Simple DIY Baby Shower

This is somewhat of a throwback post, but I was (and am) so proud of these decorations I wanted to share. These are my go-to decorations for most events nowadays and this was the first time I had ever made them. Now I can’t stop making them because they are so simple.

One of my good friends was having her first baby and I threw her a shower. The colors she used in her baby room were yellow, orange, and grey. Of course, I used those colors for her shower decorations. 

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Baby Shower Banner

I used a DCWV Paper Stack called Lemon Flower for my paper. These are really quite cheap if you wait for them to go on sale. They’re often 40% off whenever the craft stores are having sales on scrap booking supplies. My go-tos Joann Fabrics and Michael’s have coupons every week too, so you can most likely get a stack of 50 sheets for $10. My only complaint is that they’re not double sided (I know…picky picky). It was easy enough cut out a triangle for a template and trace away. I was able to find a pack of pre-cut letters at Dollar Tree for the banner. Next I hole punched each corner to string a length of twine through all of them. Command Hooks are my best friend, I always keep a bunch on hand for hanging temporary decorations.

Tissue Poofs (or Pom-Poms)

I made lots of tissue poofs. I followed my nemesis’s tutorial. Again, check out Dollar Tree, you’d be surprised at the variety of wrapping materials. Make sure to look at your square footage though. If you’re really looking for a bargain, the price per square foot may be cheaper at another store. I used ribbon and Command Hooks to hang them from the ceiling. These have a potential to make a big impact if you make a lot of them. Still wishing I had made more!

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Bunting

I bought different orange and yellow fat quarters (if you don’t speak fabric, a fat quarter is a pre-cut 18”x22” rectangle of fabric that you can buy at most fabric stores) and made some bunting. They looked very nice in front of the window and across the table. Plus, she took home the bunting afterwards to use in the nursery. These are simple to make if you have a sewing machine (or a hot glue gun) and I will post a more in depth tutorial at a later date. 

Paper Garland

I also made a paper garland, which isn’t terribly visible in this picture. I used a Fiskars circle lever punch to get 2″ circles and attached them to yellow and grey ribbons with double sided tape. Nowadays I use my sewing machine for that as well. Look for a tutorial soon!

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Shower Games

Instead of shower games (which can be sometimes embarrassing and always silly), I set up a group craft project. I got plain onesies (which was surprisingly difficult to find gender neutral ones, as the baby’s gender was a secret). I put out the cotton fabrics I had accumulated, including some fat quarters I bought for the occasion, and everyone cut out shapes to decorate a onesie of their choice! It was fun and baby got some more clothes out of it. More Command Hooks and twine and we were able to display our finished work. It was a lot of fun, and mommy had onesies to remember each of us while home with baby.

What I did ask everyone to do was guess when the baby would be born and how much he/she would weigh. I assembled prizes for each to be given out after the baby was born. Wouldn’t you know, two people were right on the money with their guesses.

Favors

The favors, which I do not have pictures of, were adorable (if I say so myself). The shower was in June, so I was able to find miniature terracotta pots at Dollar Tree (4 for $1!). I put a yellow or orange marigold in each of them.

Food & Atmosphere

My friend loves Disney, so I picked up some old Disney soundtrack records at Half Price Books to make it festive. We had a chili spread that was inspired by this. Of course, theirs was much lovelier than mine. #partygoals, amiright? We kept it simple with chili (and fixings like sour cream and cheese), chips, cookies, and cake. 

I look forward to sharing more party ideas with you in the future! Look out for tutorials for decorations soon.

-Auntie Kelley

Gravity

GravityGravity
Written and illustrated by Jason Chin
Roaring Brook Press, April 29, 2014
ISBN: 9781596437173
Lexile: Beginning Reader

No kid is too young to start learning about science. Chin excellently takes a complicated subject and explains it easily for younger readers. Gravity is full of colorful and fun illustrations that will keep your young reader’s attention while they learn about gravity. The text is very simple for kids learning to read, and the illustrations are packed full for you to spend time talking about what you see with your child. The book concludes with a more in depth section about gravity and how it works, which will make the book more interesting for older kids who continue asking “how?” and “why?” after the story ends. The book even includes a bibliography (of ranging reading levels), so be sure to take the list the library if your family wants to explore more.

More about Jason Chin 

-Auntie Kelley

Real Plans Strawberry Crumble

So you have a baby and still want to impress people with food… Good news! Summer gives us the perfect opportunity to do just that! Fruit is in season and backyard barbecues are in full swing. What else could you ask for? To be honest, unless you get a babysitter, baking or cooking for friends will never be the same, but that doesn’t mean it is unattainable. There are a lot of crowd-pleasing dishes you can make that will impress your friends and they will not have a clue you had a tiny person clinging to your ankle the whole time!

One of my favorites is the strawberry crumble from Real Plans. This crumble seriously takes very little time and is extremely forgiving when it comes to how things are combined. There are no small steps that will ruin this dessert, which means you will continue to be reining champ of baked goods (we’ll let you keep thinking that). The best part about this dessert is that it is casual enough for a small friendly get-together but can also be dressed up for a much swankier event as well.

Please check out the recipe below, and if you like what you see, there is plenty more where that came from. Real Plans has plenty more crowd-pleasing dishes to offer.

 

Preheat oven to 350 F

Strawberry Filling:

  1. Wash and remove greens from strawberries. Once you’ve done that, you are set to place the strawberries (halved) into a mixing bowl.
  2. Juice Lemon into a small bowl then once you are sure no seeds managed to make their way into the bowl, pour lemon juice over strawberries

Tip: If you are frugal and don’t see the point of a lemon juicer like myself, I would recommend just using a regular fork. “How,” you ask? Hold lemon in your palm, insert fork, and squeeze and twist lemon. It does the trick for me.

  1. Combine strawberries and lemon with tapioca starch, maple syrup and vanilla extract.
  2. Place bowl contents in any 9” baking dish. I personally used a pie pan, but shape is not important.

 

Crumble Topping:

  1. Combine almond flour, sea salt, coconut oil, and maple syrup until contents look like a heavily textured liquid.

Tip: We made the mistake of adding more almond flour because we felt the topping looked too thin. Having the contents thin will allow for a more even topping on the dessert.

  1. Place topping evenly over the strawberries then place in oven. Allow the dessert to bake for 30 minutes or until topping turns crispy golden and strawberries are bubbly.
  2. When taking the dessert out of oven, make sure to allow it to sit for 10 minutes to let the dessert set. This will make it much easier to serve.

Mommy Danae

How We Balance Life With Baby

When I became pregnant with Little Man, we knew there were some serious changes ahead of us. We knew the time commitment would be immense. We knew there would be times of selflessness and sacrifice. All these things are very true, but we forgot to account for the need to have balance. There are many challenges we face, but the biggest hurdle we have experience is finding equilibrium when there is constant change. This often results in us failing to find time to recharge.

There are nights where it has been a long, long day and I cannot handle much more of anything. Those nights often result in tag teaming and letting Little Man try to work through his frustrations on his own. It makes sense to take a break and regroup. Time spent away from my son can help me to be a better parent. I find it important to take time out of my 24/7 gig of parenting to take a couple of breaths and block out (as best as I can) the sound of banging pots and pans. In theory, this makes perfect sense. In reality, it can be much more challenging to find time in our busy schedules to unplug from parenting.

It is normal to struggle with keeping life even and steady, but I never imagined it would take so long to find my footing. Finding balance between motherhood and being a person with needs is hard but is well worth the effort. When I find myself reduced to a lifeless blob post-baby-bedtime, I try to figure out what prevented me from having a little me time. I often notice I’m not using his naps very effectively (i.e. I sit on Netflix and zone out and have nothing to show for it by the time Little Man wakes up), after which I try to change my behavior for the next day and hope for the best. I won’t claim to not remake that error in naptime judgement, but effort is half the battle, right?

I wish I had the answer to balancing life with a baby, but like everyone else, I am still a parent-in-progress. I can tell you having a supportive partner to lean on helps me to be a better mom. It’s one of my simple pleasures knowing the person that comes through the door at the end of the day has my back and will do whatever he can to support our family. If you are struggling to find balance and you do not have a strong support system yet (whether it be with a partner, family, or friends), there are a ton of resources that look to connect parents with other parents. I personally use facebook groups, an app to set up and attend play days called Meetup, and community events. Other parents you meet may also be able to shed some light on how they balance life with baby.

When life changes, it is always hard to find balance once again. I will admit that having our first child has been the most challenging life event we’ve tried to find balance after, but I know it is doable. I am thankful for my strong support system that makes finding me time just a little easier.

Mommy Danae

Nature Preschools

Nature preschools have been around in the U.S.  since the 1960s, but their popularity has grown exponentially in the last five years. The Natural Start Alliance sums up nature preschools pretty excellently,

a school must put nature at the heart of the program, it must be based on high-quality early childhood education and environmental education practices, and it must also help lay a foundation for environmental literacy.”

So this isn’t the typical preschool experience that most children receive. Although preschools and kindergartens often focus on the natural world, this is a different kind of education that focuses on caring for the environment and conservation education. Many nature preschools will spend their entire school day outdoors, even in the winter.

But what do the kids learn? Public and private preschools and kindergartens have increasingly focused on structured curriculum that preps young kids for reading and math. Will they be equally prepared for later grades?

The Natural Learning Initiative and North Carolina State University put together a nice fact sheet that explains in depth the benefits of children who experience outdoor learning environments (OLEs). Just a few of their findings:

Supports creativity and problem solving
Improves academic performance
Reduces Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) symptoms
Improves social relations

Now I won’t go into the science behind all that, although if you want to do your own investigations, there are plenty of peer reviewed articles available on the Natural Learning Initiative website.

And I’ll admit, I’m a little bit of a hippie so this sounds pretty spectacular to me. I remember being a kid not so long ago and how awesome it was when we went to the nearby nature preserve. So I wonder, what if that experience was continued throughout all of preschool instead of one day a year?

If you’re curious about finding a nature preschool near you, checkout the list of nature preschools in the Natural Start Alliance. Or, find a local affiliate of the North American Association for Environmental EducationFor Wisconsin, check out the Wisconsin Association for Environmental Education.

Now, Wisconsin only has a few preschools that are in the Natural Start Alliance. And I’m sorry to say none of them are in the Fox Valley. I’ve provided a list below of nature preschools in the Natural Start Alliance, as well as other environment focused education opportunities in Wisconsin. I’ll keep the list updated as I discover more. Happy exploring!

Auntie Kelley

Wisconsin Nature Preschools in the Natural Start Alliance

Cambridge

Hillside House

East Troy

The Climbing Tree Child Care & Family Education Center

Green Bay

Oak Learning Center 4K (Green Bay Area School District)

Milwaukee

Schlitz Audubon Nature Center

Other Wisconsin Environmental Education Opportunities

Appleton

Appleton Public Montessori (Appleton Area School District Charter School)

Fox River Academy (Appleton Area School District Charter School)

Gordon Bubolz Nature Preserve

Fox Cities

YMCA

Madison

Little Explorers Preschool

The Last Basselope

Growing up, we used to have nights where my parents, brother, and I would congregate and read stories together. A staple of these special occasions was always a Berkeley Breathed book, and it was usually my favorite,The Last Basselope!

Berkeley Breathed is my absolute favorite children’s books author and I am never disappointed when I pick up one of his books. They are creative, clever, and fun for the whole family. As I prepared to write this review, Little Man and I dove into the first couple of pages, but quickly put it down for the sake of maintaining the sanctity of its semi-gloss pages.  With that said, I would recommend this book to be read to children between the ages of four and seven, but it is really appropriate and fun for most ages.

IMG_3109 (2)What I enjoy most about this book is how it quickly throws readers into the action of the story. Readers become encompassed by the silly antics of Opus and his friends while they embark on their journey of catching the ferocious beast known as the “last basselope.” While on their quest, they quickly discover something far less terrifying and much more misunderstood.

Much like any good book, each character has quite a unique personality. For example, you will never find a character quite like Bill the House Cat or Milquetoast (pronounced milk-toast) the House Bug. In fact, we named our cat Milquetoast, but quickly changed it to Micah due to very confused looks from vet techs.

I could spend hours raving about how great of a book this is, but I suggest you find out for yourself. It very well could be the next book that becomes a staple for your family too! It is a book that I loved as a child and can’t wait to share with Little Man when he gets a bit older. Click here if you want to check out The Last Basselope!

Mommy Danae  

How Baby Wearing Saves My Sanity

I have never appreciated my hands more than when I started carrying around a child day in and day out. From sun up to sun down my arms and back would ache in satisfaction of being a good mom, but my heart would ache for the relentless stack of dishes in the sink and countless loads of laundry. I yearned to accomplish household chores so I could have a presentable home. How on Earth do moms give their babies the attention they deserve AND handle even a fraction of what needs to get done? Sure, I had always wanted to wear my baby but I really didn’t know how. When I took the time to learn, the time investment was paid back ten-fold (no pun intended, but appreciated).

IMG_1997 (2)I started wearing Little Man when he was three weeks and it was the best decision I could have made as a mom and person who thirsts for a semi-clean house. Until Little Man was three and a half months old, I almost exclusively used the Moby wrap. I found this wrap very intimidating as a new mom with no sleep, but once I had a chance to wrap it a few times, I was surprised how easy it could be. I felt very confident that this wrap could be the answer I had been looking for. Sure, it took some getting used to, but there was nothing sweeter than having a peaceful child sleeping on my chest while I managed to put away dinner and wash the dishes.

When Little Man was three months old (and already a whopping 14 pounds), I found the Moby to be challenging due to the constant unwrapping and rewrapping, so I decided it was time to move on to bigger and better baby-wearing solutions. I was lucky enough to have a sister-in-law that just so happened to have an Ergobaby Original that she was generous enough to let me borrow. At first, Little Man wanted absolutely DSC_0250nothing to do with the Ergo. He had grown attached to how the Moby cocooned him to me and was extremely resistant to something different. There were many tries and many failures, but as with anything, time passed and soon Little Man only had eyes for his Ergo. Ergo baby carriers are designed to be comfortable, adjustable, and are certified to be safe for baby’s hips by the International Hip Dysplasia Institute. Rather than a wrap, it was a carrier that had belts and buckles, which I found super user-friendly. We use the Ergo exclusively now as it fits our lifestyle best. There are no issues with bending over to taking laundry in and out of machines or loading the dish washer.

I am a huge fan of baby wearing because for me, I was able to reclaim some of myself by having the freedom to do pretty much anything. I love to work outside in the garden, and though I still find it extremely challenging to wear Little Man while being bent in half over a flower bed, I can still do maintenance around our exterior. It is really important as moms to remember that even though it’s all about our babies, we matter too. By baby wearing I’m able to take care of my mental health by doing more with Little Man safely stowed away in his own little happy place.

Mommy Danae

Little Aquarium

After a recent visit to the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, I thought it would be fun to make a little aquarium for myself. Although I like my new desk aquarium, I think some kiddos would get more enjoyment out of this one, especially after a visit to their local aquarium.

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Most of the supplies were easy to find at the local dollar store. And you’d be surprised how many aquarium-like objects are laying around your house. Except for the plastic sea critters. I was having a hard time finding any until I found Terra products. They’re super cute too.

CaptureAfter gathering your supplies, it’s easy to assemble your own little aquarium. I made a layer of rocks, stuck in an artificial leaf from something I had laying around, sprinkled in some moss and picked some sea animals (I picked a crab, eel, and octopus, in case you were wondering). I used the second canning jar to mix my blue dye and water. You can keep diluting it until you get it as light as you want it.

For  the cover, I traced the lid onto my blue paper and cut it out. I used the chalk marker and some stickers to decorate the top. Now it sits in my window as a little happy reminder of a past vacation (and there’s no chance of me forgetting to feed anything). If you’re concerned with little ones attempting to open their creations, feel free to rub some super glue around the inside of the lid so it stays good and tight.

Auntie Kelley

Big Bear Little Chair

20160628_144019For this, my first book review, I thought I would explain what I look for in a book. Although we’re not supposed to judge a book by it’s cover, I think we can acknowledge that we do sometimes. I, however, do all the time. With kids books I’m all about the art, it’s what makes me pick up the book to begin with. With that said, I am not ashamed to admit that I’ve cried over a picture book because the story is so poignant.  

While at the daycare, it was amazing how children would gravitate towards certain books and plop down in your lap with them so they could eagerly turn the page (whether or not you had finished reading it to them). I’ve seen a variety of simple and intricate illustrations and stories. My favorites tend to have something for adults too. Be it the art or the story, there’s a little something for everyone in a children’s book.

Today I have the simple, yet beautiful, picture book by Lizi Boyd, Big Bear Little Chair. The book is a collection of charming illustrations featuring animals with either little or big objects. A great book for practicing words and laughing over a big zebra holding a little broom or a big penguin with a tiny hat. Published by Chronicle Books in 2015, this book is recommended for ages 4 to 6, but I think children beginning to learn animals names will enjoy it too.

-Auntie Kelley

How We Make Baby Food

When my husband and I were first discussing having babies many, many years ago, his biggest reservation was that babies turn into toddlers that always have jam-covered fingers. Fast forward seven years, it turns out once you start feeding a child ANYTHING (no matter the age) they have sticky, grimy fingers! Though my husband is not thrilled about Little Man’s grimy mitts, we do enjoy his adorable face smeared with whatever we decided to feed him that day. The good news is, we know exactly what it is that we are feeding him because we make our own baby food.

Why on Earth would I go through all the time and hassle to make my son’s food? To be honest, it is super easy and really does not take very much time at all. I also really appreciate knowing how his food is preserved (freezer!) and making sure that he is being fed food that I’m comfortable with. I will walk you through how I make Little Man’s baby food (sweet potato puree, yum!) so that it is as easy to follow and can be done even with a rambunctious baby in tow.IMG_2975 (2)

Here are some tools you will need:

  • Food Processor
  • Stock Pot
  • Potato Peeler
  • Sharp Kitchen Knife
  • Cutting Board
  • Colander

Ingredients Needed:

3 large sweet Potatoes

4 Cups of filtered water (for cooking veggies)

 

  1. Wash and peel your sweet potatoes. If you have your kiddo in a carrier, I would recommend always having them facing inward whenever working in the kitchen for safety reasons.
  2. Once the potatoes are peeled, I rinse them again to avoid any residual dirt from the peeling process.
  3. Start a pot of water filled with roughly four cups (roughly one liter), or enough water to cover the potatoes. Place the temperature to medium-high heat.
  4. Cut sweet potatoes into pieces that are roughly two-inches thick.
  5. Place cut pieces of sweet potato into the water that is not yet boiling.
  6. From here, I like to wait until the water starts to boil and set a timer for 12 minutes. This should leave your potatoes tender enough that a fork can pierce them.

Note: In case your kiddo decides that it’s nap time or has prevented you from being able to tend to the sweet potatoes for any time after the water starts boiling, do not worry! Little Man decided he needed to take a nap right in the middle of making his last batch of sweet potatoes, and they turned out perfect! All I did was turn off the burner with the pot still on the burner and left it covered until I could come back to it.

  1. Once your potatoes have passed the fork test, strain them in a colander or remove them piece by piece with slotted spoon. This step I do with my son on a blanket on the other side of the kitchen to avoid any burning injuries. Though I am careful in the kitchen, hot liquids seem to be the easiest to screw up so why take the chance?
  2. Place the potatoes directly into your food processor with the rotary blade setting. I personally like using my metal rotary blade, but I would imagine plastic would be fine as well.
  3. Turn on the food processor until you no longer see any chunks. I found it took roughly one minute for my food processor to get the job done.
  4. Place into storage container of your choosing. I personally use the Fresh Baby So Easy Baby Food and Breast Milk Storage Trays for portioning purposes. I personally like these trays because they are made from biodegradable plastic, and are BPA and phthalate free! In the case of the sweet potatoes, the contents will be hot when going into the storage container, so it is important to have a BPA free container for that purpose.IMG_2979 (2)
  5. Freeze and call it a day!
  6. Once the food has set, I transfer them to freezer bags so that I can make more baby food without needing more freezing containers.

I enjoy making Little Man’s baby food because there’s just something about knowing exactly what I’m putting into my child’s mouth that gives me peace of mind. There is so much to worry about as a parent, so I eliminate that concern by doing it myself. An added bonus is that most baby food can be easily made alongside your regular daily cooking. I am constantly juggling tasks so having something I don’t have to watch closely is right up my alley.

I hope these instructions make preparing your own baby food a little less scary and a lot easier! Happy parenting!

 

Mommy Danae