Recipe Success: "Eat at Home Tonight" Review

I consider myself an adventurous eater.  I love vegetables, I love spices, I love different flavors and textures and want to try food from all over the world. Unfortunately, my taste buds did not pass down to my children.

My family would eat boxed mac and cheese every night if I made it. New recipes are always a gamble in my house, especially if I am incorporating produce or fish.

I went through a phase early in the summer where I was depressed over our dinner routine. I would try a new recipe and love it, but my kids wouldn’t touch it. So I started making the same dishes over and over just to forgo their rejection of my hard work in the kitchen.

“Eat at Home Tonight” by Tiffany King came across my desk at work, as do many cookbooks boasting great meals for busy moms. Usually I open the pages to find:
      A)    Super unhealthy casseroles and freezer meals I have no interest in making, or
      B)    A list of ingredients and steps so long I don’t even bother to keep reading.

“Eat at Home Tonight” is exactly the cookbook I needed to feel inspired in the kitchen again. With chapter titles like “I Don’t Have Time for Dishes Tonight,” "I Only Have 15 Minutes Tonight,” and “I Want to Cook for Tonight and Tomorrow Night,” I felt like King gets me. I felt confident these meals wouldn’t stress me out as I cooked with three wild children running around my feet.

My 7-year-old assisted with the first meal we made: White Garlic Chicken Flatbread. I used King’s tip about preparing cooked chicken for the freezer by using my Crockpot to cook several chicken breasts during the day. I shredded enough for the recipe and put the rest in freezer bags for later meals.

The flatbread came together quickly and easily. CeCe measured the ingredients for the sauce, mixed in the chicken, spread the chicken and cheese on the naan and bam! Ready to bake in the oven.

This was the first time in weeks all five of us sat down and eagerly ate the meal that had been prepared. We decided when we make this again we will increase the sauce amount because we wanted even more of that tangy goodness. The leftovers reheated well for lunch the next day.

 CeCe flipped through the entire book and marked several recipes with Post-It notes. Tonight we are making One-Pot Sausage, Corn and Red Pepper Chowder with Parmesan.

I can’t wait for us to work our way through this cookbook and find some new favorites dinners.

Stop Stressing New Parents Out!

At every well-child checkup with our pediatrician we leave with a little booklet that contains our child’s height and weight stats, as well as a developmental guide filled with the do’s and don’ts for their age range.

It’s helpful to see diet guidelines, safety reminders and what physical milestones we can expect. But the last booklet from my child’s 12-month visit contained a tip that made me roll my eyes so hard I was momentarily blind.

This list of “protection tips” seemed all well and good at first:
“Don’t smoke around your baby.”
“Don’t leave your baby alone near a pool.”
“Make sure you change the batteries in the smoke detector regularly.”

The final tip was the kicker:
“Never take your eyes off your baby.”

Never? But how am I supposed to change the batteries in the smoke detector if I can’t look away from my baby?!

That bit of advice is the reason we have helicopter parents and so many anxiety -ridden mothers. We cannot reasonably expect mothers to cram every single thing on their to-do list into baby’s naptimes. Or are we supposed to spend naptime staring at baby as well?

Readers, you will be horrified to know that I often set my children up with toys and then I turn my attention toward something else. Sometimes, I don’t check on them for 10 straight minutes!

If your home is baby-proofed, you shouldn’t have massive guilt about taking your eyes off your baby. Plus, it doesn’t seem healthy for a child to live life with mom always hovering above.

If I could rewrite that booklet, it would go something like this:
“Keep an eye on your baby. Make sure they aren’t playing with knives, eating dishwasher detergent or climbing up the stairs without you. If they are playing alone contently in a safe environment, go ahead and fold the laundry, read that text message, or just look at the ceiling and take a few deep breaths.” 

I remember to feed them and I make sure no one drowns in the water table.
I'd call that good parenting.


When to Switch to a Maternity Bra and Why?

After three pregnancies and subsequent breastfeeding of three babies, I am well aware that boobs can change size and shape dramatically throughout motherhood.

I'm thrilled to share this guide from Cake Maternity on how to find the right bra for yourself during pregnancy. Because every mom wants to feel comfortable and still look nice.

"Breast health is particularly important during pregnancy.  It is during this time that your breasts go through an obvious change. Some women will experience an increase of up to 3-cup sizes.  The increased size and weight of the breast puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the ligaments that hold the breast in place. If proper support is not provided then more permanent damage can be experienced, resulting in sag.

When should I start wearing a maternity bra?
Most women will start to notice change in their breasts early on in their pregnancy (after 6 weeks).  Your breasts may become tender and swollen as the pregnancy hormone sets in.

It is advised to stop wearing your regular bras as soon as they start to feel uncomfortable.  This is likely to be a sign that they have become too small and are not providing good support or coverage any longer.

It is recommended to invest in a good quality seamless bra at this time. 

Seamless bras have been designed to stretch with your changing body while still providing that much needed support and coverage.
The easy sizing (XS-XXL) allows a number of cups sizes to fit into each bra size, making this the prefect transitional bra.

Cupped sized bras are not the best option during this time, as they may restrict breast growth causing discomfort and providing poor levels of coverage.

At approximately 3 to 4 months of pregnancy, most women will have noticed that their breasts have stabilized in growth.  It is recommended at this time to go and get fitted for a cup-sized bra.

A good fitting cupped size bra will provide greater levels of support now that the breast is larger and heavier than during pre-pregnancy. 

What is the difference between a maternity bra and a regular bra?
Regular bra
A regular bra is usually constructed from rigid fabrics that provide little flexibility or room for fluctuation in growth.  The fabrics used are often synthetic and laces are exposed directly to the skin.  The wires are rigid too and the bras are often designed to look good rather than for comfort.

Maternity bra
Maternity bras have been designed with a heavier fuller bust in mind.
There are many different types of maternity bras in the market place.  The ones you ultimately decide on should fit in with your lifestyle and provide you with comfort and support.

A good maternity bra will be rigid in the lower cup and have a small amount of stretch in the top of the cup, which allows for fluctuations in breast size.  The fabrics selected are not only picked for their durability but for comfort too. 

A good maternity bra will contain extra support in areas such as the reinforced shoulder straps; wider double layered back band, durable elastics and accessories.  Some maternity bras will contain flexible wires in them. The flexible wire not only provides extra support and a great shape, but also provides comfort as the wire moves more freely with the body.

The right fit
It is always advised to go and get fitted by a professional bra fitter.  During pregnancy our breasts and bodies change dramatically and it is almost impossible to know what size you have become.

Shop around and find a brand that suits your budget and feels great on.  This way, you will get value for money and all day comfort.

TIP:  If the bra does not feel good on in store don’t purchase it.  It is likely to remain in the drawer at home and will be a waste of money.

Always check:

-        The back band fits firm and is done up on the tightest hook early on in pregnancy.  You want to allow room for adjustment as your rib cage continues to expand.  A good maternity bra will have plenty of hooks and eyes for lots of adjustment.
-        Your breasts should be fully enclosed in the bra.  No breast tissue should be spilling out the top, side of bottom of the cups.
-        The shoulder straps should sit comfortably on the shoulder and should not be digging in.
-        The flexible wire should be sitting under and around the breast tissue.  At no point should the wire be touching or digging into the breast.
-        The breasts should be separated and not be compressed into a mono boob.
-        The bra should feel comfortable and supportive.  Your breasts should be sitting in a natural position.  Try your T-shirt on over the top of the bra to make sure you are getting the desired shape and look you are after."
   Like many women out there, Tracey Montford is an exceptional multi-tasker! Apart from steering a global business, managing 2 young boys & keeping the clan clean and fed, Tracey still finds time to provide creative inspiration and direction to the exceptional designs of Cake Maternity. From the branding, presentation and delivery, creativity is a big part of what Tracey does so naturally and effectively. Find out more at or catch up with her on social @cakematernity .


Loose Parts

I always thought I was being a lazy mom when I let my kids play with our household trash.

Paper towel rolls, tissue paper from packages, empty milk jugs -- before items end up in the garbage can, they often end up in the playroom.

It turns out I am not lazy. I am on the cutting edge of parenting.

“Loose parts” is a term I just learned from my children’s childcare facility. Teachers were requesting items for loose parts play and the wish list looked like an inventory of the junk drawer in my kitchen.
String or twine, plastic bottle caps, fabric scraps, buttons and feathers. The list included many more items, including rocks, twigs, leaves and acorns.

Essentially, any kind of materials that can be combined, repurposed, put together or taken apart are candidates for loose parts play.

There are no directions or instruction manual for loose parts play. The possibilities are only limited by the child’s imagination.

After a year of a structured school curriculum, I was ecstatic to learn that my 7-year-would be experiencing this method of play during her summer camp. The word “loose” is exactly what our kids need: more free, easy-going, open-ended time.

I know my kid needs a break from rigidity and step-by-step instructions by the time May rolls around.

It may look strange to give my daughter a bucket full of random household and nature items, but what I’m really giving her is freedom. Freedom to decide what those items will be used for and what direction she wants her play to go.

Any parent who has experienced Christmas morning with young children knows- the box is often more interesting to the child than the toy it contained. So instead of something from the store, fill a box with some loose parts from the backyard or the recycling bin and watch what happens.

This picture of CeCe playing with a paper towel tube is 7 years old, but it gets my point across.  


Family Photo Win

You may recall from a previous post that our 2017 family photos did not go as smoothly as I had hoped. It was kind of a hot mess.

But because my kids are growing so fast, and because moms never seem to end up in candid photos, I am committed to taking these professional pictures annually. So we set a date, a location, and asked our kids to keep it together for at least a few minutes.

This year, I had plenty to be excited about:

  • Gorgeous weather and beautiful backdrop. The Arboretum in Lexington is a treasure and we love to explore the gardens there.
  • Matching outfits. Oh yes, the girls all had matching dresses and the boys synced up their clothing too. The best part was when we finished the photos and walked around the Arboretum, people thought we were just narcissists who dressed our children to be carbon copies of us.
  • Purple hair. CeCe was rewarded with "fun hair" for the summer and opted for purple streaks. I obviously joined her because moms can have fun too!
  • Cooperative children. With the exceptions of some glowering from Gwen, my kids kept their smiles shining for almost an hour of picture-taking.

CeCe had a complete 180-attitude change from last year. Instead of hiding under a tree and sobbing, she came ready for her close-up. She swiped my red lipstick on, packed a purse with snacks and toys for her siblings and struck poses when asked.

The changes in my kids in just 12 short months is overwhelming to me. Day by day, each one is a little taller, a little stronger, knows a few more words, and has a few more (or less) teeth.

Here are some of my favorites:

Who Needs Google When You Have a Dad?

My 7-year-old can drive us crazy asking questions.
“How does an airplane stay in the sky?”
“How big can a shark grow?”
“How long would it take to walk to France?” 
But I recently realized that I don’t have a leg to stand on when it comes to asking parents too many questions. My text message history with my dad looks something like this:
"Hi Dad. How should I cook scallops?”
“Just wondering, how often do I really need an oil change?”
“Hey Daddy, will you please review my taxes and make sure I did this right?”
I’m 30 years old but whenever I have a problem or a question about life skills, my first instinct is still to ask my dad. I’m aware that I could Google most everything I need to know. YouTube tutorial videos exist for just about anything you can think of. 
But I will never trust Google more than I do my dad.
A few weeks ago I was hashing out a problem with a home repair and I whined to my father, “Just tell me what to do!”
He laughed and said, “I’ll never tell you what to do. But I can tell you what I would do.”
That is why I keep going back to him. He doesn’t butt in with advice but gives it freely when I ask for it. My parents crafted the perfect blend of being supportive without being pushy. Because of that, they will always be my first call when a problem pops up. 
Happy Father’s Day, Daddy. Thank you for always answering my questions.


Keeping Playdates Simple

It’s a special thing when kids and parents can enjoy a playdate equally. It requires a special blend of similar discipline styles, an open-minded attitude, scheduling coordination – and that’s just on the parent side.

My 7-year-old has known her best friend, Evie, since they were toddlers. Her mom, Kellie, and I quickly became best friends as well, and our playdates were as much for the adults as they were for the kids.
While Pinterest has convinced me that some moms plan special activities and snacks for playdates, we took a much different approach. Our playdate blueprint:
1) Give children access to toys, crayons, etc.
2) Provide healthy snack upon request.
The end.
Kellie and I would stay within viewing distance but followed a policy of non-intervention. The girls were free to play as they wanted. We jumped in only if tears or shouting broke out.
Our explanation to the kids was simple: If you’re not able to get along and work out your problems, we’ll just call it a day.
We quickly learned that leaving the girls to their own devices helped them develop their own problem-solving skills. Both girls wanted the playdates to continue, so they figured out their own solutions.
Disputes still occurred. But when both girls wanted the same game piece in “Candy Land,” they knew they had to resolve the issue or try another activity.
Being comfortable with parallel play is another result of our policy. CeCe may want to play Barbies, but Evie wants to do an art project. So they play side-by-side and don’t try to force the other to join in.
Playdates can be a lifeline for parents – opportunities to be social without kids are few and far between for many of us. Playdates also build our children’s social skills, if we let them.
To find lasting friendships for the whole family is an added bonus.
Cheers to best friends.