Monday, October 31, 2011

Going Dairy-Free...and a new Brownie Recipe!

by Carrie Wells, Ed.D.
Bryce unfortunately has bad eczema and baby acne (along with a mucous-y sound in his chest after feedings sometimes), so it was recommended that I cut the dairy out of my diet while breastfeeding. Apparently there's a protein in dairy products that babies are often sensitive to. While I do not think I could give up dairy for a year (although I'd probably be down to 125 lbs in no time!), I'm willing to try maybe a month to see if it makes a difference. In doing so, I have had to give up some of my favorite foods - cheese, ice cream, and baked goods. I searched for a brownie recipe using coconut oil, cocoa powder, and dairy-free dark chocolate. I found a recipe and modified it accordingly. I think this would actually make a great chocolate chip muffin recipe because of the texture. It also maintains a bit of that coconut flavor, which was quite yummy! So, if you are lactose intolerant or giving up milk-based products for your little one while breastfeeding, try this recipe.

1 cup unbleached flour
1 cup sugar
2 large cage-free eggs
2/3 cup coconut oil
3 Tablespoons of cocoa powder
2 oz dairy-free dark chocolate chunks (I used Dove)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Use coconut oil to grease an 8" x 8" baking pan. In a mixer on low speed, cream the sugar, eggs, and coconut oil.

Sift the flour, cocoa powder, salt, and baking powder into a medium bowl.

In small batches, add the sifted ingredients into the mixer to combine. Add chocolate chunks.

Pour this mixture into the greased pan. Bake for 25 - 30 minutes.

Makes 9 brownies (as long as you don't eat all the batter with a spoon before it goes into the pan!)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Please visit my new blog!

by Carrie Wells, Ed.D.
I do a lot of thinking when I am up at 3:30 am breastfeeding my son. A few days ago, I realized that this blog has become less focused as Lydia has gotten a bit older and I have focused more on toddler-friendly activities. So what did I decide to do? Make a toddler-friendly blog. This blog allows me to take all my early education ideas, projects, recipes, etc. and share them with everyone as I teach them to Lydia.

Please visit Busy Lil' Hands when you have an opportunity to do so. Thanks!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Our Upcycled Pumpkin Patch

by Carrie Wells, Ed.D.

Inspired by a contest hosted by Green Toys, Lydia and I created an Upcycled Pumpkin Patch! 

Because Green Toys are made of recycled milk jugs, they are hosting a contest where participants must convert milk jugs into pumpkins. We began by pouring orange craft paint into a 1/2 gallon milk jug. Lydia had to shake, shake, shake to distribute it all. 

The next day, we looked around the house for more orange items to turn into pumpkins. We found a small lotion container, a tray from sausages, a basketball, and a food basket. I cut out all different shapes to glue to our "pumpkins." Lydia did the gluing. 

With such beautiful fall weather this morning, we gathered all the "pumpkins" (and one real pumpkin) and brought them into the backyard. I happen to have a cantaloupe vine growing that looks like a pumpkin vine...although any big leafy plant would do. We placed all of our pumpkins near the vine so that it looks like a pumpkin patch!

And that's our upcycled pumpkin patch!

I even got inspired to make one more silly "pumpkin" with a slice of pretend cheese... So much fun!

After, I thought it was only appropriate to watch It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Rainy Day? Create a Recipe - Creamy Butternut Squash & Apple Soup

by Carrie Wells, Ed.D.

Creamy Butternut Squash & Apple Soup

1 butternut squash
1 Granny Smith apple
1 medium red onion
4 strips of bacon
1 cup chicken broth
1 1/2 - 2 cups of water
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 t ground ginger
1/2 t ground coriander
1/2 t cumin
1/4 t cinnamon
1/4 t turmeric
1/4 t freshly ground nutmeg
Sour cream (one T per serving)
Salt & pepper to taste

Begin by cooking your bacon in a Dutch oven. 

While cooking, peel and dice the squash, apple, and onion. 

When the bacon is completely cooked, remove from pot and set aside. Discard all but 1 tablespoon of bacon fat (it will remain in the pot). Add 1 tablespoon of butter along with the diced squash, apple, and onion and all of the spices. 

Sautee on a low heat about 10 mins. Add water (1/2 cup at a time) and broth, and simmer covered for 20 minutes. 

Using a stick blender, puree. Add the heavy cream and stir. Run the mixture through a sieve to remove any lumps/fibers. Top with a dollop of sour cream and crumbled bacon.  

The great thing about this recipe is that we now have butternut squash seeds to plant in our garden and the skin from the fruits/veggies to compost!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

by Carrie Wells, Ed.D.

Every Birth Has a Story

by Carrie Wells, Ed.D.
I think everyone I have ever encountered in real life or cyber world knows how horribly disappointing my labor/delivery was with Lydia. I have been reminded many times over that it's not about the journey -- it's about the end result. The end result is that I had a beautiful, healthy, happy baby girl and I was pretty much back to my old self in less than a week. However, if the end result was all that life was about things would be a lot different.

"Oh, yes, the past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it, or learn from it." - Rafiki, The Lion King

I chose the latter.

Everyone knows about my desire to have a VBAC. I chose a supportive midwife who has had 2 VBACs and is very well-known within my community. At around 5:30 am on Friday, September 16th, I started feeling some contractions that finally felt like the "real" thing. It's hard to remember from one birth to the next the difference between the real contractions and false contractions, but once they come on, you know. That entire day I felt contractions - anywhere from 10 - 15 minutes apart. I tried to go to bed that evening, but woke up around 1 am with what felt like more serious, close-together contractions. I called my midwife, packed up the car, and went to the hospital. I probably didn't need to go that early, but they seemed so much more powerful than the earlier contractions, I figured better safe than sorry.

As soon as I arrived, I got my meds for the Group B Strep, which I responded well to. My midwife arrived around 3 am and told me I was only 3 cm dilated. I was definitely hoping for more than that. She wanted to break my water, but I was not ready for that. That was step 1 in my unsuccessful labor/delivery last time, so I got really anxious just thinking about it. My midwife left me to labor on my own for the next 5 hours. The contractions got more regular, about 4 - 5 minutes apart. She went to check me again, and after all that, I was still only dilated 3 cm. Now, here's where the tough love needed to come in. Because I labored for over 24 hours at this point and progressed very minimally, I had to do something or I was really risking a c-section. Apparently I have some sort of uterine dysfunction. My babies are very high and just don't come down without some sort of intervention. All the contractions were not good for my c-section incision, so I had to allow her to break my water. I was petrified, but I had to extend my faith a bit to trust that this was what was best and would allow me to deliver vaginally.

Instantly, the contractions came on MUCH harder and MUCH faster. Remember now, I haven't slept in over 24 hours and had been contracted for almost 30 hours, so I started to just feel so weak and so tired. I asked for some pain meds, and I was given something that made me sleepy, but at least then I could kinda relax between contractions. I remember that I would stop breathing because I would get so relaxed, and Richard would have to remind me to breathe. But that only lasted about an hour before it wore off. Because of my Group B Strep, it was not safe for my midwife to examine me too often, so I had no idea at this point if I had progressed at all. Out of fear that I'd be too tired and weak to push, I asked for an epidural. The anesthesiologist came in and was somewhat rude. He asked me why the heck I'd want to have a VBAC over just scheduling another c-section. When I told him that it was safer for me and baby, he laughed at me. I was NOT about to have this debate at that time. I had to sit exceptionally still while contracting (and I am not a quite/calm laborer - I scream, punch things, bite things, kick, squeeze, etc.). Apparently the epidural went in perfectly the first time. Only one problem...same problem as last're supposed to go numb. Well, again, I didn't go numb. I felt my legs, I felt all the contractions, I felt the stupid catheter go in, etc. Little did I know that I was already 8 cm dilated (which I learned after getting the epidural) or I wouldn't have even asked for it! (Yes, I know, shoulda, coulda, woulda).

At any rate, I quickly moved along to 10 cm and I was ready to start pushing. I pushed for just about an hour, making my total labor/delivery 32 hours. As with Lydia, everyone thought I'd have an average size baby (maybe 7 1/2 lbs). Well, after all my pushing (which, wow, is that a challenge - it required more strength and endurance than I ever thought I had), I delivered a very healthy and big 8 lb 15 oz baby! No one would have guessed it - I only gained 25 lbs, but as everyone told me, I was all belly.

This experience helped me to reconnect with what I was experiencing when I gave in to having a c-section last time. Perhaps I even forgave myself for not trying harder. But this time, each time I started to doubt myself, thinking I should just give up because I apparently just can't deliver vaginally, my midwife and Richard gave me the courage to keep going. They told me they could see the head. My midwife grabbed the tray with instruments to signal he was coming, she put on a special gown, she called in another nurse, etc. All of these were signs to me that I was doing a good job. My midwife stretched and massaged and did everything she could to help me have the birth I wanted for my family. For that, I am eternally grateful. I can only hope that my career allows me to have a similar impact on the lives of others. It's really quite amazing! Having a standard hospital birth may not be ideal or perfect. I still had to deal with all the postpartum hospital BS, but the guidance and support I received while laboring and delivering was unbelievable.

I love my babies, Lydia Marie and Bryce Cody Wells. They have stolen my heart forever!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Tommee Tippee Review ~ Closer to Nature Bottle & Explora Truly Spill-Proof Drink Cup

by Carrie Wells, Ed.D.

After blogging about the new Tommee Tippee The Day Baby Was Born web application, I contacted the company to see if I could review some of their other products. I was quickly sent a closer to nature 5 oz feeding bottle for my newborn boy Bryce and a set of two explora truly spill proof drink cups for my 2-year old daughter Lydia.

The uniquely-designed nipple on the closer to nature bottle was created to mimic the natural feel of breastfeeding. It has a wider nipple for better latching and is BPA and phthalate-free.

When Lydia was about 7 months old, I returned to work full-time for 2 months. She had never used a bottle before, but obviously I had to pump while at work and send a bottle with her babysitter. Unfortunately, I didn't know about the Tommee Tippee line of products, and I had a hard time finding a bottle that was appropriate for a child who had only been breastfed until that point. Because the creators of this bottle thought about children who are exclusively breastfed, they designed a product that is perfect for moms who have to go back to work or who need the occasional babysitter, but still pump so that their children can be fed breastmilk.  These bottles are available in 5 oz and 9 oz sizes and nipples are available in slow, medium, and fast flow. From my experiences, I recommend using a slow flow nipple on a smaller bottle with all breastfed babies, regardless of age.

The explora cups come in 5 different stages to safely and comfortably transition children from a bottle/breast to a cup. The truly spill-proof drink cups we were sent are Stage 5, for children 24m+. 

Lydia has a tendency to take her cups and pour her drink from one cup into another. Quite often, this ends up making a puddle on the floor or a sticky juice mess on our table. Well, when we handed Lydia this cup by Tommee Tippee, she tipped it over...she shook it...she tried every way possible to pour out her drink into another cup. As they say - this cup is truly spill-proof. Lydia was unable to get even a drip of the water to come out of her cup. This means the cup is great for throwing in a diaper bag because you don't have to worry about a big wet mess later on when the juice spills out everywhere. We have gone through so many toddler cups that leak everywhere, we are so happy to have found this product. Another great feature is that they are so easy to clean up. Some toddler cups have 3 - 4 pieces that have to be washed separately. With this cup, you just take the top off and throw both pieces in the dishwasher. 

BUY IT! The closer to nature bottles come in different stages: 0m+, 3m+, and 6m+. A single 5 oz bottle can be purchased for $8.99 and a 3-pack is just $19.99. A 2-pack of the explora truly spill-proof drink cups is just $8.99. They are now available at your local Babies R Us

For more information, visit the Tommee Tippee websiteFacebook page and Twitter

* I received the aforementioned product for free to review. The opinions expressed are honest and provided without monetary compensation.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Guidecraft Educator Review #3 ~ Universal Book Display & Storage

by Carrie Wells, Ed.D.

This month, the Guidecraft Educators are reviewing the Universal Book Display & Storage. This two-sided bookcase has storage space for standard-sized board books, paperback books, and hardcover books on one side and storage space for big books on he other side. What I love most about this book storage is that it is not just a traditional bookcase where you just see the binding of the books. This book storage allows you to display the entire cover of the book, which is a great way to entice early learners! They love to look at the colorful illustrations on the front of each book.

The Universal Book Display & Storage is constructed of sturdy birch ply wood and weighs 40 pounds. It took approximately a half-hour to assemble. This book storage goes very nicely with the Guidecraft Nordic Rocker I reviewed in August. Here are some pictures of our library.

I like to change the books in my children's library each month based on the season/holiday or a given theme. This month's theme is Fall/Halloween. I was able to display 22 books. Next to the book storage, I placed two bins of themed items to explore before, during and after reading. One bin has synthetic fall leaves and wiggly creatures (plastic bugs and spiders). The other bin has some Halloween plush characters, like a wizard, witch, and frog. Because of the neutral design and color, I am able to 'dress up' the book display & storage to go with the theme as well. We are going to add some spider webs later.

BUY IT! You can purchase this well-designed, two-sided Guidecraft Universal Book Display & Storage for your  home or classroom library for just $200.

WIN IT! What's great about this Guidecraft Educator group is that each month, one of us will be hosting a giveaway of the product that we have all reviewed. Visit Mommy PR for a chance to win a Universal Book Display & Storage for your child. This contest is open to the US and Canada. 

* I received the aforementioned product for free to review. The opinions expressed are honest and provided without monetary compensation.
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