Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Preparing a Toddler for a New Baby!

With my due date quickly approaching, I find myself savoring my alone time with little J. I am nostalgic for when she was a little baby, and I've been marveling at how much she's grown, how much she can chit chat, the funny things she says, and her sweet, bubbly personality. She woke up unusually early this morning, but I was excited to get into her bed for an hour of cuddling, reading, and telling stories. Such precious moments.

I have been thinking about how to prepare her for the new baby. I know she will be loving and attentive toward her little sister, but I also know that there will be times of jealousy, and it will be a big adjustment overall. Here are some great ideas to ease the transition:

1. Reading books about being a big sister or brother. Little J loves books so it's the perfect way to introduce her to the world of big-sisterhood. I have gotten a bunch of books, but my favorites are Big Sisters are the Best and My New Baby. Both have great illustrations and easy-to-understand story lines.

2. Make the baby their baby, not yours. We try to address the baby as "Jiya's baby sister" rather than "Mommy's new baby" - I am hoping that she will feel a sense of ownership toward the little one, which will make it easier to adjust. When we talk about the baby, we try to include little J. I ask her questions like, "what will we do when the baby cries?" and she tells me she will "give her a pacifier!" I think she will like being a helper... so we've been taking that approach to prepare her. I have heard from other new moms that the big sibling should be consulted on little decisions involving the baby, which will make them feel involved and proud. For example, "should we put the baby in this yellow onesie, or this green one? should he wear white socks or blue socks today." I can see how a toddler would love this sense of importance!

3.  Make the room/crib transition at least 6 weeks in advance. We got little J our of her crib and into her new bed in her big-girl room in early July, to get her well adjusted before her old room gets taken over by the little one. This went surprisingly well. She adores her big girl room and already refers to the nursery as "sister's" room.

4. Have the new baby bring his or her big sibling a gift. This is a tried-and-true idea, where the big sibling gets a gift (allegedly from the new baby) upon arriving at the hospital to meet him or her. I have already mentioned to little J that "her" new sister will be bringing her a present, and she is so excited. She asks about it all the time! I think it's a great way to get the older sibling to like the new baby right away. We got little J a bunch of fun gifts that I know she will love. My favorites are these adorable sister bracelets, this carrier for her dolls, and this Dora movie about being a big sister.

5. Give the older sibling as much attention as you give the little one. This means, try to praise the big sister as much as you ooh and aah over the new baby, and try to make time for one-on-one with the older child. I think it's a great idea to talk to both children. Sometimes you can say "hang on big bro, I am changing the baby's diaper" - but other times you can throw in, "hang on baby, I'm reading with your big sister right now." It will make the child feel important and will go a long way toward their initial relationship. I also love the idea of getting a bunch of small items like stickers, cars, candy, etc. for the older sibling to open every time someone comes over with a gift for the new baby. It will definitely make them feel less left out and more involved.

Do you have any other tips to help us through the transition period? I would love to hear any advice!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Recipe: Stuffed Squash Blossoms & Couscous with Lentils

I found an amazing, easy and healthy recipe for baked squash blossoms and I was so excited to try it out!! I didn't have ricotta at home, so I used feta instead, but the result was amazing. They were airy and crunchy even though they weren't fried. Hubby said it was his favorite thing I've made all year (woot woot!)

I paired this with couscous and fresh, local veggies - squash, mushrooms, jalapenos - and red lentils for some protein. This was really quick and delicious, try it for a weeknight dinner!

We washed our meal down with mango lemonade I had made over the weekend, chilled with ice-cubes and garnished with yummy Indian mangoes! Perfect :)


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Being Mommy: Nursing Clothes

Being able to nurse on the go, or while company is over, is critical for a new mom.  I remember feeling somewhat isolated when I had to leave the room to properly nurse, or I felt trapped at home because I couldn't bear the thought of nursing in a restaurant bathroom, or in someone else's house. But if you have the technique down, and are wearing a top that makes it easy to nurse discreetly, it helps a lot. If you look good and feel confident, it goes a long way toward settling into your new life. That's why I believe nursing clothes are so important. If you're wearing a great looking top that is easy to nurse in, you can additionally cover up with a nursing shawl so you and your baby are both comfortable about nursing in public.

I've been scouring the internet for loose, flowy nursing tops that will be comfortable and pretty during the first few months, when I have not yet lost all the belly. But what's with all these tight tanks for new moms?? I don't know many new moms who have flat tummies right away... and most would rather wear more concealing clothes.

I did finally find some good options:

I love this bright blue tee... wish it came in more colors & sizes!

Perfect, breezy top in lots of great colors.

Boob is expensive, but makes great basics. I used these tanks last time, layered with a sweater since they are pretty tight!

This versatile black dress is flattering and forgiving in the tummy area, phew!

I love this sweet dress by Maternal America

And this pretty dress is on sale, bonus!

What an adorable, easy sweater-shawl by Pea in a Pod

Nursing pajamas for night-time feedings, or lounging around.

How do you feel about nursing in public?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Packing a Yummy Lunch

Summer is a great time to bring your lunch to work, and enjoy it outside in a nearby park. Bringing lunch can save you time and money, and believe it or not, it can be very easy to make and yummy to eat! Packing a lunch doesn't have to be boring... and you will be happy to save at least $50/week! Here are some great ideas:

1. Sandwich, Chips, Fruit & Sparkling Water

You can make a great sandwich whether you are veggie or not. For vegetarians, the best sandwiches have a couple of types of cheese (I love Muenster with Provolone), and fresh veggies like spinach leaves or arugula, tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, sprouts, jalapenos.... the list is endless. Make your sandwich extra delicious by using a variety of spreads like this Greek Yogurt Spread, or Spicy Hummus, or even a home-made chutney. I always use store-bought rye or a whole-grain bread, but using a fresh bread (either home-made or from a bakery) will be even better.

I love these adorable, eco-friendly snack and sandwich bags that come in an array of colors and styles. Toddlers love these too!

2. Salad, Greek Yogurt, Trail Mix & a Fruit Smoothie
There are so many salads you can bring along, but remember to pack the dressing separately so you can add it just before eating to make sure your salad isn't soggy. In case you missed it, here's my post about great summer salads. My favorite salad to bring to work is a quinoa salad with lots of crunch (cucumbers, bell peppers, chickpeas) and a good amount of flavor (spices, seasoning, dressing). I always find that salads with beans, chickpeas, sprouts or tofu/chicken are healthier and heartier (and last well). You can also add nuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, or rice to a salad for a bit more oomph!
This great container has a separate, built-in dressing dispenser! 
A fresh smoothie is so quick and easy to make in any blender, but especially if you have a Vitamix. I like to throw in a few fruits into the freezer the night before, so the smoothie is cold without having to add ice which would dilute it. Here are some great ideas for delicious, healthy smoothies & juices. All are great on the go! How adorable are these to-go bottles?
3. Leftovers, veggies & dip, and a gus soda.
If you have leftover pasta, a rice dish, a casserole or even take-out, it's easy enough to bring that along and jazz it up with a few extras. Add some crushed red pepper or fresh herbs to make it taste fresh, and pair it with crunchy veggies & dip as well. I love gus soda, a healthier alternative to the sugary drinks.

Leftovers pack so well in bento boxes... perfect for an assortment of foods. These are also great for school lunches!


If you can't refrigerate your lunch at work or wherever you're headed, throw in an ice pack to keep it cool. Or try this adorable lunch box with a freezable component.

Make your own trail mix with leftover nut packets, pretzels, m&ms, and crunchy additions like chia seeds! Great ideas here.

Get an adorable, easy to carry lunch box to keep everything straight and cool. Built makes great, lightweight options.

The Kitchn also has some great, easy recipes for lunches on the go. More ideas here.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Restaurant Review: The NoMad at Nomad Hotel

We went to the NoMad to celebrate hubby's birthday last weekend and were excited to check it out after all the recent hype. It is a beautiful space... elegant, refined & romantic. When we commented on the gorgeous interior, our waiter offered to show us around to the library and other rooms, all of which are so tastefully decorated. The restaurant's vibe is definitely heightened by the extremely professional, very tall, and helpful staff. We chose to go to the NoMad mostly because its reputed to be the "casual" version of Eleven Madison Park, which is our favorite restaurant ever. NoMad was certainly delicious and fun, but not on the same level as Eleven Madison. It was posh in its own way, but the overall tastes were just not the same.

I took our friendly waiter's suggestion and started with the asparagus and poached egg dish, on a bed of crunchy quinoa, and finished with a parmesan foam. It was probably the single best thing I have ever tasted. It was phenomenal. I would go back again and again just for this one appetizer!

For my main dish, I had the asparagus bread salad with potatoes & black truffle. I initially bit into one of the "croutons" and it was so vinegary I had to spit it out into my napkin and take a large gulp of my mocktail before I could continue with the rest of the dish. Which by the way, was excellent.

Hubby started with the tuna appetizer, which he said was delicious and beautiful to look at. The plate was actually decorated with the fish bones as spears & skewers. A little morbid, but mostly pretty. For his main dish, he had the suckling pig, which he felt was a little dry and a little disappointing. He still devoured it, but expected more based on the reviews and overall ambiance.

This was a great dining experience and I'd recommend it to anyone looking for an artsy and special meal. It's also a great date spot, especially if you linger for drinks in the library!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Recipe: Grilled Peach, Goat Cheese & Spinach Panini with Watermelon Feta Salad

This was the ideal summer quick and delicious. I was inspired by this recipe, but altered it for the ingredients that I had on hand. I used spreadable goat cheese, ripe peaches, a few diced chillies, and baby spinach leaves in the panini.

I used my amazing Breville Panini Press & Grill which is so useful because it acts as an indoor grill.

I made an easy, yummy side salad with watermelon, arugula, feta, tomatoes & onions (you can see other ideas for summer salads here). This was such a refreshing and satisfying dinner. And you can make it in under a half hour :)

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Pregnancy Style for Summer

New York is experiencing a brutal heat wave which is pretty bad for everyone, but especially for large, uncomfortable pregnant women! Here are some cute outfits that will help you stay cool.

THE perfect white cotton sundress.... dress it up with wedges & a chunky necklace for work, or wear with flat sandals for relaxing.

I think you have to be very tall to pull off many of the Hatch styles, but this one seems perfect for any size... loose, flowy and versatile.

I have this tie-front dress by Maternal America and get so many compliments every time I wear it.

I just got these adorable shorts that work great with a basic tee or tank, and they are 100% cotton, so not clingy, even in this heat!

I have been living in my tunics by Roberta Roller Rabbit - the best part is, they are comfy for post-pregnancy, work with nursing, and look cute year 'round! There is a decent selection online, but much much better in stores.


Gap makes the single most comfortable pair of lounge pants for pregnancy!

I'm in love with this beautiful and comfy dress from ASOS. The sleeves are great for air conditioned offices!!

What have you been wearing lately??

Friday, July 12, 2013

Recipe: Peach & Strawberry Pie

Ripe, moist peaches are just the epitome of summer. I've been eating peaches in every form these days, and I couldn't wait to make a pie with the great peaches in season. As I've confessed before, I am not much of a baker -- I actually try to avoid baking completely, but have decided lately to try to learn. This was a very easy pie and it was my first attempt at making my own crust (so don't judge me on the bumps & lumps!).

This was a great recipe for pie crust, and I modified this peach pie recipe by adding strawberries. I used a bit extra powdered sugar for dusting, and served with vanilla ice-cream. Both hubby and little J gave me extra sweet kisses as a thank you :)

Happy summer weekend!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Book Review: The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

I picked up this book on a whim - mostly because it kept coming up on my "recommended by amazon" list. I did really enjoy it, even though the writing was somewhat amateur and the plot a bit contrived. Victoria is a foster child, emancipated from the system at age 18, and riddled with a troubled and tired past in 32 foster homes. Aside from one foster mother, Elizabeth - who stands out as a loving, caring and sensitive foster parent, many of her foster families are cruel and tragic. Even though she was abandoned as a baby, she has somehow never been adopted and has failed to stay in a home where she is loved. The only relationship she has maintained is with Meredith, her social worker who places her from home to home, and whom she mistrusts.

Victoria knows little or nothing about her birth mother, and is self-proclaimed "misanthrope," full of anger and skepticism. She hates to be touched, doesn't speak much, and keeps to herself. She is passionate though, about flowers and their secret meanings that she uses as messages in the few substantial relationships she has made. Despite her tragic childhood and her reserved nature, she is an incredibly likeable protagonist and you will find yourself rooting for her to earn money, fall in love, succeed and be happy.

As the story unravels, it centers around her prior foster mother, Elizabeth, in whose home she actually thrived, and Grant, a young man who lets her be who she is. Elizabeth loved her, cooked for her, homeschooled her, and understood her in a way no one else ever has. It is at Elizabeth's vineyard that Victoria learns about flowers and falls in love with the messages they can convey. Later, she and Grant cautiously begin a tentative relationship based on these messages and their common love for the land. Most of the book is a flashback, and the rest is an attempt for Victoria to reclaim the fleeting time in her life when she was at home.

The story, focusing on the ideas of family and belonging, is gripping. It is interesting that Victoria is not able to see beauty and goodness in many people around her, but is able to revolve her life around beauty and meaning in flowers. I was particularly interested in the overarching themes of child neglect and foster care, since my legal work is centered on the child protective system. It was a page-turner, and had me hooked until the last sentence. But, that being said, I found the writing to be careless in many parts, the flashbacks to be too calculated and the ending a bit predictable.

Still, this is a great summer read. Victoria is a strong, resilient woman, and books about people like her should always be celebrated.


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Room Makeover: Little J's Big Girl Room!

It's not easy to make room for a growing family in a Manhattan apartment, but we've been working hard to re-structure and re-organize our apartment to do so. We decided that we want the girls to have their own rooms, at least for the first couple of years when the feeding and sleeping schedules are so different from each other. This meant giving up our beloved office/den room and converting it to a "big girl" room for little J so the baby could take over the nursery.

I found some great ways to make a cost-effective but beautiful space for my daughter. I scoured sites like Houzz and Apartment Therapy for great ideas, and came up with some easy updates that have a lot of bang for the buck. The prior office room had glass French doors with sidelights, and instead of swapping out the whole wall, we changed just the doors to solid wood ones and had them installed by a helpful guy in our building. We added custom blackout drapes to the sidelights that coordinate with the rest of the decor, and match the window valence.

Chandelier from, Custom Doors from ETO Doors, Custom Drapes
French Doors and Bookshelves Before
The bedding and drapes in the new room are custom designed which worked well for our budget and design needs, especially since they are blackout shades. Since we will need the crib for the new baby, we were eager to transition little J out of the crib and into a bed well before her sister arrives. We used a full platform bed that we already owned, but swapped out the headboard for a prettier, more feminine one that works great with the colors in the room. We decided to keep the tall, beautiful dark wood bookshelves that were in the prior office, but jazzed them up with some fun colored baskets (Land of Nod) and trinkets to make the room feel more girly.

Fabrics by Caitlin Wilson, Headboard by Safavieh, Wall Hanging by Land of Nod, Toddler Bed Rail by Regalo
Duvet and Sham Fabrics by Caitlin Wilson, Sheets from Roberta Roller Rabbit
Grey Chevron Rug by Safavieh, Morrocan Pouf from Overstock, Nightstand by Thomasville
Elephant Figurine from Dwell Studio

Since the room doesn't have a closet, I needed to find a large armoire for all her clothes, shoes, and other things like towels, quilts, etc. I got a great, solid wood armoire from the Gothic Cabinet Craft and decided to get an unfinished wood material so I could get creative in painting it. This was such a fun project for me! I used Benjamin Moore's La Paloma Gray color on the armoire, and finished it off with a fun and whimsical stencil from The Stencil Boss. I am not much of a painter, but this was so easy and fun to do. There are some imperfections up close, but I am so happy with the end result! I love the cheerful animals, and was happy to incorporate so many animals into the decor since little J loves them so much. She has a couple of animal figurines (one pictured above), wooden elephant bookends, and a beautiful coral giraffe painting on the wall opposite her bed.

Unfinished Solid Wood Armoire from Gothic Cabinet Craft
Painted in La Paloma Gray, with the stencil on top!
Final Product

Little J made the transition to her big girl bed this past weekend, and it was a huge hit. She loves her spacious new bed, the bedding, and she also loves her new dollhouse which was a very generous gift from her aunt & uncle. It's amazing what some color, curtains and bedding can do to transform a space. It's a world of a difference!

Office Room Before:

Little J's Big Girl Room After: