An Activity Board for My 10 Month Old

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I’m kind of crunchy. I breastfeed, use cloth diapers, we do baby-led weaning, bed-share… you get the idea. Another thing that falls into that label is that I prefer sensory toys, things that allow a baby to explore his senses. This usually doesn’t include things that light up or make sounds. (NOTE: We have a bunch of things that light up and make sounds… haha I’m not AGAINST them! They are easy to find and very bright and colorful. They’re great, too! It’s like… I enjoy vanilla ice cream, but I PREFER chocolate chip cookie dough.)

That’s why, many months ago, I started getting very excited at the prospect of an activity board, or a sensory board. It’s something you make yourself: you take a big piece of wood (or fiberboard) and just attach random things to it, such as doorknobs and light switches. It lets your baby explore REAL things, things he will encounter in the real world. Plus, sensory boards just look awesome!

I didn’t want to do it when he was younger. I wanted him to be standing and maybe even walking. So now, at about 10 months, it was time.

I brainstormed and did some Google image searches for sensory boards. I wanted a nice collection of things to attach to our board. We visited our local hardware store and picked up the following items:

  • door knob (we got one that doesn’t turn because it was cheaper, but I wish we had one that does turn)
  • lock that you’d find on a bathroom stall
  • chain lock
  • 1 foot of chain
  • carabiner
  • light switch
  • padlock with key
  • handle

Additionally, at home, we had an abacus, hook, and bubble wrap.

The hardware store did not carry wood, but we had a coffee table that we haven’t used in at least 2 years. This table was about $20, so I’m not sure why we saved it to begin with! Regardless, it was going to be perfect for this project.

In order to create a working surface for myself (so I wasn’t on the floor the whole time), we put the table together!

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Next, I laid out a lot of the pieces, just to get an eye for the layout.

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10 shot of the board.jpgMany of the pieces came with screws. We don’t have a reliable screwdriver (or power drill), so I decided to just NAIL everything on to the table. That means some of the items aren’t completely flush with the table, but we figured, he would have to turn on HULK MODE to really hurt himself. We are safe for now.

There were a few challenges. One was the abacus. I didn’t want to damage it by nailing THROUGH the wood or breaking off any of the beads. I figured out a solution!

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I nailed on most of the rest of the items.

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Another hiccup was the chain. I didn’t want to just hang it off of a nail or hook because Alexander would be able to remove it. We had two ideas. The first idea was to use a long nail to create a loop (hammer it partially into the table, then hammer sideways in order to bend it). When I tried that, the nail just created a huge hole in the (clearly very cheap, not-made-of-wood) table.

The second idea was to use a metal 3M hook and bend the hook part to create a loop. That worked, but it was TOUGH! We had to use pliers and 4 hands to get it to work. Ultimately, I had to use the carabiner to hold up the chain. It will do!

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Here are some pictures of the finished product (for now!) and Alexander playing with it:

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I polled my Facebook friends for additional ideas. Here are some things I want to add in the future:

  • mirror
  • door knocker
  • door stopper
  • door hinge
  • something to twist (like a washer that you can twist up and down a screw)
  • ball necklace (like beads)

Any other ideas from you awesome readers?

 

Operation: Fit Mom, Just an Update

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It’s been a while since I wrote an official Fit Mom post!

Let me tell you… that little image I created for this series is ALL over the place. I’ve come across it on random IG feeds and even on a GYM’s website. I had to email them to get them to take it down! I mean, come on, I spent some time creating it. And it’s awesome. But I need to get paid, son!

Anyway, not the point.

I don’t know why I never measured myself. I weighed myself. But 140 pounds with lots of fat is NOT the same as 140 pounds with lots of muscle.

Two pictures, side by side, with the weight noted is… misleading. Saying I’ve lost X pounds is misleading. I might’ve lost 5 pounds of fat but gained 3 pounds of muscle. So I’m only down by 2, you know? But I may LOOK way better.

Starting now, today, I’m going to measure. I’ll keep up with chest, waist, hips, upper leg, and upper arm. In addition, of course I will still weigh myself. But I’ll keep track of lots of other numbers too. This is more for me because I know at some point, I’m going to plateau. My weight will stop dropping, but my clothes will get bigger. And those extra numbers will explain it.

I’m American, so I’m measuring in pounds and inches. I don’t think I’ve got lots of readers, much less international readers. So I hope that works for you all. :)

MY MEASUREMENTS

  • Weight: 140.4 pounds
  • Chest: 36 inches
  • Waist: 31 inches
  • Hips: 35 inches
  • Thigh: 23 inches
  • Arm: 12 inches

Ideally, I would be about 130 pounds with a chest-waist-hip ratio of 32-26-32. That’s about where I was before I got pregnant. I don’t know if Crossfit will get me there, but I’m working on it.

I decided to show a side by side of “4 weeks after baby” versus “44 weeks after baby”. I couldn’t find the original of the “4 weeks” picture, so I had to use one I’d edited in the past. No biggie!

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Another update is that I’ve gotten better at my box jumps! I used to be really bad and it took me FOREVER to get just one. Now…check this out!

DC Cherry Blossom Festival and an Easter Eggstravaganza

I’ve lived in Washington DC nearly 5 years. And I’ve never gone to see the Cherry Blossoms in the Spring. I’ve seen plenty of gorgeous pictures, but I figured… I might as well go see them this year since I’m a stay-at-home mom and can avoid the weekend crowd.

I went with Alexander (duh) and my neighbor Sarah.

We took the Blue line to Smithsonian (oh, the crowds… and it wasn’t even the weekend…). We walked about 10 minutes toward the Tidal Basin where you can see the trees and the water and the Jefferson Memorial.

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Where it wasn’t so crowded, I decided to get a few pictures under the blossoms. OF COURSE, Alexander fell asleep right before we got there. (Granted, he would not have known what was going on anyway!)

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We walked a little further toward the water. As we were walking, Sarah kept reaching up to touch the blossoms.

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Okay, you can only take so many pictures of the same kind of tree before they just start looking the same.

Afterward, we decided to WALK home. From the mall, we live about 2.5 miles away. On that route, we passed the Washington Monument and the White House.

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That means I get to cross something off my “30 Before 30″ list!

It was a GREAT day for the weather. Not too hot, super sunny, and breezy.

That was on Thursday. Then, Saturday, our church hosted an annual Easter Eggstravaganza in the Georgetown neighborhood of DC. An egg hunt, cotton candy, balloon animals, live music, and more. It was a lot of fun for the kiddos, but of course, Alexander can’t really enjoy any of it because he doesn’t have a clue what’s going on.

We took a picture with the Easter Bunny, and then we got a balloon hat made for him. The volunteers didn’t know how to make hats though. :)

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It was another nice day.

Big Al was a great sport as we walked A LOT around DC this past week.

Next stop will hopefully be one of the Smithsonian museums!

Hello Dollies (recipe)

This is the last post in my mini series about ways to use sweetened condensed milk!

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This is a recipe from my mama, so you know it’s good. It has shredded coconut, which I typically HATE, but I can actually enjoy it in this dessert!

(The recipe without pictures is at the end.)

Start with your ingredients: vanilla wafers, chocolate chips, shredded coconut, butter, nuts, and sweetened condensed milk.

1 ingredients

First melt your butter. We don’t have a microwave, so I put the butter straight into the dish I was using. It is the bottom “layer” anyway. (It helps create a crust.)

2 melt butter

Next, you want to crush (or pulverize!) a cup of vanilla wafers. It took about half the box for me.

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Pour that on top of your butter. Those two ingredients make a yummy, buttery crust at the end.

Next, you want to measure out a cup of chocolate chips.

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Next you will layer chocolate chips, 1 cup of shredded coconut, and some crushed nuts. I don’t like nuts, so I put nuts on just half of the dish.

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Finally, pour the sweetened condensed milk over the entire thing.

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You will bake this at 325 degrees for 30-45 minutes (until the top is golden). I used an 8×8 pan, and it took 35 minutes.

Err on the side of LESS golden. If you think it’s starting to get golden brown, go ahead and take it out. It isn’t like there’s anything that needs to COOK, you know?

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You can eat it right away, but I prefer it to get to room temperature. That way, the crust becomes more crust-like, and you can eat it with your hand instead of a fork. Mmmmm.

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Word of caution: It’s VERY sweet! I cut the 8×8 pan into 16 pieces, and one little piece was enough to satisfy me!

The Recipe, in words:

HELLO DOLLIES

Ingredients

  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1 cup of crushed vanilla wafers
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 1 cup crushed mixed nuts
  • 1 can of sweetened condensed milk

Directions

1. Melt the butter and put it at the bottom of an 8×8 or 9×9 dish.

2. Layer the rest of the ingredients, in the order listed above.

3. Bake at 325 degrees for 30-45 minutes, until golden on top.

Alexander’s First Steps

On Saturday, Alexander turned 10 months.

On Sunday, he took his first steps (plural). He’d taken one step here and there, but does that really count?

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He took 2 steps a few times, took 3 steps once, and we caught a little of that on camera.

 

 

He stayed up very late Sunday night because he was in a great mood. He kept wanting to stand up then walk to Cameron. Over and over. We weren’t complaining; it was fun for all of us.

Since then we have been practicing. That is the best I’ve been able to catch on camera so far. Pretty cool, though. :) I don’t know if that makes him an “early” walker.

We aren’t rushing anything. He will figure it out in his own time!

How to Treat Your Cast Iron Skillet

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Cast iron can be intimidating, but it’s awesome! We have a skillet, griddle, and Dutch oven that are cast iron. Cast iron can be used on the stove top then immediately transferred to the oven. We use it to make our spinach frittata every week. We use it to make bacon and eggs, pancakes, salmon, chicken, pork, you name it.

Once you get used to cleaning and treating it, it gets better and better over time. If you take good care of it, it should last forever.

What I did for you today is show you how WE treat ours. Along the way I’ll give you a few of the rules you should know so you don’t damage your cast iron!

I’m starting with a dirty greasy pan.

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Next, I’m going to quickly clean it. The nice thing about cast iron is that cleaning is a BREEZE because, treated correctly, it’s essentially stick-free.

You only need a dish sponge and water.

  • Do NOT use soap.
  • Do NOT use steel wool.
  • Do NOT let water just sit and soak in your cast iron.

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Because you don’t want water to hang out in there, you need to dry it. You could use multiple paper towels or a dish towel to do this, if you wanted. Some folks stick their pans in the oven at this point, to dry the water. We use the stove top. You want the pan to be hot later for when you treat it, so using heat to dry it just makes sense!

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Here it is, perfectly dry.

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You can see there’s some damage on ours. That’s because I didn’t know one of the rules….

  • Do NOT use metal utensils in the cast iron! (You see those fork marks? Oops…)

Now, while the pan is still hot you want to pour just a little oil in it. I tend to use a little more than my husband. You just need enough to cover the entire inside of the pan. Oh, we use olive oil, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t matter.

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Spread that oil around while the pan is still hot. I used a burp cloth since we were out of paper towels. It worked better than paper towels!

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And that’s it. You’re done.

Now, we do this every time we use the cast iron. That’s just about once a day, honestly. It takes less than 5 minutes, and it means that our skillet will last us for a very very long time.

So if you were intimidated about getting a cast iron skillet, I highly recommend taking the plunge. Over the next 10 years, we won’t need to buy another skillet! Great investment!

NOTE: Cast iron is really heavy. So if you go to buy one, just expect that. :)

My Favorite Hot Tea “Recipe”

Last Monday, I said I was going to share 4 ways that I use sweetened condensed milk. So far, I’ve shared two ways.

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Today, I want to share the way that I like to enjoy hot tea! It’s SWEET, so if you prefer your tea to taste more like tea (!), I’d suggest cutting the add-ins in half!

First, you’ll need a pretty mug, some hot water (duh), a tea bag (I just go with Lipton… I’m not really a tea snob), sweetened condensed milk, and brown sugar.

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Boil some water and pour it into your mug.

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Next, pour a spoonful of brown sugar into your mug (my spoon here is about 2 teaspoons).

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Finally, add the same amount of condensed milk…

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Here’s a quick tip: I bought this little brown clay (?) bear from Bed, Bath, and Beyond, and it’s MAGIC at keeping your brown sugar from clumping. You soak it in warm water for 20 minutes, then just drop it into your brown sugar container!

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Alexander: 10 Month Update

Just for Us

ALEXANDER IS 10 MONTHS TODAY!

He ENJOYS

  • putting everything in his mouth, especially paper
  • standing, then sitting, then standing, then sitting,…
  • finding new noises and then using them excessively
  • bath time
  • being with his mama (very clingy this past month!)
  • grapes, gluten-free toast, apples, ground beef, celery
  • when his daddy comes home from work
  • “The Wheels on the Bus”
  • hearing his mama count out loud
  • seeing his own image
  • the sound of clapping, snapping, clicking
  • chewing on pacifiers and bottle nipples

He is ABLE TO

  • crawl quickly
  • bear crawl for a split second
  • stand assisted for a long time
  • cruise (walk around while holding onto various objects)
  • walk while pushing a rolling chair
  • stand UNassisted for about 5 seconds
  • sit back down gracefully (without bopping his head!)

STATS

  • He weighs around 20 pounds.
  • He has two bottom teeth now.
  • His eyes are still a pretty blue.
  • His hair is growing out.
  • He wears mostly 12-month sized clothes (although his 9 month stuff still fits, if I’m out of clean stuff!).
  • He wears mostly cloth diapers.
  • He nurses on demand, which is about 12 times a day, on average.
  • He naps 2-3 times a day for a total of 2-3 hours.
  • He goes to bed anywhere from 7:30 to 9:00 (usually earlier).
  • He wakes up 2-6 times a night (and we’re okay with that).
  • He’s up for the day around 7:00, give or take a little.

Some PICTURES 

//eating a date//

 

 

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//family picture//

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//sleeping on daddy//

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//prim and proper, putting off bedtime//

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//my new woven wrap//

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//eating at the table because the tray for his booster seat was in the dishwasher//

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My Favorite Iced Coffee at Home (A Sweet Treat)

I mentioned on Monday that I’m going to post 4 ways I like to use sweetened condensed milk. The first post was a Banana Caramel Pie. This is the second post in that little series!

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This is my go-to for iced coffee.

To make it, you have to start with a great batch of iced coffee. Now, you could do that by brewing a cup of coffee, then sticking it in the fridge. I’m not a coffee expert, but apparently, that isn’t as good as this other method*.

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*DISCLAIMER: The info here is basically exactly what The Pioneer Woman does! You can see her nicer pictures if you want. The difference: in her post, she mostly demos how to make the big batch of iced coffee. Here, I demo how to make the single serving, delicious glass.

 

Quick Description: Pour a 1-lb bag of coffee grounds into a huge container. Pour 2 gallons of water over that. (If your bag is less than 16 ounces, just do the math!) Set it up overnight. The next morning, you want to strain out the grounds. This takes a little while. We use a strainer and 2 layers of cheese cloth. Then stick it in the fridge!

 

Now, here’s how I prepare an iced coffee!

Ingredients/Supplies:

  • Mason jar (it’s easy because you can close it and shake, which works better than stirring!)
  • Iced coffee
  • Ice
  • Sweetened condensed milk
  • Half and half

(I forgot to put the half and half in the picture…)

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Put some ice in your glass. I fill it up about 2/3 of the way so I get more coffee. (The way PW does it is much less coffee, much more sugar, and it’s too sweet, even for me!)

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Add your coffee.

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Pour about a tablespoon of half and half into your glass.

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(Now, a trick: If you run hot water over your spoon, it helps the condensed milk to slide off the spoon much easier!)

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I use a table spoon (note: I didn’t say “tablespoon”), and I scoop up one big spoonful of the condensed milk and pour it into my glass.

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You must lick the spoon at this point. This is my “just woke up and had about 5 hours of sleep and I’m not wearing any makeup because I’m a stay-at-home mom” face.

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Then… SHAKE!

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And there you have it! It takes a good bit of shaking. The condensed milk tends to settle and resettle at the bottom, so it helps to shake it REALLY well.

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Enjoy!

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