so happy with Hello Bello products. Their wipes are 99% water, and I think the combination of their diapers and wipes with Zarabee’s diaper cream is what keeps Lyla’s booty clear of diaper rash. You can bundle their diapers through their site or pick them up from Walmart.

Pampers Wipes For Cleanup-We may be a Hello Bello household, but no shade to Pamper’s. I keep a pack of Pamper’s wipes on hand for clean up because they contain more soap. I also use them in the diaper bag since they are multi-functional. It’s not that Hello Bello wipes don’t work for cleanup, I just prefer to keep all my diaper changing supplies stocked for that purpose only. It makes it easier to grab a 3-pack of Pamper’s, knowing they will only be used for messes and on-the-go. These things work wonders on smeared peanut butter, messy hands and faces, and wiping down surfaces in a pinch.

Gas Drops & Tylenol-Plan to have a few basic medicines on hand before baby arrives. We used these gas drops SO much during Lyla’s first couple months (hello, milk allergy!). Tylenol is just good to have on hand. Obviously, I am not a doctor. Always consult your pediatrician before giving your child medications.

What I wish I’d gotten:

There are a couple items I didn’t get that I will be getting if I have another baby. Learn from my mistakes!

Boppy Pillow-Per the advice of friends, I registered for a Boppy Newborn Lounger and a My Brest Friend pillow. In hindsight, I could have gotten the original Boppy and it would have performed both functions and grown with Lyla. Lyla didn’t care for the Newborn Lounger and it doesn’t really function past the newborn stage. My Brest Friend is a great tool for nursing, but leave it in the package until you’re sure you’re going to nurse. I wasn’t able to, but I couldn’t return it because I had brought it to the hospital. The Boppy pillow is a place to prop baby, a nursing pillow, and will serve as a support when they start sitting up. If I had it to do over again, I’d just get the Boppy and get the My Brest Friend if I needed it for nursing help.

Ottoman-This may seem really out of left field, but I would get an ottoman for your rocker if you have one that doesn’t recline. I love our rocker and I wouldn’t want a different one, but I do wish I had something to prop my feet on for those long nights when baby needs to be held. No matter what kind of sleep training you’re doing, those nights will come!

End of Summer Meal Ideas

We are SO CLOSE to fall. I can’t wait. This year has been such a dumpster fire and I’m absolutely treasuring any little thing we can look forward to. But, if we’re being realistic, we still have several more weeks of hot temperatures before spooky weather. If you’re like me, you left your enthusiasm for meal planning somewhere back in February. Here are a few easy meals we’ve had on rotation all summer that beat the heat and are easy to throw together. They require no oven (it’s too hot for that nonsense), simple ingredients, and they pass the family taste test.

  1. Frito Bowls:
  • Ingredients:
    • 1 bag of chili cheese Fritos (Upgrading from plain to chili cheese is a game-changer.)
    • Ground beef (amount depends on how many people you’re feeding)
    • Taco seasoning

Layer with Mexican fixins’ to your liking. We do:

    • Shredded cheese
    • Black beans
    • Lettuce
    • Diced tomato
    • Green salsa
    • Sour cream
  • Instructions:
    • Brown the ground beef. Add taco seasoning. Layer ingredients in bowl in order listed.

2. Chicken Salad Croissants

  • Ingredients:
    • Approx. 1/2 chicken breast for each person being served
    • Mayonnaise
    • Red grapes, halved
    • Walnuts or pecans
    • Salt & pepper
    • Croissants, sliced
  • Additional options:
    • Pineapple chunks
    • Sliced strawberries
    • Tarragon
    • Craisins instead of grapes
  • Instructions:
    • Boil chicken. Shred with forks or in a food processer
    • Mix in mayo until chicken is coated
    • Add halved grapes, nuts, salt, pepper, & any other preferred ingredients to taste
    • Serve on croissants w/chips or cut raw veggies

3. BLFGT (Bacon, lettuce, fried green tomato) sandwiches

  • Ingredients:
    • Bacon
    • Lettuce
    • Green tomato, sliced
    • 1 Egg
    • Cornmeal
    • White bread
    • Mayo
    • Flour
    • Seasoning Salt
  • Instructions:
    • Cook bacon in a skillet, set aside
    • Use skillet with bacon grease to fry tomatoes
      • Mix cornmeal & seasoning salt together in a small bowl
      • In a separate small bowl, whisk egg.
      • Dip tomato slices in egg, then cornmeal mixture, coating thoroughly. Fry in pan until breading starts to brown.
      • Toast bread. Spread mayo on both slices while still warm.
      • Assemble sandwiches and enjoy!

I hope these will spark some inspiration for your end of summer meal ideas. I also wrote a post about easy dinner recipes you can find here. What are your go-to summer recipes? Share them in the comments!

 

 

How To Make Housework Manageable

Running a household is a full time job. Now more than ever, I think we’re all acutely aware of just how overwhelming housework can be. It often feels pointless and thankless. All the tasks are never-ending. Even if you get it all done, you just have to do it all over again the next day. As things pile up, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and, consequently, paralyzed. And yet, none of us want to live in a filthy house. So how do we make it work? Today I’m sharing tips for how I’ve made housework feel manageable in our home. As you read them, please remember that I don’t have a job. If you’re one of the many who are balancing a job AND managing your home during this insane time, please give yourself a heaping helping of grace. I believe these tips can help everyone, whether you stay home with kids, work from home, or are back at your workplace, but remember–perfection is not the goal!

1. Know your why:

This is a concept a lot of business coaches talk about: honing your purpose so that when things get hard, you can go back to that core “why” statement and focus on what motivated you in the first place. Ask yourself, why am I doing this? Here’s my why statement:

I want my home to be a place of peace for those I love, and a place that readily welcomes guests.

I stay on top of housework because I believe clutter and messiness cause avoidable stress and chaos. There’s so much in the world I can’t control. I can’t protect my husband and daughter from what the world throws at them, but I can make sure the place they come home to is a respite for their hearts, minds, and souls. I can structure the day-to-day realities of our lives to be seamless and serve our needs. I can make our home inviting for guests so we can practice Christlike hospitality. I have a policy that if someone asks to come to my house, the answer is yes. Keeping these core values in the back of my mind makes doing housework feel purposeful and even rewarding.

2. Break it down:

Once you know WHY you’re doing housework, the next thing to tackle is HOW to get it done. I believe this will look different in every household, but here are some broad principles that can be tweaked to your lifestyle:

  • Make a daily list: This is a list of chores you want done every day. Think through what things are the most urgent, pain points in your daily routine, things that get the dirtiest/messiest, etc. My daily list is: make the bed, tend to laundry whether that’s washing or putting away, pick up in each room, sweep main living areas, wipe down kitchen surfaces, wash dishes, clean out litter box, and shake out small rugs. I make the bed in the morning and the rest gets done during naps and after Lyla goes to bed. Remember that tidying goes a long way. Oftentimes if you just pick up in a room you’ll realize there’s really not much to do other than quick, basic cleaning. Create a habit of picking up after yourself as you go about your day. Build from your daily list until you have tasks you tackle daily, weekly, and monthly.
  • Be realistic: Set yourself up for success by having realistic expectations. The point of this exercise it to make housework manageable, not stress yourself out even further. For example, I’ve heard some people say to do laundry every day to stay on top of it. I tried that method and it didn’t work for me. I need to be able to feel a sense of accomplishment when I complete a task in order to stay motivated. Finishing laundry each day knowing I was just going to turn around and have to do it again the next day was so depressing. I now do laundry on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Mondays to start the week fresh, Fridays to get us through the weekend, and Wednesdays to catch up in the middle. If I don’t manage to get it put away day-of, Tuesdays and Thursdays act a buffer. Think about yourself laying down to sleep each night. What completed tasks would make you breathe a sigh of relief? Focus on those as your daily tasks and prioritize the rest based on your working style and household needs.
  • Take time off: The cold, hard truth is: housework is never-ending. Has anyone else gotten the hamper empty only to pick up dirty clothes to put in and thought about running away and starting a new life? Just me? The point is, you have to take time off or it will drive you crazy. I take off weekends just like you would for a 9-5 job. My “job” is being a stay at home mom. That means I never clock out. I never get a lunch break. I don’t get a drive to and from work to decompress. I am at my job 24/7. If you’ve been working from home during COVID, you know what I mean! We all need permission to play, and there’s no bigger fun suck than housework. Have a designated time where it’s allowed to fall by the wayside, and don’t feel guilty!

3. Give it grace: Once you have your list of daily, weekly, and monthly tasks, remember that none of it is rigid. A couple weekends ago I had a burst of cleaning mojo on Sunday evening. I usually take weekends off, but I was feeling productive so I tackled a few things that ended up saving me time on Monday. Breaking everything down is just a tool to give you a starting point. Know that some days the housework is just not going to happen. Life is for living, not cleaning. Some days your kids are going to be needy. Some days work is going to demand your time. Some days you need to sit motionless on your couch eating snacks because you just NEED A MOMENT. As with any good habit in life, if you are disciplined and faithful most of the time, you can afford to be lenient some of the time.

I hope these tips will inspire you to tackle your housework with a new mindset. What tips have helped in your house? Share them in the comments!

Moving? Here’s how to stay organized.

Is it just me, or does something go missing in every move? Or maybe several somethings. I’ve moved 17 times. I don’t mean I’ve lived in 17 different places, although sometimes I feel like I have. I mean I’ve packed up all my earthly possessions and moved them that many times. Between leaving my parent’s house for college, two dorms, one duplex, one janky apartment, one Disney College Program apartment, one internship, two townhouses, and now our farmhouse rental, I’ve got some serious experience under my belt. I’ve lived in three states, 5 cities. Moving can quickly overwhelm even the most organized person, and no matter how prepared you are, it has its unavoidable chaotic moments. Add in a global pandemic that complicates EVERYTHING, and you’ve got a real challenge on your hands. That’s why today I’m sharing all the tips I’ve learned along the way.

  1. Group like items vs. packing by room: Packing by room makes sense to a point. (Ex. packing the kitchen last). But it can get confusing when you have the same types of items in a bunch of different boxes. Categorize your belongings before you start packing. Categories that are stored in multiple rooms should be packed together to make unpacking easier. For example: maybe you have books in multiple rooms. It will be so much easier to pack all your books together and have boxes labeled “books” than it will be to have boxes labeled “bedroom” and “guest room.” Moving is hectic, and you won’t want to have to think about where specific items were in your old space. Group them together so you have everything in front of you when you’re deciding how to store them in your new space.
  2. Think like a professional mover: Pack books in small boxes so they don’t get too heavy. Place heavy items on the bottom of the box so lighter items don’t get damaged. Use towels, linens, and pillows to cushion boxes you aren’t able to fill up to the top. Wrap doors on furniture with plastic so they won’t open while being moved. Don’t pack anything that’s in a removable drawer. Take the drawers out to move the piece, then put them back in once it’s on the truck. Use your baskets, bins, and laundry hampers to collect random items that are left until the last minute. Do whatever you can to make the moving itself easier and smoother.
  3. Label, label, LABEL: The most frustrating part of moving is getting to your new house, looking for something specific, and wondering “Where did it end up?!” (We’re looking at you, Ashton’s retainer.) Your future self will thank you if you take the time to write down EVERYTHING you’re putting in each box. Be detailed. List it out, especially if it’s a random assortment of items. Examples: Write “winter clothes, outerwear, scarves/hats/gloves, winter boots” instead of just “clothes.” Write “Lyla size 18 months & up” instead of just “baby stuff.” You should be able to tell what’s in the box without opening it. And know that if you ever write “Miscellaneous” or “Stuff” on a box, I will crash through your wall like the Kool-Aid man and knock the Sharpie out of your hand.
  4. Always over-protect: If it’s breakable, assume that it will break and plan accordingly. Use foam wrap for dishware, bubble wrap for glass, and plastic wrap or newspaper for anything questionable. You can spend your time, money, and effort protecting what you have or cleaning it up and replacing it when it breaks.
  5. Invest wisely: Moving can get expensive fast. Choose where to invest to make sure your items get to their destination safely and without damage. If you’re using a professional moving company, look into their pricing and service offerings. It may make more sense to go ahead and pay them to pack up your items as well as load them. This would be a great option if you’re in a position where you simply don’t have the time to dedicate to packing up carefully. If you’re doing the move yourself, don’t skimp on materials. Good quality boxes, tape, and protective wraps will ensure that even in a DIY move, your belongings are protected.

These tips have served me well over the years. I’ve never had anything get irreversibly damaged, and 99% of my stuff seems to make the trip. For some reason there are always some clothes that seem to enter the spirit realm before we can reach our destination. Any moving hacks that have saved you? Drop them in the comments!

Beginner Blackberry Cobbler Recipe

When we moved into our rented farmhouse, we discovered the best blackberries I’ve ever tasted growing along the pasture fence. It felt like finding treasure! They were sun-sweetened and our only competition for them was the songbirds. I knew I had to put them to good use. Wild blackberry and honeysuckle grew on the fence behind my childhood swing set. Those two scents will always transport me to simpler summers.

This recipe is a combination of several I found for cobbler. I used the filling for a cobbler, and as a topping for waffles. I also made hand pies (pictured above) with a very similar recipe that had a thicker, more jelly-like filling. Here is the hand pie recipe if you prefer to try those!

Ingredients:

4 cups blackberries

1 cup boiling water

1-2 TBSP corn starch (you will add to your taste based on how thick you want your filling)

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

Lemon juice (you will add to taste if you want added tartness)

1 TBSP cold, unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 pre-made pie crust 

Coarse sugar for topping (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400. Grease a 9 inch casserole dish. I use this baking spray. You can use a 9×13 pan if you don’t have a casserole dish, you will just have to roll your crust out thinner.
  2. In a medium saucepan, mix together 1 cup of sugar, cinnamon, 1 TBSP corn starch, and boiling water. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Boil 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thickened. Add up to 1 more TBSP cornstarch if you want it thicker.
  3. Remove mixture from heat and add the blackberries with their juices (meaning do not drain the berries before adding them). Stir gently until blackberries release some juice. Taste mixture and add lemon juice 1 tsp at a time if you want it more tart. If you’re happy with the taste, no lemon juice is needed. Set aside.
  4. Roll out whole disc of pie crust to at least a 12×12 inch square, about 1/8 inch thick. Gently ease the dough into the greased dish, taking care to press it into the corners without stretching. Trim the edges of the dough leaving a 1/2 inch overhang all the way around. This overhang will be folded up and over the edges of the lattice top to seal. Save any dough scraps.
  5. Spoon blackberry mixture over crust. Dot the top with butter cubes.
  6. Roll out remaining dough into about a 10×10 inch square. Cut the dough into 8 or 10 strips and weave a lattice crust on top. Trim the excess dough so that the strips meet the overhang at the edges. (I personally didn’t weave the strips, but simply laid them diagonally across each other. Weaving will be prettier and seal better, I just didn’t have the confidence to try it on my first cobbler attempt.)
  7. Wet your fingers and seal the strips at both ends. Fold the overhang up and over the strips. Crimp edges with a fork to seal.
  8. Brush the pastry with beaten egg. Sprinkle with coarse sugar.
  9. Bake at 350 for about 55 minutes, or until crust is golden brown.

Cobbler can be intimidating for beginners, but the real hardest part of this recipe is waiting for the finished product to cool enough to serve! This was a big hit at my house. As I mentioned, we made the filling again for waffle topping and it was delicious! I’m so glad I tried something new and didn’t worry about it looking Pinterest-perfect. Hope you enjoy!

 

Helpful Household Rhythms

The uncertainty and turmoil in the world right now can feel like such a heavy load. I wanted to share some simple, non-strenuous habits that have helped me care for myself and my household well. Now more than ever it’s important that our homes feel like a refuge. These tips can be implemented in any home.

1) Self-care before chores: You know how you’re supposed to put on your own oxygen mask before helping someone else on an airplane? Running a household is kind of like that. You can’t care for your loved ones if you’re constantly depleted. I used to turn into a Tasmanian devil of productivity during Lyla’s naps. She would wake up and I’d be frustrated because I hadn’t gotten to do anything for myself. I was acting like Cinderella pre-Fairy Godmother—a servant in my own house. I re-prioritized. I read my Bible, eat something decent, and try to move my body before doing housework. I check in with myself. If I’ve got cleaning mojo, I turn on a podcast or music and see how much I can get done during a nap. If housework sounds like a huge bummer, I rest or do something creative.

2) Help with hydration: If you’re reading this, you’re dehydrated. When Andrew and I were newlyweds, I would tease him about being obsessed with hydration. But during my pregnancy, I became really intentional about staying hydrated. And y’all…I felt so much better! Ever since Lyla was born I’ve had the hardest time drinking enough and I can tell a difference. Dehydration can cause headaches, fatigue, kidney problems, digestive problems, and so much more. If you’re like me and you have a hard time getting water down, here are some tips:
-Use a straw. I drink so much more when I use a straw. You can get re-useable straws everywhere now.
-Make up a pitcher of water with fruit slices to keep in your fridge. Having that little bit of taste will make you more likely to drink. I use orange slices. If you don’t find this realistic, try buying Hint water, which doesn’t have added sugars.
-Use a water bottle with hours. You can find these on Etsy. This has helped me be mindful about how much I should be drinking.
-If you’re really struggling, try making unsweet, decaffeinated tea and adding fruit slices or fruit juice. This isn’t ideal as there is a lot of sugar in juice, but it’s better than a Coke or nothing at all.

3) Donate unwanted items: I’ve been asking myself recently “Doesn’t anyone just give things away any more?” Every time I get on social media, someone is selling something. I understand wanting to be frugal and get money back from an item you’ve purchased, and I’m certainly not judging anyone! But I also wonder if it’s worth the time and energy. For me personally, there’s no way the money I would make could justify the time I’d spend. Look for a charity that is currently able to take in-kind donations, or pass the items along to someone in need.

4) Set smartphone limits: I had to ask myself, “Do you really not have time to do everything you want to do in a day, or do you not have time to do it AND scroll your phone for hours?” I’m still a work in progress, but I set boundaries based on what I didn’t like. My ideal phone use in a day would look like: no scrolling first thing in the morning, no scrolling in bed at night, and no scrolling during Lyla’s awake time. I don’t nail this every day, but setting those goals keeps me mindful and accountable. It’s incredible how much I can get done when my phone isn’t slowing me down.

5) Slow it down: Speaking of slowing down, be intentional about things that force you to slow your pace. Quarantine has given us all this opportunity. After living in Lexington for four years and having our time there end so traumatically, the slower pace of life in Western Kentucky has been so soothing to my soul. Sun tea steeping on the porch, picking blackberries, playing under a shade tree on a tattered quilt, and trying new recipes have all felt like such luxuries.

I know there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel with COVID and it can send us spiraling from time to time. But even as the months wear on, I’m convinced there is goodness to mine from the slowed down pace we’ve been forced into. What’s something from your childhood you can bring back now? What’s something your grandparents taught you? What’s something you always wanted more time for? It’s now or never! I hope these suggestions will be helpful and encouraging. Even as we all battle the fear and hardship that so permeates our world right now, I am hopeful that each one of us can find some sense of peace by living intentionally. How are you doing this? Let me know in the comments!

Nursery Organization Tips

I’ve been obsessed with organizing ever since I can remember. I used to spend way more time setting up and putting away my Barbies than I did actually playing with them (I may or may not have used a small tackle box to store their shoes by color). When it came time to set up Lyla’s nursery, I wasn’t sure where to start. I had never had a baby. How was I to know where all that tiny stuff should go?! Now that I have eight months of experience under my belt (baby months are like dog years), I’m sharing my tips on how to organize your nursery storage!

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Grab and go: Many things babies need, they need urgently. Make sure those items are stored where you can grab them quickly. For example, bibs and burp cloths for spit up, blankets for tummy time, and a diaper changing station stocked with everything you need. You’ll need to be able to grab things with one hand, so avoid containers with lids or fasteners. Pictured above is our diaper changing station. The bin contains diapers, wipes, diaper cream, hand sanitizer, and lotion. The top drawer of the dresser is always stocked with an extra container of wipes, extra diapers, extra disposal bags, and clean changing pad covers.

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At a glance: Make staples easy to see so it’s obvious when you’re getting low. There’s nothing quite like realizing you just put the last diaper on your baby’s bum to strike fear into a parent’s heart. I keep our diapers, wipes, and extra changing supplies on this cart.  You can use them creatively in so many ways. They’re attractive enough to be out in plain sight, but the wheels allow you to tuck them away if needed.

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Out of sight: There will be a lot of things you need for baby eventually, but you don’t need them front and center right away. Store those items in a place that allows you access to them fairly easily, but keeps them out of sight and mind in your day to day routine. This cube storage worked perfectly for me. The top three cubes hold clothing in sizes she hasn’t grown into yet, the bottom three hold feeding supplies, bedding, and towels. Things I do need are easy to grab (like a towel for her bath each night), but infrequently used items are neatly stored away all within the same piece. I like that cube storage can grow with her needs as she gets older, and we can swap out bins as her tastes change.

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Bonus Tip: Baby things are so small! Drawer dividers or small bins will go a long way in helping you keep it all sorted. I use these in Lyla’s drawers to separate her clothing by type so I can get her dressed quickly and easily. I use tape for labels so I can switch them out as the seasons change.

Babies are constantly changing, but these storage solutions have grown with Lyla and served her ever-changing needs. I’m a firm believer that life will throw you plenty of chaos you can’t control, so you might as well organize the chaos you can control!

 

My Favorite Treat Recipes

We’ve all had delusions of domestic grandeur. I told myself when I got married that I would learn to love cooking because it’s something I’ll be doing for the rest of my life. Alas, I never quite got bit by the Betty Crocker bug. I will cook. I can cook. But I don’t love it. I do, however, love baking treats! It’s a good exercise for me. You need to follow the recipe to a tee (since baking is basically a science experiment), which appeals to my rule-loving nature. But it’s also messy and creative, which are muscles I need to work more often. Today I’m sharing my favorite easy sweet treats. As we slowly start to emerge from this quarantine, I hope that some of the slow-down will stay with us–like making time for messy kitchens and the smell of something sweet baking in the oven.

Cake Batter Fudge

Source: Baked From A Box via Pinterest

Ingredients:

1 cup Funfetti cake mix
1 cup confectioners’ (powdered) sugar
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) butter, cut into small squares
1/4 cup milk

Instructions:

  1. Place cake mix in a microwave safe bowl. Add butter and milk. Do not stir.
  2. Microwave for 2 minutes. Stir immediately until combined.
  3. Spread into greased square pan. Refrigerate 1 hour to set up.

Notes: This makes just a small square pan of fudge. This would be a fun after school or weekend activity for kids because it’s so easy and quick, and it doesn’t make a huge amount so they can’t get too terribly overloaded on sugar.

Blueberry Lemon Quick Bread

Source: Kroger magazine (Come thru, Kroger!)

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1/3 cup sugar

1 Tbsp lemon zest

3/4 cups milk (can use almond milk for non-dairy version)

1 egg, beaten

2 Tbsp canola oil

1 cup blueberries

For lemon glaze:

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

1-2 Tbsp lemon juice

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt; whisk well. Add the sugar and lemon zest/ stir.
  2. In another bowl, whisk together milk, egg, and canola oil. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir just until combined.
  3. Toss blueberries with a few pinches of flour, and gently fold them into the batter.
  4. Pour into a greased 9×5 inch loaf pan. Bake 40-50 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.
  5. To make glaze, whisk together confectioner’s sugar and lemon juice until mixture is thick but pour-able.
  6. Let bread cool in pan 15 minutes, then remove from pan and place on a wire rack to continue cooling. Spoon glaze over bread in a zig-zag pattern.

Notes: This makes a great breakfast bread.

M & M Cookies

Source: Modern Honey

Ingredients:

1 cup Cold Butter (cut into cubes and microwave on high for a few seconds)
1 cup Brown Sugar
1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons Sugar
2 large Eggs
2 teaspoons Vanilla
2 3/4 cups Flour
3/4 teaspoon Baking Soda
1 teaspoon Cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 bag mini M& M’s (You won’t use the whole bag, you will add them to your batter to your taste)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter, brown sugar, and sugar for 4-5 minutes until light and fluffy. Scrape the sides of the bowl halfway through to ensure even creaming.
  2. Add eggs and vanilla. Mix for 1 minute longer.
  3. Stir in flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and salt. Mix just until combined. Fold in M&M’s.
  4. Scoop cookie dough onto baking sheets. Place extra M & M’s on top of cookie dough balls so the M & M’s show up after baking.
  5. Bake for 9-11 minutes or until the edges just begin to turn a light golden color. Remove from oven and let set for 5 minutes before removing from the cookie sheet.

Notes: I grabbed a bag of mini M&M’s on a whim in the baking aisle one day and I really do think they are preferable to regular-sized if you like soft cookies. I didn’t measure them out. I just added them until the dough looked good to me and pressed four on top of each cookie. How many you add on top will depend on how large you make your cookies.

Fruit Pizzas

Ingredients:

Sugar cookie mix of your choice (break and bake, slice and bake, or a powdered mix will work fine)

1 block cream cheese, softened

1 cup brown sugar

1 Tbsp vanilla

Fruits of your choice (Blueberries, strawberries, kiwis, raspberries are good options)

Instructions:

  1. Bake cookies according to package directions. Make sure the balls of dough are smooth so the tops of the cookies will be fairly flat.
  2. Beat softened cream cheese in mixer until whipped. Add brown sugar and vanilla. Beat until smooth.
  3. Chop any non bite-sized fruit into smaller pieces.
  4. Serve as a build-your-own-fruit pizza bar or pre-make pizzas by spreading cream cheese on the cookies and adding assorted fruits on top.

Notes: These are so fun when you have company for dinner, especially during the summer. Kids can feel like they’re building their own dessert, and the icing is thick enough that it won’t turn into a total disaster mess-wise. And even if it does, it melts off with water. Grown ups can have fun, too, trying out different fruit flavor combinations. You can also make this but press the cookie dough into a greased 9×13 pan, bake, and top with dip and fruit once cooled. It makes a great 4th of July dessert with all red and blue fruits.

What treats have you been making during these crazy times? Any go-to recipes? Share them in the comments!