How to Handle a Choking Emergency

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As I’ve said countless times before, I am apart of several online mommy groups via Facebook. The other morning, I woke up to a very disturbing post from a fellow mama. It read: “I lost my 19 month old son tonight. He choked on a single peanut that he grabbed. We went to a satellite children’s and were airlifted to Denver children’s. My sweet boy sustained injury too much for his little body. Please cherish your babies. I’d never give up my blessed 19 months. He was wonderful. I hope I can find solace and what serenity.”

This hit me HARD. You may remember some of my previous posts from when Sophie was young, that we started solids with her through Baby Led Weaning. It is so fun to watch them eat table foods, but you have to be prepared for the inevitable choking that comes with learning how to eat food. When I was younger, I was certified by the Red Cross in child/infant CPR and Heimlich maneuvers, so I have some of that knowledge tucked away… but I also frequently watched YouTube videos on how to help a choking baby.

If you know some one with babies, if you ever babysit, if you ever go to family gatherings where there are babies, if you are a grandparent or older sibling… it never hurts to brush up on these skills. Cora turns 6 months in a couple weeks, and that is exactly when we will begin solids with her. This was a heartbreaking wake up call both to baby proof and brush up on those life saving skills. There are multiple videos I like, but I’ll share my favorite for now:

THIS video is very straight forward, short, and can easily be shared with others. If you want real life examples, you can search YouTube for “baby led weaning gag reflex [or”choking”]” where parents show you how to handle a child who is not yet choking, but maybe has some food stuck in their mouth. The more familiar you are with a baby and their gag reflex, the more you will be able to remain calm and help that child whether it turns into choking or not. Try not to panic! It is some what normal for children to put things in their mouths and gag. The important thing is that you have the clarity of mind to help them.

It can be hard to balance letting your child learn and explore on their own and being a helicopter parent. I say, let them explore, but have the necessary skills in your arsenal for when things take a wrong turn. Let them explore while still keeping an eye on what exactly they are getting into (like the box of wipes versus a jar of marbles). I know it will be harder for me, having a toddler, as some of Sophie’s toys are smaller choking hazards for her infant sister. You can try to be proactive, but let’s be honest: accidents happen. Don’t stress, just be prepared.

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Steak Secrets

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Now that we’re heading into summer, I feel like cooking some steaks out on the grill will become more common place. I prefer to cook mine in a skillet though, and while J has said time and time again that he doesn’t really care for steak, he has given me the highest compliments the last few times I’ve prepared it for him. Steak is one of my favorite foods (yes, my parents would take me to Black Angus on my birthday…) and as I’ve grown older, my techniques have become a little more involved, but they are still simple enough for the novice to pick up and create a delicious meal with.

My obsession with the Food network actually became useful. I never thought about letting the meat “rest” and when Bobby Flay told “Worst Cooks in America” contestant that you’re supposed to just leave the steak alone while it cooks, I was shocked. Anyway, as silly as it sounds I have adopted some of these techniques and they have improved my cooking. Now, here’s what you need:

-A good, quality steak. I’ve become a little more choosey when it comes to steak shopping. I usually go for organic grass fed beef that doesn’t have a ton of fat that will need to be rendered down.
-a meat thermometer. I used to just go off of time (ex. 3 minutes on each side) but the meat thermometer ensures that the meat is cooked without hacking it into little pieces.
quality spices. sea salt or [my personal fave] black truffle salt are great alternatives to traditional table salt.
– letting the meat rest. I usually take my steak out of the fridge, pat off the extra juices, season it with salt and pepper, and ten leave it to rest for 30 mins before cooking it. this helps take the chill from the refrigerator off of the meat. After I’m done cooking, I let the meat rest in the pan for 10 minutes before serving it. To me, this makes for a more tender and juicy steak.

Here’s how I normally cook:
Sprinkle salt and pepper evenly over steaks, then heat a large  skillet over high heat. Add some olive oil to the pan; swirl to coat. Add steaks to pan; cook 3 minutes on each side or until browned, checking with the thermometer to see if they’ve reached 155 degrees. Reduce heat to medium-low; add butter and garlic (maybe 1 clove) to pan. Carefully grasp pan handle using an oven mitt or folded dish towel. Tilt pan toward you so butter pools; cook 1 1/2 minutes, basting steaks with butter constantly. Remove steaks from pan; cover loosely with foil. Let stand 10 minutes.

What are your cooking secrets?

{image source: aminerecipes.com}

Crockpot Pulled Pork

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  • 2 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 (4-1/2- to 5-pound) boneless or bone-in pork shoulder (also known as pork butt), twine or netting removed

I coat pork shoulder with a spice rub of dark brown sugar, chili powder, cumin, and cinnamon, then cook it on a bed of garlic and onions moistened with chicken broth. Six to ten hours later, the tenderest pork is ready to be shredded and served with your favorite BBQ sauce. You can shred the pork with a fork, or if you’re super lazy like me, throw it in your stand mixer with a paddle attachment and mix it on low for 1 minute. If you plan to eat it right away, add your BBQ sauce [about 2 cups for this much pork] to the mixer while the pork is being shredded. This no-fuss, versatile recipe makes enough to feed a crowd, and the leftovers—should you have any—freeze well, which is why I chose it as one of my make ahead meals for when the Baby Comes.

I froze it without any BBQ sauce on it. I plan to thaw and reheat the meat in a skillet with BBQ sauce to moisten it back up. Pair this with some freezer french fries or cole slaw and it makes the perfect, easy meal!

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St. Lucy

St. Lucy [or Lucia] is known as the patron saint of the blind and of light. Her feast day was yesterday, December 13th, and I told myself that this year we would hold off putting up our lights until her feast day. So, last night we had our very own little family light-up night.

Here’s the story of St. Lucy that I’ve heard: Some time around 300 AD, it was actually dangerous to be a Christian. When most people think of Christianity, they don’t think about persecution and martyrdom. Yes, many people are quick to remember the crusades, but slow to remember that Christians, particularly in Rome, were hunted. In fact many Catholic traditions come from this time of persecution, when people had to celebrate mass in secrecy underground. Besides celebrating mass in the catacombs, Christians wanted by the Romans actually hid underground as well. St. Lucy would bring food to these people, since they were wanted and were too scared to show their faces above ground even to get some thing to eat. The story goes that St. Lucy had so much food to bring to these Christians that she couldn’t carry both the food and the candle she’d need to see in the underground tunnels. So, she placed the candles in a wreath that she wore on her head, leaving both hands free to carry enough food for everyone in hiding. There are probably many variations on this story and the historical facts that go with it… but either way, it is still a good example of charity, love, and the importance of religious freedom.

At the risk of sounding political, I have to say this story touched me in a very particular way this year, as I’ve seen many Muslims being persecuted here due to tensions our country has with those in the middle east, as well as the world-wide persecution Christians are facing. It highlighted to me how lucky I am to have religious freedom in this country and encouraged me to pray for those who do not have this gift in theirs.

In any case, it was an honor to light up the night in honor of the patroness of light herself. Now our home looks particularly festive, and ready for an even BIGGER feast day on December 25th! As you’ll notice, our manger is still missing Baby Jesus, and we’re still rocking our Advent flag near the front door. The anticipation is growing for both Christmas Day and for our trip to California. This week, I’ll be spending most of my time doing last minute shopping and packing for the big trip. Hopefully I will still have time to relax and enjoy the season. Have a great week everyone!

Food of SoCal

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It’s no secret that I’m a foodie. The intention of this blog was to focus on the 2 things I love most, food and babies.

I lived in Southern California for 20 years before I moved permanently to Ohio to be with the love of my life, so I know the food scene pretty well. Our Mexican food is superior to any other state, that’s no secret, and I would love to debate anyone who says otherwise! [Not really] But there are a few other joints that might surprise you.

Any way, I wanted to do a round up of all my favorite places AND throw in a few extra foods that I think are ESSENTIAL for anyone to eat when they visit the golden state.

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First, what we ate on this trip: [don’t judge me, it’s a long list…]

IN N OUT – Burgers and fries done RIGHT.
Food Trucks – Ok, so in Huntington Beach, the food trucks all congregate in a parking lot once a week, and we got lucky enough to have come in on the day that this special foodie event happens. Justin got an amazing pork quesadilla, I had bacon wrapped dates and street tacos, my dad got tater tots smothered in cheese sauce and sloppy joe, then we all finished off with ice cream from Longboards.
Panera – This is a bigger chain that can be found all across the USA. Their salads are phenomenal, but if you’re up early [like, before 8 am] you can get a delicious breakfast souffle.
Mimi’s Cafe – J ordered some breakfast tacos that I seriously envied, but this little restaurant has a great specialty coffee drinks, desserts, and pastries. I had a breakfast sandwich, while my mom split her California omelette with Sophie. This is also a bigger chain though, I’ve never seen it outside of California.
Disneyland – Inside the park are some pretty classy restaurants! I usually just grab a hot dog or churro from a cart when I’m there, but since I was pregnant this time, and not running off to any rides, I asked if we could sit down to one of the park’s restaurants. I chose Cafe Orleans, mostly for their pumpkin beignets.
Mod Pizza – This just opened up across the street from my parents in Huntington Beach. It is basically the Chipotle of pizza. You choose your crust, toppings, cheese, etc. All the ingredients are high quality and the final product is delicious.
Old Town Mexican Cafe – This is exclusive to San Diego and it is[hands down] the best Mexican food. There are wonderful ladies making the tortillas from scratch at the front of the restaurant. We went during their Dia De Los Muertos celebration, which felt extra festive.
Whole Foods – Again, this is some thing that you can find in all 50 states [I think…] but we grabbed these little ham and swiss muffins from the bakery before going to the wedding and they were delicious!
Einstein Brothers – Another big chain, I know, but I live in a more rural part of Ohio so I still don’t get to eat this stuff that often. Aside from a New York deli, these are the best bagels! Plus their honey almond “shmere” is to die for.
Lazy Dog – This restaurant can be found in Huntington Beach or San Diego. They have the best sweet potato tots with jalepeno creama. I’ve gotten tacos from there, salads, and sandwiches… never had anything I didn’t love.
Roppongi – This is a little sushi place in La Jolla. Their sushi is pretty standard, but what blew me away were these short rib sliders they had! So delicious and unexpected from a place specializing in sushi!
Sprinkles – Yes, the first cupcake shop. I’m torn on whether or not I love them. I’ve had more consistency and better flavor from some smaller chains then from the original cupcake giant, but Sprinkles s’mores cupcake is definitely the best EVER.

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Rubio’s – Also a big chain, but I think it is pretty exclusive to the west coast. If you want good fish tacos but are on a low budget, Rubio’s is perfect! We used to get these fish tacos almost every Friday during Lent, when I lived at home. Rubio’s fish taco’s are what opened the gateway to me actually liking fish. If you are a sworn fish hater though, their street tacos are also surprisingly authentic!
Hash House A Go Go – A location in Vegas and in Hillcrest (Down town San Diego). The portion sizes are out of control, but they do fin twists on farm fresh food, My brother and I shared a platter of chicken and waffles, but their more savory scrambles are good too.

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California essential foods:

California Burrito – Roberto’s is a bigger chain that you can find throughout the bigger city of San Diego, but if you’re in East County, Estrada’s has the best California burritos!
Sweet potato fries – Most probably don’t think of sweet potato when they think of SoCal, but SHADES in Ocean Beach is the first restaurant I can recall to push the sweet potato fry craze. The Spot in La Jolla is another place that has fantastic fries (in fact, I’ve never had any better!)
any salad, anywhere – our seasonal produce is awesome. Order a salad at any restaurant and you can expect awesome produce that tastes in-season.
guacamole – I don’t have a location for this one either, but your trip tp California just isn’t complete unless you’ve had chips and guac from some where. Since avocados thrive in the SoCal sun, California guacamole isn’t really something you can “mess up,” it’s good anywhere
frozen yogurt – Yogurtland is a classic that can be found anywhere in CA, but if you’re in San Diego, the yogurt mill is an iconic place to get frozen yogurt. The portions are extremely generous though, so you may want to share!
fish – again, I don’t have a specific place to go, but if you don’t have a large budget, the Rubio’s baja grill I mentioned above has great fish tacos. If you have a more refined palate (and budget) definitely look into some of the nicer, sea-side restaurants up and down the coast. You won’t taste fish as fresh, anywhere else!
IN N OUT – I love this joint so much, it just has to be on both lists. This chain is a California landmark and is almost exclusively a CA chain [there is a location in Texas now, and one in Vegas]. The fries are the freshest potatoes you’ll ever have and the burgers are plain DELICIOUS. I always get mine with grilled onions, but if you’re feeling really adventurous, you can get your burger OR fries “animal style” which includes the grilled onions, secret sauce, and cheese.
Extraordinary Desserts – This is a small chain in San Diego with only a few locations. Whenever my family had a big party though, we’d get a fruit tart from here are they are divine! I’ve also made trips down there with friends for late night dessert runs. Their Bailey’s ice cream is also a fantastic treat. It’s on my list of must-go places for SOCal, mostly because its nostalgic for me.

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I know many other SoCal native who have completely different tastes than I do, so feel free to ad your CA-must-haves in the comments! Those are definitely my top picks though.

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My Favorite Seasonal Flavor

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It’s pretty obvious that a lot of people are in on the pumpkin spice craze, but that was some thing that just never caught on for me [and having morning sickness with Sophie for the first time during the fall, didn’t help my aversion to pumpkin spice]. Some people are advocating for apple cider, but my favorite, seasonal combo would have to be orange and cranberry.

I know, you maybe don’t think of that as a classic combination, but the obsession started with orange cranberry scones that Trader Joe’s used to sell, and them moved on from there. Currently, Panera has these DIVINE orange cranberry muffins, with just the perfect amount of crystallized sugar on top.

So, keep your eye out for my favorite fall/winter flavor combo, because even though it can be tough to find, the little treats you do, are so worth it!

New York Recap

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As I announced on Friday, the husband and I were in New York City this past weekend, attending comic con! While we mostly hung around the convention center doing nerdy things, we also had time to explore a bit of the city. I wanted to share all my favorite things with you guys in a post, so here it goes! [I plan to do a separate post on the convention for all you nerdy followers, but this will just be a recap of my favorite city spots and places to eat…]

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First things first, if you want a chic place to stay near the convention center or Hell’s Kitchen, then I’d highly recommend the Yotel. You can’t miss the signature purple neon of this place if you’re on 10th ave. They have killer free coffee all day [which, even though coffee has been giving me acid reflux, I seriously couldn’t resist a cup…] and in the mornings, they have really delicious muffins for free. It’s clean, updated, and only a 5-10 minute walk to the convention center which made it perfect for this trip.

Our favorite place for a meal was Friedman’s on W 31st street. I cannot say enough good things about this place. All of their food was fresh, they has a wide variety of gluten free options, and the staff was so friendly and helpful despite being overwhelmed with business from people leaving the convention at night. J and I both got salads, but they must have housemade dressings because I am telling you, I have never had a better balsamic vinaigrette in my LIFE.

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You all know I love my sweets, and while I was disappointed that I didn’t get to visit the Manhattan Carlo’s Bakery, it ended up being a blessing because I got to go to this delicious cookie spot instead. Schmackary’s has THE BEST cookies. We got an Oatmeal Scotchie [oatmeal and butterscotch], The Monster [oats, PB, m&m’s, semi sweet chocolate chips], Red Velvet, Caramel Delight [chocolate cookie with caramel in the middle and a tiny sprinkle of coconut], Funfetti [reminiscent of the funfetti cake with vanilla frosting and sprinkles (also my favorite from the bunch)], and Maple bacon. It was hard for us not to eat these all in one sitting, and pictured above it me sneaking half a cookie in the airport terminal while hubs was using the restroom…

As you know, J and I are Catholic, which means we didn’t want to miss an opportunity to go to mass at St. Patrick’s. This is some thing that was on my bucket list last time we were in NYC, but we just never made it there since there was a convenient little Franciscan Friary down the street from us. This time we walked the 10 blocks it took to get to St. Patrick’s and I’m so glad we did! Not only was it a beautiful mass, knowing that the pope had just recently visited, but we also got to walk through Times Square, a farmers market, and Rockefeller Center on our way to the church. So, even though most of our time was spent inside the convention center, we got to do a quick walking tour of NYC on our way to mass. [Not to mention, the streets are almost empty early on a Sunday morning, which made our walk much more enjoyable, and less rushed.]

Overall, it was just a really fun trip! It was definitely tough on my pregnant body, and I had to keep a close eye for swelling and take every opportunity possible to sit down and rest my hips… but I am so glad I was able to have this short little “babymoon” with my husband.

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New York!

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Pretty much a week after the Pope leaves and in the aftermath of NYFW and Hubs and I are just arriving in the city that never sleeps! As you’re reading this, we are already settled in our hotel and sightseeing! It’s been 2 years since we’ve taken a trip up here, but J surprised me for our anniversary by making all the arrangements! For those of you who don’t know, J and I are total comic book and cartoon nerds. [I wrote my Senior thesis on the origins of superheroes in classic literature for heaven’s sake!] So, of course we’re here for Comic Con.

In addition to loving superheroes, we also love food though, and I’m definitely hoping to indulge my inner foodie while I’m here in the city. During the next couple weeks I’ll have some wonderful pictures to share with you all! Until then, I’m taking a break to spend some QT with my dear spouse, while Gigi and Pap get to spend time with Sophie back at home. Enjoy your weekends, everyone!

Baby Pouch DIY

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I don’t think there is anything wrong with buying pre-made baby food from the store. In fact, there are a lot of organic options nowadays for baby food. Like most other organic things, it’s usually more expensive. Luckily for my baby, my husband and I are slow produce eaters. Yes, we buy the finest organic produce, but we’re human, we’re going to grab for the bacon before we grab for some fruit in the morning. That being said, I really needed to find a way to get my babe to eat more leafy green AND use up all the produce we buy before it spoils.

You can buy reusable pouches online, but some of them come with some kind of filling contraption in order to get the food into the tiny hole at the top of the pouch. If that works for you, great, but I for one rarely use appliances that have more than 2 pieces, so I knew if this was some thing I was going to commit to doing on a weekly basis, it was going to have to be easy.

Hubs and I found these pouches that actually have a wide opening on the bottom of the pouch, so you can easily pour or scoop a puree into them. If you don’t want pouches that open at the bottom [I’ll admit I was skeptical at first] you can always use an icing/piping bag to fill your pouches with puree.

In any case, here’s what you need:
-reusable pouches
-food processor
-2 apples, peeled and chopped
-1.5 cups of spinach
-.25 cup of organic yogurt
-1 Tbs of ground flax [optional]

In a skillet over medium heat, cook the apples and spinach until both are tender. Add to food processor with remaining ingredients, and pulse until everything is smooth. Pour into pouches and refrigerate.

Did I mention the pouches we got can also be stored in the freezer? Like I said…. it’s a solution to using up produce before it goes bad!

Babies in Traffic

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I know it’s hardly the “holiday season” but if you’re like my family, you have loved ones spread out all over the country. We try our best to utilize holiday weekends and breaks to visit everyone and more than likely, this means we end up having to sit in traffic. We were particularly caught off guard during a drive to Pittsburgh a couple months ago. They had the only highway into the city completely shut down. We literally went 1 mile per hour in that traffic, waiting to get off at the exit and turn around. We were trapped, hungry, and since I only prepared for an hour drive, completely out of devices to entertain the baby with. Listen, I’m from Southern California OK? I know traffic… but this experience was particularly hellish. Imagine them completely shutting down the 405 in a single direction… It’d be MADNESS! Anyway, that night, my husband rolled over to me and said “You know what’d be a god post for your blog? How to keep babies happy in traffic.”

Yes husband, that is a good idea! If only I had ways of keeping babies happy in traffic. So I accepted the challenge and decided to put together entertainment ideas that can be kept in your car, for those moments when you hit unexpected traffic.

  1. Food – This one may be pretty obvious, in fact, some of you maybe already use food to entertain your kids for even the shortest of drives. I’m not usually one who likes to give snacks in the car because I’m a fear driven person; fear driven me has premonitions of choking babies that I can’t climb into the backseat fast enough to unbuckle and save them from choking and dying. So, if you’re also a fear driven mom, you may be thinking Why is traffic an acceptable exception for food in the car? Because if you’re going 1 mph, it’s going to be a lot easier to stop driving and help your kid. Also, if this is a food you’re going to be keeping in your car indefinitely, for “emergencies” only, its going to be something that breaks down easily in a baby’s mouth… like crackers. Better yet, those baby puffs [as expensive as they may be for puffed air,] melt in kids’ mouths making them almost impossible to choke on. I threw a tub of puffs into my center console for safe keeping.
  2. Toys – Again, seemingly obvious. But I’m not talking about their beloved favorites, I’m talking about McDonald happy meal toys. Toys that are small, and easily discarded when paired with the high tech, musical favorites your kids already have in their toy box. These are reject toys that they won’t miss being kept in the car for traffic emergencies. These toys are small, store easy, won’t be missed, but offer so much excitement when pulled out in boring, awful traffic.
  3. Books – I feel like this is a less obvious option, but so easy! Those pockets on the back of the driver and passenger seat? Slip a couple books into the back of each. You still have enough room to cram other things in the pocket if need be, but the books are always there as an option.
  4. Roll down the window – This is a personal favorite because it works from 1 year olds, all the way down to itty bitty babies. If you’re going over 10 mph, then you may even get a little white noise going, that will help you calm down your babe. If you’re stuck in 1 mph traffic like we were, chances are your kids will get a kick out of all the different cars you end up next to. My daughter has just started to associate waving with things leaving. So, every time we passed a vehicle, she waved them good bye. Adorable.
  5. The Last Resort – I’m guessing you, the parent, has a smart phone that they always carry with them. Trust me, I don’t like my babe playing with my phone in fear that she may begin to think there is some kind of joint ownership when the phone is actually mine; that she may mistake my generosity for custody of the phone. Well, when you’re stuck in traffic and have gone through the other 4 steps of trying to entertain your child, you won’t mind handing your phone over to a 1 year old. Fisher Price has some really great free apps you can put on your phone for kids. Check it out!

Do you have a way of entertaining your kids that I left out? Throw it down in the comments!