Wednesday, January 18, 2017

What's In My (Diaper) Bag?

Once upon a time I wrote a post about all of my diaper bag favorites. I never got around to editing and publishing it, however, and now many of my favorites have changed.

See, that original post was written when The Bird was, oh, about 4 months old. Now she’s a walking, talking, exploring, busy ball of energy and my favorites have had to change to keep up a bit.

We recently received a new diaper bag (thanks to the CheekyTummy Brand Ambassador program), and I LOVE it. It has fantastic pockets, is super easy to pack, has versatile carry options, and is adorable.

As I was packing the bag up to try it out, I remembered that long forgotten post and decided to update it! I thought y’all might enjoy seeing some of our “must haves” and favorites, and I’d love to hear what you can’t live without, too!

So, without further ado, here it is...

What’s In My Bag:

Let’s start with the bag itself. We have THIS ONE from Cheeky Tummy. 

As you can see, the pockets are fantastic (y'all...pocket people are my people). There are:
  • two large outside pockets
  • three large inside pockets
  • one insulated pocket
  • one mesh pocket
  • one small paci pouch, and
  • one large zipper pocket
Not only do they make organizing the bag a snap, they’re very well thought out – the insulated pouch is great for her cup, we keep emergency snacks in the mesh pouch (easy to grab), the paci pouch can be easily wiped down/disinfected when needed, the changing pad fits perfectly in the zip pouch, and the outside pouches work great for storing the extra bag straps and my stuff (phone, wallet, keys). 

Have I mentioned I like pockets…because I might have a problem…

Now, on to what we keep inside the bag!

Next, on the left, we have what I like to call our “Hanger Prevention" Stuff (toddler mamas, feel me?):

  • ezpz Mini Mat: with a toddler who still prefers eating with her fingers directly off the table, this is a lifesaver at restaurants. Suctions to the table and rinses off easily!
  • CheekyTummy Multipurpose Cover: this cover has so many uses: nursing scarf, carseat cover, shopping cart cover, and (my favorite) high chair cover. See messy toddler above – we love having a way to keep the mess somewhat confined.
  • Ella’s Kitchen pouches & snacks: I have a love affair with Ella’s. We avoid any added sugar with The Bird’s snacks, and Ella’s does a great job of offering a wide, yummy line that satisfies a busy toddler without sugar! Our favorites are the Nibbly Fingers and Ginger Cookies.
  • Munchkin snack cup: because apparently you can’t ride in a car seat without a supply of puffs or dry cereal
  • NumNum spoon: we did BLW (baby led weaning) with The Bird and accidentally created a stubbornly independent eater. These little spoons make it easier for her to feed herself, even pureed things! (Note: ours are hard to find, but these are similar)
  • Munchkin Miracle 360 cup: The Bird is oddly particular about her cups, and this is the only one she likes. We have several variations and I love how easy they are to clean (no straws or spouts or valves for yucky stuff to get stuck). Plus, it’s easy for her to navigate (she can drink from any point on the rim, just like a regular cup), it doesn’t spill or leak (!!!), and it’s better for her little developing mouth. 
  • Boon SNUG: I keep one of these stashed in the bag for those “We left the cup in the car” moments. It fits on practically any cup and turns it into a spill-proof sippy.
  • OXO Tot roll up bib (and spoon): I like that this bib is silicone and fabric, making it easy to rinse post-meal, it has a pocket for catching the things she drops, and it rolls into itself for easy storage. We keep a spoon tucked inside it, just in case.

Then, we have our “Toddlers Are Walking Messes" Stuff:

  • Changing pad: we love the one that came with the bag – yay!
  • Planet Wise wet bag: we use this brand because it’s a PUL/fabric combo bag, meaning the mess/wet stays inside and the outside stays dry and clean (no leaking or dampness). Plus, they’re super durable and easy to wash.
  • Cloth Diapers: I have SO MANY THOUGHTS on cloth diapering that I won’t share here, but you can check out my primer posts (here, here, here, here, and here) if you’re interested. We carry around 2-3 when we’re out, just in case. By the way, the floral design is a LilyBee – made my a friend of mine – and it’s wonderful. If you’re interested, let me know and I can get you connected!
  • Huggies Natural Care wipes: we use cloth wipes at home, but while out, these are simpler. I’ve tried several brands and just keep coming back to Huggies. They’re thicker, more durable, unscented, and just work better.
  • Kleenex To Go: these are mostly for me, for The Bird we use...
  • Boogie Wipes: lifesavers, these are. Y’all, really, WHERE DOES ALL THE SNOT COME FROM? Her head is only so big. I do not understand. We buy in bulk.
  • GermX: because aforementioned toddler and snot

And finally, sticking with the theme above, our “Inevitable Breakdown Solution" Stuff (because #whineyearold):

  • Swaddle Designs blanket: I know everyone is familiar with Aden+Anais, but this brand is hands down my favorite swaddle. They’re big and cushy and way softer than any AA I have. Plus, the prints are lovely.
  • Bunny: this is The Bird’s baby. It’s a JellyCat bunny personalized via Peek-A-Whoo.
  • Change of clothes: the diva dislikes being wet, but has zero qualms about getting wet…so…
  • Amazon Fire: we have a Curious George addiction, y’all. It’s bad. She’s in love. I don’t like her having the tablet on too often, but on occasion, it’s the only thing that works and you do what you gotta do.
  • MAM paci: yes, we still have a paci. I like sleeping. I’m balancing it out with the rimless cup, right? Right.
  • Glow sticks: my MIL figured this trick out – The Bird thinks these are THE BEST THING EVER! In an emergency, we pull one out, crack it, and insta-calm. They’re like baby crack. Walmart sells them in big bags, just sayin'.

I think that covers it all. We’re in the throes of #ToddlerLife, so needs change daily depending on The Bird’s mood and preferences, but these are our regularly rotated staples.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, someone is currently emptying out the prettily packed bag all over the living room floor. Thanks for reading and let me know what all you have to have in YOUR bag!

Sunday, January 8, 2017

January Meal Plan Recipes

Explanation for this post in the form of a life update:
  • The Bird is now 16 months and NEVER SITS STILL. She’s exploding with words, energy, and mischief. She’s constantly hungry and/or eating, but is still wearing 12M clothes. She’s in love with Curious George and learning faster than I can teach her.
  • The Boy is in the dissertation writing stage of his PhD, so any time he has that he’s not chasing a toddler, he’s writing or reading or researching. He’ll also be teaching this semester and is working on OU’s retention committee part time.
  • I’m tutoring two days a week, serving as the nursery coordinator for our church (managing 100+ volunteers), babysitting two days a week, doing Montessori early learning with The Bird, and running A Double Batch (my cookie business) out of the house.

So, you might say we’re kinda busy.

And, since the cooking and cleaning fairies have yet to find our house, meals around here require a bit of planning so they don’t all end up being Goldfish crackers, a spoonful of peanut butter, and thrice reheated coffee at 9 pm.

Meal Planning has become my best friend. I plan out our meals for the month, make a GIGANTIC shopping list, and spend one weekend shopping, chopping, slicing, measuring, packing, and prepping. It’s a long process (and a decent cash outlay up front), but I end up with 30 lunches and dinners out of it, so it’s worth it. Plus, it’s less thinking on a daily basis, fewer trips to the store each week, and I can monitor exactly what goes into our food.

We cook in our slow cooker A LOT (we have this one, and it’s amazing), but we also have some favorite stovetop or oven recipes. Breakfast is simple staples (oatmeal, avocados, eggs, toast) and lunch is frequently leftovers from the night before. For dinner, I keep the sides simple (salads, frozen broccoli, green beans, brown rice). We've learned over time what we love, what works, and what kind of recipes to trust. 

I posted the following photo a few nights ago and had quite a few folks express interest in what recipes I use, so I figured I'd share! 

This is how it looks at the beginning. Once I’ve shopped and collected ingredients, I outline all of my recipes in a spreadsheet (I’ll link my file for this month below). I then spend a chunk of time chopping, slicing, dicing, peeling, etc. so that all I have to do is dump ingredients into freezer bags or combine in pans.

I usually start with my crock pot bags. I line up my ziplocks, add the protein to each one, add seasonings next, then veggies, and wrap up with liquid. A lot of the recipes use similar ingredients, so use the excel sheet so that I only have to grab each ingredient once (i.e. I add salt to each bag at the same time, then pepper, then ginger, etc). I’ve found working down the list like that to save me time. I then put together the meals that require a bit more prep.

We store our meals in our chest freezer, and I get the next day’s meal out the night before to thaw in the refrigerator.

I’ve adapted many of these recipes to feed a family of 2-3, but you can easily double them. Most of these we’ve tried before and love, but a few are new. I’m planning to review each one and do a follow-up post at the end of the month!

So, without further ado, here are my recipes! Hope they’re helpful to some of you! I’d love to answer any questions or offer tips, just let me know!