Foodie Friday: Buttery brown sugar apple dip

This recipe always reminds me of being in Girl Scouts. Every week, a different girl had to bring a snack for the group, and you better bet that I took that schedule seriously. I knew which weeks were going to be good (G.O.R.P. anyone?) and which weeks I would eat before I came because it would be a letdown (carrot sticks, really?) Anyway, every time it was my turn, I would have my mom make this apple dip. It is hard to explain, but once you have tried it warm (or cold!), you will want it every fall. Enjoy!

Buttery brown sugar apple dip
from Mom

3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup butter
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla

Melt the sugar and butter (watch carefully so it doesn't burn).  Remove from heat and add the sour cream and vanilla. Serve with tart apples. This holds up in the fridge for a few days.

Birthday Thursday: Happy 23 weeks!

Not much new to report this week, other than our girl is retiring her bouncy seat AND rainforest. Turns out once you can roll back to belly, those things aren't "cool" anymore. We are open for suggestions on substitutes "places" she can sit and be independent!  Speaking of sitting, she is sitting up with a "spotter" in case she face-plants, and is getting frustrated with toys being out of her reach (crawling is right around the corner, I think!)

This outfit is special because it was the first outfit that Elizabeth (grandma) bought for her last fall. It has been waiting for her for a long time, and when I see it, I think of the excitement of preparing for Baby O!



TV Tuesday: Premiere time!

Oh, how I love the end of September. Some might be enjoying the cooler, sunny weather and doing fall-type outdoorsy activities, I am filling up the DVR with the season's newest shows. Jill and I had our lists of what we were excited about, and here is my take on it all.
  • New Girl- This ended up being my favorite show of the week. I get the writers' sense of humor and love Zooey Deschanel. The "D-bag" jar, the lesson on how to talk to girls, and Coach's costume for the party were the highlights, but really I laughed out loud way more than that. I was furious that my DVR cut off the last line...what did he say?? Verdict: new fave!
  • Modern Family- Ahh! I was freaked out by the "new Lily". The scenery in their trip to the mountains was so pretty that I got over new Lily quickly. I loved that it was an hour long (wish it always was), laughed SO hard at Cam's "Let's hear it for the boy!" understated performance, and was so happy to see Dylan cut loose. He made me cringe. Speaking of cringing, how about Alex's little mobster boyfriend? Ugh. As usual, Jay and Cam had my favorite lines. I love the Lily/Cam chemistry and the family album was hysterical. It wasn't an amazing episode by any stretch but was much better than the rest of the week. Verdict: Excited for the season!
  • The Office- What? Andy's in charge? And Pam AND Angela are pregnant?! I missed the first 4 minutes of it and walked into a show I almost didn't recognize. I have said many times that the show should have ended when Michael left, and my mind did not change. I used to laugh out loud and tonight I briefly smiled a few times with Pam's pregnant crying. Verdict: I'll DVR it and bust it out when nothing else is on
  • Whitney- Instantly, I was turned off by the laugh track. Wait, then it says "Whitney is taped in front of a live studio audience". So weird. The lines are so cheesy and I think I have been over sitcoms for a while. I lasted 6 minutes. More room on the DVR! Verdict: No thanks!
  • Grey's Anatomy- Ahh, my old friends at Seattle Grace Hospital. The last time I saw them, I had a 4 week old!  I enjoyed having a 2 hour premiere I could fast forward through on Sunday morning, and when it ended I wanted more!  I was also in tears when it ended, so you know it was an emotional one.  My favorite character of the episode? Owen. I don't want to ruin it for you, but you'll see why. Verdict: won't miss it.
How about you?  Your favorites of the week?

    Style Saturday: Knitting by Nana

    Last week, my mom gave Larkyn this hat, and I could not WAIT to put it on her. As soon as I had a reason for her to wear it (the Otterbein Homecoming parade today!), out it came. By the time we got home, it was way unnecessary, but I still needed a few pictures of it. I have no idea how my mom does it. I don't understand the inner-workings and miracles of taking a piece of yarn and a hook and making it into a hat. All I can say is good job, mom!

    Her "I have to have it" shirt is from Gymboree, and the pants are from Target.

    Foodie Friday: Tortellini salad

    Tortellini salad
    From Mackenzie 

    1 bag frozen tortellini
    1 bag spinach leaves
    Poppy seed dressing (Marzetti is the only one I can find at my grocery store)
    Pine nuts, just a sprinkle (buy them bulk, so much cheaper!)
    Bacos (just a sprinkle. Don't skip them, they add smokiness that makes the salad amazing!)
    Blueberries (handful)

    Prepare and chill the tortellini for a bit. Toss all ingredients together with dressing. This is the only salad I can make that serves as a meal!

    Birthday Thursday: Happy 22 weeks!

    This awesome dress was part of an amazing stash I was blessed with from a friend's sister. Thank you Stephanie! It is from Gymboree and the bloomers are Ruffle Butts



    There's my little ladybug!  I had her matching red shoes all laid out to debut, but she grew out of them too fast. The kid is destined for big feet like her mama. And she sure knows how to use them already, as you can see in her newest contraption, the Fisher Price Bumper Jumper. Since we live in a 900 sf house, the monstrous bouncers are not happening. We tried one, it was almost as big as the dining room table, and it went back to the store!  Anyway, that's her new gig, bouncing. Along with growing a first tooth (we think? But we have thought this before...) and eating homemade purees! She did well with the butternut squash and liked the sweet potato-banana so much that she shoved the spoon in her mouth herself.
    More ruffle butts! We are big fans of their bloomers and legwarmers. They fit great, are adorable, and make diaper changes with my contortionist a cinch!

    This weekend, she will go to her first Otterbein Homecoming to meet her extended Theta Nu family!
    Mini Mod

    Baby Brezza review


    Before Larkyn was even born, I knew I wanted to make her baby food. I registered for the Beaba and was disappointed (but not surprised--its pricey!) when no one purchased it. Luckily, I saved up some gift cards and had one mishap shopping trip, but now the Brezza is MINE (ahem, Larkyn's)!

    $10.18 worth of organic food, ready to be pureed!

    Why not jarred food? Well, I have actually found a brand I like, Earth's Best. But, that is just going to be the backup for traveling or if we run out of fresh at home. Their jars are organic, but I just wonder how long they've been sitting on a shelf, and I want her to taste more than just the 6 or so flavors for each stage. I want this kid to have a broad palate and be a good little eater. I also enjoy cooking, so I thought I'd give it a whirl. Here's a shot of how it went last night when I thought I'd kick it "old school" and try it without the Brezza...
    Gross! This is my carrot "puree". It immediately was offered to the dog, then to the trash can.
    I searched the internet high and low for direct comparisons or any sort of review on the Brezza and could never find one, so I am trailblazin', people...

    About the Brezza:
    • Cost- $99.00 (and NO ONE will honor coupons for it. I tried)
    • Availability: Babies R Us and amazon.com. Buy Buy Baby is adding it to its Fall lineup
    • Capacity: 2 1/2 cups
    • Features: There is a button for Steam and a button for Blend. Then a button for Steam/Blend. You would use them separately for things like bananas (blend only) or reheating frozen foods (steam only)
    • Add-ons I recommend- The straight-edge spatula was nice because it was fitted specifically for the Brezza. After spilling lots of diced sweet potatoes and squash on the floor, I will definitely pick up the fitted cutting board as well. I thought it was unnecessary but have changed my mind!


    Initial thoughts:  There was no assembly require (whoo hoo!) and once I pushed harder than I thought I should, it was easy to push and pull the bowl in and out of the machine. The manuals are very simplified and helpful, and include a spreadsheet of how to cook each fruit/vegetable you need. Whats cool about this machine is that all batches use 160mL of water (and the bowl is marked for this). I don't have to remember how much water goes with each kind of food. I didn't enjoy chopping up the squash or the sweet potato, but it is worth it for Lu to have healthy, fresh food!
    One third of the butternut squash. This made four 2 oz. servings.
    Using the machine:  Once I chopped up the food and put it in, I could easily twist the lid counter clockwise to lock it (or it won't start). I followed squash directions and clicked the time button 3x to get to 20 minutes. I waited. I waited. ??? Oh, hmm, it would help if I put the BLADE IN. Once I put the blade in and pushed the timer again, it started steaming in less than a minute. Lesson: if it doesn't start steaming soon, you may have forgotten something). Larkyn and I walked away and in about 20 minutes we came running back in when we heard the blender begin. It blended for about a minute, and I saw I had beautiful, smooth squash puree!  It was so nice to be able to leave the kitchen while that was happening and give her a bottle.
    About one minute into the cycle, this happens.
    And in 19 or so minutes, this happens and we squeal with joy!

    After the cycle: I poured the puree into my handy little Babies R Us food cubes and ice cub trays. Actually, the ice cube tray ones turned out much better because they aren't as deep and therefore didn't need to freeze as long. I might shelve the bigger ones for when she needs 2 oz. servings rather than one. Off they went to the freezer, and when they are frozen, I will dump them into a ziplock labeled with the date. Then, I can just pull out the cubes I need, put them into the Brezza to defrost, and off we go.

    Thoughts on specific foods:
    I will update this part as I have more experience...
    **A note: It may be tempting to use canned foods, but I would not suggest that. Until they figure out a way to remove BPA from the can-liner, I consider it dangerous.
    • Squash: One butternut fills an entire tray of cubes, so this is very economical. The squash was super hard, but made an awesome puree. L's review: Yummy but it stains everything!
    • Peas: Like my mama friend warned me, peas don't work so well because of their shells. It is the prettiest green puree, but might have to wait until Lu is a little older and can handle chunks.
    • Pears: This turned out just like applesauce. It smelled so good, too! L's review: Her favorite!
    • Sweet potatoes: They blend really nicely and one medium sweet potato makes 8 cubes. I tried to add banana to mine after the steam cycle, but for some reason, the banana chunks did not blend in. It is probably something I did, and it will be easy enough to mash it up when I reheat them. L's review: She loves the sweet potato/banana blend!
    • Zucchini: After reading that zucchinis lose most of their nutrients when peeled, I left the peel on and took the Brezza guide's suggestion to drain excess water before blending. L's review: So yummy when mixed with her favorite pears.
    • Plums: turned out great! I did 2 plums with less water because the table called for 3 plums. L's review: Not good on the butt!  Oh, she had the worst diaper rash after eating these:o(
    • Nectarines: would have been smoother if I had steamed them, but still nice like applesauce.
    • Carrots: They were so nice and smooth. 3 carrots only makes 6 cubes, so you have to make a few batches. One warning, the Brezza chopped the carrots into puree, but they tend to clump together, which is weird. She kept pushing clumps back out of her mouth, and once I smashed them with the spoon, they were fine. Follow-up: After reading several suggestions based on the nitrate content of carrots, we buy them in the jar and mix them in here and there.
    • Banana: I have mixed banana in with sweet potato and with zucchini/apple and it never blends well for some reason. It thickens up the runnier purees (hens the zucchini/apple), but I still have to break up small chunks as I serve it. L's review: bananas make anything better!
    • Apples: We tried organic applesauce for price and ease (its already puree!), but of course Larkyn did not approve. It must have been too tart, because she made a face like we were giving her lemons. I just made a batch of golden delicious puree and it is the smoothest one I have seen yet!  1 apple makes 3 cubes. L's review: Ahhh, finally apples she likes!  And follow-up: She now enjoys store brand Organic, sugar-free applesauce.
    •  Blueberries: I made the first batch with pears, but it was pretty chunky. The next time, I cut the pears up smaller and left in the extra water (it is suggested to drain for these 2 fruits). L's review: Perfect with oatmeal!
    • Watermelon: Since you don't steam it, watermelon is pretty easy. However, you have to really watch your blending or you'll end up with liquid. I had to mix it with jarred banana to thicken it a bit, and I still mix it with a few spoons of applesauce when I serve it. 
    • Broccoli: With such a strong smell, I knew it would be a challenge to get Larkyn to eat it. So, rather than buying a large stalk of broccoli, I got a 1/2 lb. container of chopped broccoli from Whole Foods' ready-to-eat section. This was the perfect amount, much easier to fix, and only 1.79. L's review: I gulp it down when mixed with a pear and kiwi.
    • Cauliflower:  Same as above (the container was mixed with cauliflower). After it was blended, I mixed in a few tablespoons of shredded cheddar cheese. To me, it smelled and looked fantastic, but it kept making her gag. I realized after trying it myself that cauliflower is not like most vegetables that will soften and go down easily. No matter how finely you puree it, tiny pieces will stick to the back of your throat. So, I dipped the spoon of cauliflower into applesauce for each bite and the gagging went away. 
    • Kiwi: This was an easy one to mix with pear or apple (it is acidic, so it would be pretty strong alone).
    Regrets:
    Still have to do all that chopping!  And sometimes it was really hard for me to get the bowl attached to the machine. This happens to me with my food processor too, so it must be a common slide-lock issue. When I reheated the squash cube, there was a ton of water pooling up (because it was steaming). Maybe I wasn't supposed to put water in when I reheat, but it didn't say not to...) Oh well, it will actually be easier to just put the cubes in the microwave in her bowl and have one less thing to wash.

    Final thoughts:
    So far, I love it! Like every piece of baby equipment we have acquired in the last 5 months, it has a learning curve and I have to practice some trial and error patience. I originally did not steam the fruits (nectarines and pears), but when I decided to steam them according to the directions, they turned out so much smoother. The bowl is so easy to wash, which was the whole reason I bought it. Last night, I had a blender, saucepan, and colander to wash and it turned out like crapola anyway;o) Feel free to comment and ask me questions about the Brezza.

    Follow-ups:
    When it came to freezing, I wondered about preventing freezer burn (or what I thought was freezer burn and it really wasn't), and I found this helpful article. 
    Actually, that entire website is very helpful to me. I have used it to answer questions (why can she have cheese next month but not milk?), to look up recipes, and to just read interesting articles on feeding baby.

    Which foods are most/least economical? Well, I'm sure it depends on the season, but with my April baby starting at 5 months, here is what we have found:
    • Most economical (use these as bases to mix in with new or expensive foods to stretch them out!): sweet potato, squash, blueberries, Store brand sugar-free organic applesauce, tub of Stonyfield farm whole milk organic yogurt
    • Most expensive/makes a small batch: mango, D'anjou pears (Bartletts are most expensive), avocado, kiwi, zucchini

    Birthday Thursday: Happy 5 months!

    OK, I hated taking these pictures with the flash on. Even with all the editing, they don't look half as good as the usual ones I take when I have daylight. Is that a valid reason to be a stay at home mom-- better lighting?

    Anyway, Larkyn is 5 months old today! When I got my monthly email from the baby websites, I was happy to see that I could check off the little boxes for her expected milestones. Besides growing like crazy (like at those rolls!), she is enjoying screeching like a rainforest monkey when happy/bored and bouncing when she stands. She will stand and jump until your arms ache, but it is hard to turn down her grin that begs you for more! We have a doorway bouncy thing on order now, actually. She has also developed a favorite sleeping position: on her belly with her face up against the bumper! I moved her over and over and came to accept that she would find a way to sleep in a terrifying position no matter what, Here's the little monkey now...



    TV Tuesday: The return of college football

    I'll make this quick because I don't have much to say on this topic. But there is one upside to it this year...
    Baby Miami Hurricanes jerseys!

    Gearing up for the first game of the season last week (which they lost after us ladies went to bed)

    Notice the hairbow and legwarmers are gone by kickoff. Daddy hates accessories. Except for the beads he is wearing himself out of superstition!

    Mama Monday: Meeting the GGs!

    Matt is fortunate enough to still have all FOUR grandparents around (I, sadly, do not have any living grandparents). After many failed attempts at getting up to visit them, we finally got up to Berea to meet Great Grandma and Great Grandpa Priest. Oh yes, and the 2 great aunties who smothered her with kisses!

    Grandma Priest is famous for cooking her fabulous Czech/Slovakish delights, and we had been looking forward to the stuffed cabbage rolls, breaded chicken, and pretzel salad (recipe posted last Friday!) Usually, pierogies are in there somewhere but it was disgustingly humid and we forgave her for not wanting to cook hot potatoes all day. After indulging in all the good stuff and watching the Browns game, it was time for some family pictures with all the people who make her who she is...

    Baby and Great Grandpa Jim. He kept her so long that she wet through her diaper and all over his lap. "Oh well", he said, he raised 4 girls.

    Don't leave out Great Grandma (Elizabeth "Betty"= Larkyn Elizabeth)

    Auntie Jeanette, Great Grandma, Auntie Karen, and Grandma

    Foodie Friday: Strawberry Pretzel Salad

    For years, Matt has been saying, "You have to try my grandma's pretzel salad!" Well, she finally made it for us last weekend, and it is to die for. I don't know why it is called "salad", but it came from a cookbook that was so worn and loved that she had to stitch it back together again. Use this for your next gathering!

    Pretzel Salad
    From Grandma Priest
    photo from strawberryplant.org

    Crust:
    2 C crushed pretzels (don't crush them too fine!)
    3/4 C melted butter
    3 tsp. sugar

    Mix together, flatten out in a 13x9 pan, and bake for 8 minutes at 400. COOL COMPLETELY.

    Cream layer:
    8 oz. cream cheese
    1 C sugar
    8 oz. Cool Whip

    Beat sugar and cream cheese together. Fold in the Cool Whip and spread over the completely cooled pretzel layer. Put in fridge while you prepare the Jello layer.

    Jello layer:
    1 large package strawberry Jello (some family members like orange or raspberry)
    2 C boiling water
    2 10 oz. bags frozen strawberries

    Pour the water over the Jello powder in a large bowl. Quickly add the strawberries. Let it firm up slightly, then pour over the cream cheese layer.

    Birthday Thursday: Happy 20 weeks!

    What an exciting week! On Monday, when I have more pics, I will show you how Larkyn's meeting with her great grandma and grandpa (and aunties and cousin!) went. Since learning to roll from back to belly, she rolls all over the place now. No more "You lay right here on the rug while I go make your bottle"...I come back and she has rolled across the room!  This also means stomach sleeping, of course. Thanks to the Angelcare monitor, I only freaked out for a few minutes each of the first few nights she started sleeping like that.

    I hate leaving her for the day, but it makes coming home to her twice as sweet! We are trying rice cereal again after many mama-friend conversations...we warm it, give it to her after a full bottle, and add a little bit of fruit (banana, pear, applesauce) to it. Now she loves it!  See?


    And as summer is drawing to a close, we are trying to fit in as many summer outfits as we can before she outgrows them! She is getting too tall for so many things!



    Mama Monday: Making barrettes

    Lulu was born with a nice head of hair and had a barrette-holder (courtesy of Lottie Da boutique)before she was born. Only problem? A few weeks after she was born, she lost all her hair, except by her neck and on the sides. Yes, my daughter was rockin' the Larry David 'do. Thankfully, she has been sprouting blonde locks for about a month now, and there is juuuust enough to gather into a teeny barrette. Or, more often, clip the barrette to a stretchy headband. Anything to avoid the "How old is he?" question I sometimes get if I dress her in anything other than pink.


    So, I have been disappointed with the price and color choices out there in the hair decor world. Solution? Make my own!  Here's how it went...
    Those are NOT called alligator clips, just FYI. The rays of sunshine at Sally Beauty Supply made that clear. They are "single prong clips" And after one attempt with the lighter, I traded it for the grill-lighter (with the longer flame-shooter, you know). You need the flame to unfray the ribbon edge. Just gently wave the flame over the edge and it works like magic to seal it!

    Starting with the inside of the top clip was easiest.

    Add glue to the top prong and wrap it around..

    Add glue to the insides of the hinge and stick the ribbon in there...

    Wrap it around the bottom, cut the ribbon with a little extra "tail" to glue inside.

    To make a little bow, fake it! Bear with this color combination...there is a reason..

    Glue the fake bow in place...

    And tightly secure it with a small loop.

    Here is another kind. I covered the barrette and started adding another layer with 2 loops.

    After this part, secure with another small loop (see the finished one on the tray below)

    The finished products in about an hour. I think my favorite is the turquoise one. The pink bow and the black/white bow were made by first tying a bow in the ribbon, then cutting the ribbon, then gluing all parts down (so it doesn't unravel) and burning the edges at the end.

    Ta da!

    A more realistic way we will be sporting barrettes until she gets a longer mane.

    Are you still wondering what possessed me to make an orange and green barrette?  To solve the dilemma of feminizing this...

    Birthday Thursday: Happy 19 weeks!

    We are adjusting nicely to our new schedule with me back at work. It has been busy, and the highlight of our week was definitely Larkyn's baptism on Sunday. Her newest talent is rolling from back to belly (yay!)  As you can see, this week's picture is a little out of the norm.  That is because tonight was Curriculum Night at school and I just got home in time to put her to bed. This is her actually sleeping (its pitch dark and she is fast asleep!) Yes, she dramatically sleeps with her forearm over her eyes like that. It's a hard life:o)

    We've also graduated to swaddling with arms out! And that is her white noise giraffe, who I like to call Annie Sullivan (the miracle worker)

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