Baby Must Haves

I am going to be an AUNT!  I am so excited.  This also means that my son, Rylan, is going to have a little cousin.  As I have been talking with my sister-in-law about baby items I have been thinking about the baby items that really were great to have.  When I was pregnant and was registering I was clueless on what I needed.  I was overwhelmed with the variety of choices for everything.  There was an entire isle of baby bottles and I was clueless which one to choose.  That's when I turned to my friends that already had kids to get their suggestions.  After having a baby I have created my own list of recommendations and what baby items worked best for our family. 

  • Ice cube trays: This may seem weird, but we used them all the time.  They are great for making your own baby food purees and freezing the puree in the trays.  Once frozen, take the cubes out of the trays and put them in a Ziploc to store in the freezer.  Defrost the food as you need it.  
  • Plastic bibs: Cloth bibs are great for babies before they are eating solids.  But once they start eating with a spoon and making big messes and eating foods that stain, plastic bibs are the only way to go.  Just wipe and wash the bib after each feeding.  It will be dry by the next time your baby eats.  Otherwise, with cloth bibs you have dirty bibs that pile up to be washed and end up being stained.  Plastic bibs are so much more convenient.  There are a lot of variety of plastic bibs.  My recommendation would be to pick one that looks sturdy and will cover enough of your baby.  Some have a cloth backing, try to avoid those ones.  
  • Product Details
    Summer Infant Bibbity 
Waterproof Bib

  • Spoons: Who would have thought that all spoons are not equal.  We have had 4 different types of spoons and there is a big difference between each type.  The munchkin soft tip infant spoons are our favorites. 
Munchkin soft tip infant spoons

  • Space Saver High chair: High chairs take up so much room.  I would recommend getting a space saver or booster chair that is fastened to a normal kitchen table chair.  It fits nicer at the table.  Also, once your child outgrows their high chair they can join the family at the kitchen table by using the seat part but not the tray.  

Product Details
Booster chair 

  • Rocking chair/ Glider: Our friends let us borrow their glider until their baby was born.  We had it for 6 months until we had to give it back.  We still hadn't found a glider that we loved so I spent about 2 weeks nursing my baby sitting on the floor in the middle of the night.  That is when I learned how important having a rocking chair or glider is.  I would recommend getting one that will hide stains.  Babies (at least mine) spit up and when they get older often get dirty little fingers. 

  • Rock 'n Play Sleeper: My aunt and cousins gave me this sleeper and we loved it for many reasons.  It folds up to make it easy to take it wherever you need it to go, keeps your baby nice and snuggled, easy to clean, and is at an angle to help with reflex.  Most bassinets are bulky and once your baby has grown out of it in a few months you have to find a place to store it.  This sleeper can be stored easily as it folds.  I kept this on the side of our bed when Rylan was a newborn and would rock it with my hand to put Rylan to sleep if he woke up in the middle of the night.  The newer sleepers actually come with a calming vibration too.  There are a lot of colors and varieties of the rock 'n play sleeper. 
  • Fisher Price's Rock 'n play sleeper
  • Swaddle Blankets: Before having a baby I heard about how amazing these blankets were.  I never used them, but wish I would have tried them out.  From what my friends tell me, they do an amazing job at keeping your baby swaddled up all night.  They are also lightweight and nice and big.  They cost more than your average blanket, but worth the price. I already had so many blankets that I didn't think I needed these.  Looking back, I wish I would have.  
Aden  by aden swaddle blankets
  • Gloworm: We received this gift from my grandfather.  He gives a gloworm to every great grandchild.  My first thought when I got it was it is kind of weird to give a doll to a boy.  Little did I know how much we would love this little gloworm.  It lights up and plays lullabys.  When my son was a newborn I would push the gloworm for my son and he fell asleep to it many times.  Now that my son is 18 months he is able to push the button himself.  The other night I listened to him sing along with the lullabys for 15 minutes.  It was music to my ears.  This is a great toy/sleep aid.  
  • Playskool Gloworm

  • Baby swing:  There are so many varieties out there.  I would recommend getting one.  We didn't have one and wished we would have.   
  • Books:  I taught 2nd grade before I became a mom and am a huge advocate of reading to children from day 1.  It is so important that you have a variety of books to read to your little ones.  Here are a few of our favorites.
  • Moo, Baa, La La La!
    We have read Moo, Baa, La La La! so many times that one of my sons first words was moo.  He also would laugh every time I got to the last page.  This book always put a smile on our faces.  
Good Night, I Love You
I read this book to my son every night.  It's part of our routine and I want to make sure that my son always knows how much we love him.  
  • Toys: There are so many toys to choose from.  Most of our favorites are made by Fisher Price and Baby Einstein. A few of our favorites are Fisher Prices Take along tunes, laugh and learn puppy, shape shorter, and stacking rings.  
  • Take along tune
    Laugh and Learn Puppy

  • Stroller: My stroller has so many miles on it.  We average about 3 miles on our stroller when they days are nice.  I would recommend a stroller that will be a comfortable ride for your little one.  We got a jogging stroller that also was a travel system (which means that our car seat fit into the stroller).  There are hundreds of strollers to pick from.  My recommendation is to pick one that fits your needs.  If you plan on spending a lot of time using your stroller, get a quality one.  My son loves his stroller so much that whenever he walks past it he has to climb in it and is upset if we don't go for a walk.  
  • Baby wrap or carrier: There are times when strollers are inconvenient or unpractical and you will want a baby carrier.  As a newborn, it is safer to go shopping with your baby in front of you than in a carseat on top of the cart.  If you go to sporting events or places with large crowds a baby carrier is necessary.  Also, when you have other children it is nice to be able to carry your infant in front of you so that you have your hands free to help your other children or get other things done.  I have the Moby Wrap and like it.  However, it takes a while to put on.  I have heard very positive things about the Bjornbaby and Ergo baby carrier. 
  • Moby Wrap
    BabyBjorn Carrier
  • Diaper bag: Get a diaper bag that you love.  I went cheap on my diaper bag and got one for $2 at a garage sale.  I thought it would be perfect because it was a forest green color and my husband would be comfortable carrying around.  I regretted that choice after our first time out.  It was impractical and I didn't like carrying it around because it was far from cute. There was only one main pouch to hold things and I had the hardest time finding things that I needed.  I sold that diaper bag at a garage sale and no longer have one.  I highly recommend getting a cute diaper bag.  Even if you are having a boy, it's okay to get a girly diaper bag.  It's your bag it can be girly.  Make sure it is durable and has lots of pockets so you can find everything you need.  
  • Back Seat Mirror: I don't know what we would do without this mirror.  We absolutely love it.  When you are driving you are unable to see your rear facing baby.  This mirror attaches to the back seat headrest so you can see your baby.  It is very comforting to be able to see your baby at all times and if you hear any concerning noises you can check on them.  If you have a car, a back seat mirror is a must.  

Healthy Snacks


      I went downstairs this morning and my husband showed me a new app he put on his phone.  It counts your calories for you and does some other things.  I didn't pay too much attention to the app, just to his motivation behind it.  The first shocking thing was that his breakfast this morning, Captain Crunch, took up half of what his calories were suppose to be for the entire day.  That's when I realized we needed to change the food in our house.  We have healthy cereals because that's all that I give my son, Rylan.  But, we have quite a few unhealthy yummy cereals.  Fruit loops are my weakness.  They are so good.  We have decided to change the way we eat and focus on healthy foods.
   I went shopping today and bought some more snacks that I could put in our fridge and cupboard that are easy, healthy, and on the go snacks.  Some items I bought were raisins, eggs to boils, sunflower seeds, string cheese, and yogurt.  I put them in serving size plastic containers and baggies.  I got an empty bucket and filled it with all the healthy snacks and put it in my cupboard.  I emptied out one of my produce drawers in my refrigerator and filled it with snacks too.  I am excited to have healthier food options in my kitchen.  Truthfully, I love most healthy foods, it just isn't always as convenient.  By putting forth a little extra effort after coming home from the grocery store healthy snacks will be just as convenient as easy to grab junk foods.

Here is a list of healthy snacks that are easy to grab and eat.  I wish I had a better knowledge of nutrition and what foods are healthiest for us. But, I don't... and I am not going to let that stop me from trying to be healthy.  I am going to put forth an extra effort to learn what foods are best for us.  I know some foods can be deceiving, such as some types of yogurts aren't as healthy as other types of yogurts.  However, I am clueless on that matter.  Feel free to share your knowledge with me.

I put together a list of healthy snacks to help my family keep our kitchen stocked up with quick and easy healthy foods:
  1. String cheese
  2. Cubed cheese
  3. Carrot sticks
  4. Celery sticks
  5. Cucumber slices
  6. Cherry tomatoes
  7. Snap peas
  8. Broccoli
  9. Green/Red pepper slices
  10. Sliced apples
  11. Grapes
  12. Pineapple chunks
  13. Strawberries
  14. Kiwis
  15. Peaches
  16. Grapefruit
  17. Bananas
  18. Pears
  19. Cherries
  20. Cubed watermelon
  21. Cubed cantaloupe
  22. Orange slices
  23. Mandarin oranges
  24. Bags of berries (blueberries, raspberries)
  25. Hard boiled eggs
  26. Applesauce
  27. Cottage cheese
  28. Wraps
  29. Trail mix
  30. Walnuts
  31. Raisins
  32. Craisins
  33. Peanuts
  34. Almonds
  35. Cashews
  36. Sunflower seeds
  37. Dried fruit (apples, strawberries)
  38.  Healthy popcorn
  39. Granola Bars
  40. Pretzels
  41. Fruit leathers
  42. Whole grain crackers
  43. Rice cakes
  44. Edamame
  45. Frozen yogurt dots
  46. Fruit dipped in yogurt and then frozen
  47. Frozen grapes (Grapesicles)
  48. Frozen go-gurts
  49. Black beans
  50. Pickles
  51. Humus
  52. Peanut butter
  53. Laughing cow cheese

Combinations of snacks:
  1. Crackers with laughing cow cheese
  2. Apples and peanut butter
  3. Yogurt parfait (yogurt, granola, fruit)
  4. Whole grain tortilla, cheese, and black beans to make a quesadilla
  5. Smoothies
  6. Tuna + crackers
  7. Pita bread + humus
  8. Rice cake + humus
  9. Cucumbers + humus
  10. Rice cakes + peanut butter
  11. Sliced banana + peanut butter
  12. Apple slices + yogurt
  13. Cottage cheese + fruit
  14. Toast + peanut butter
  15. Ants on a log (celery, peanut butter, and raisins)
  16. Fruit Kabobs

What would be in your healthy snack container or drawer?

Hawaiian Haystacks (Crock pot sauce)

I have always loved Hawaiian Haystacks.  You don't really need a recipe for it, except for the sauce. There are so many sauce recipes, but this is the one I used because I had an open can of chicken broth and evaporated milk in my fridge that needed to be used.   I also love using a crock pot because I don't have to cook the chicken beforehand and continually stir the pot.  I am all about ease.  The less work I have to do the more time I can spend with my family.  I forgot to defrost my chicken before hand so I put it in frozen and it turned out just fine.  Another great thing about Hawaiian Haystacks is that I normally have all the ingredients I need to make it last minute since the toppings can always vary slightly.

Hawaiian Haystack Ingredients:

Sauce Ingredients:
*  4 boneless skinless chicken breast
* 1 c. chicken broth
* 2 (10 3/4 oz.) cans cream of chicken soup
* 1 (12 oz.) can evaporated milk

6 cups cooked rice

* Cheese
* Pineapple crushed or tidbits
* Celery
* Olives
* Diced tomatoes
* Chinese noodles
* Peppers
* Other favorites

Hawaiian Haystack Toppings
Directions for sauce:
Place chicken in greased slow cooker/crock pot.  Combine all ingredients and pour over chicken.  Cover and cook on high for 3-4 hours or on low for 6-8 hours.  Shred chicken.

Serve over hot rice with toppings. 

This little cutie thought the little bowl of cheese was his own personal bowl and loaded it up with all of his other favorite toppings.  Love my little chef helper.

Chicken Burgers

Most of my elementary school years my mom made me my lunch to take to school.  We called this "cold lunch".  I remember having "hot lunches"(school lunches) once in a while though, usually when I helped in the school kitchen.  The main hot lunch that I remember was chicken burgers.  I loved them and still love them to this day  Now I get to make them myself and add lots of healthy toppings to them.

This is a great meal for those days when you are in a hurry and don't have time to do anything fancy.  


* Bag of Chicken Breast Patties
* Hamburger buns
* Lettuce
* Cheese
* Tomatoes
* Onions
* Toppings (our favorite is ranch)

Prepare the chicken patties as directed on the package.  Add your favorite toppings to your burger.  Eat up!  

I hope you enjoy these as much as my family does.  

Teriyaki Chicken

My dad has made Teriyaki Chicken for us numerous times and I finally learned how to make it myself.  It seriously is so easy, fast, and delicious.  It is one of those foods that is hard to mess up and easy to get compliments on.
We always eat our Teriyaki Chicken over rice and with an amazing salad.  I can not express how good this meal is.  From start to finish it only takes about 30 minutes to prepare.  

Sorry for the bad pictures.  I forgot to take pictures until after we started eating.  

Ingredients: (I hate when I have a recipe that doesn't tell me the exact amounts of ingredients, but that is exactly what I am going to give you.  The reason why is because it just depends on how big the thighs are, how many people you want to feed, and how much you eat.)  
1. Rice (Make the rice however you like it.  We always put it in our rice cooker and it gets done right when the chicken is ready)
2. Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs
3. Teriyaki Sauce

1.  Preheat oven to 500 degrees on broil.
2.  Line the bottom of a broiler pan with foil.  This will make clean up so much easier.
Range Kleen Broiler Pan - Black/ Chrome
3. Lay Chicken thighs on top of broiler pan.  Coat thighs with teriyaki sauce. I put my teriyaki sauce in a squeeze bottle and just squirt it on the chicken.  Then I brush the sauce all over the thighs.
Squeeze Bottle - Update International 24 Ounce Clear Wide Mouth
4.  After you put the sauce on one side, flip the thighs over and do the same thing on the other side.
5.  Broil at 500 degrees for about 5 or so minutes.  Then flip the thighs over, add more sauce and broil for another 5 minutes.  You may need to do this one more time.

Teriyaki Chicken over Rice
Side Salad

Dinner Main Dishes

With the goal of organizing my meal planning better, I have made a list of my go to dinner recipes.  I plan to continue to add to the list and after making the items, I will add a link with the recipe, pictures, and details.

Beef/ Hamburger:
1. Lasagna
2. Spaghetti
3. Million Dollar Spaghetti
4. Tacos
5. Taco Salad
6. Sloppy Joes
7. Sloppy Joes in biscuits
8. Beef Enchilladas
9. Cheeseburger wraps
10. Taquitos
11. Hamburgers
12. Hotdogs
13. Chili Dogs
14. Gourmet nachos
15. Shepards Pie
16. Tater Tot Casserole
17.  Stroganoff
18. Stuffed Peppers
19. Steak

1. Chicken Enchiladas
2. Chicken Rolls

3. Chicken Burgers
4. Chicken Dumplings

5. Hawaiian Haystacks
6. Bentos
7. Teriakyi Chicken

8. Chicken Salad
9. Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole
10. Chicken Pot Pie

11. Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo
12. Chicken Noodle Soup

1. Tuna Melts
2. Salmon

Other meats:
1. Pizza

2. BLTs

Meatless Dishes
1. Mac and Cheese
2. Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
3. Baked Potato Bar

Recipes to try (Recommended by friends and readers)
Tasty Lentil Tacos
Cheesy Black Bean Lasagna
Chicken Adobo
Oven Tacos
Slow Cooker Black Bean and Corn Chicken Tacos
Baked Fish and Chips

What are your favorite dinner dishes?  I am always looking for good recipes to try.  Please share :)

Birthday Freebies

My birthday is coming up so I put together a list of my favorite birthday freebies. Enjoy!

100% free, no work beforehand, just show ID on your Birthday:
1.  Iceburg:  Free shake
2. Firehouse Sub: Free medium Firehouse sub
3. Denny's: Free Grand Slam breakfast.

100% free or buy one, get one free after signing up:
Go to their website, sign up, and they will email you a coupon. These coupons don't have to be used on your birthday.  Most are good for the week before and after your birthday.  Some are even good for your entire birthday month. 
1.  Red Robin- Join Red Robin's eClub and get a free burger
2. Tucanos- Join Tucano's birthday club and get a free meal for your birthday.  This one will be mailed to your home, usually at the beginning of your birthday month and can be used anytime throughout the month. Tucanos is a very good Brazillian restaurant.  You can eat all the meat you have ever dreamed of.  It is 15-22 dollars depending what time of the day you go.  It is a little pricier than what we like to pay to go out to eat, but when we get a free meal it is so worth paying for the other person.
3. Sephora: Sign up for Beauty Insiders and receive a complimentary gift during your birthday month.
4. Coldstone:  Join the Coldstone Club and enjoy a free ice cream around your birthday.  It is a buy one get one free coupon.
5. Del Taco: Join the Raving Fan eClub and receive a coupon via email for a free shake.
6. A&W: Join A&W's Mug Club and enjoy a free Root beer float.
7. Noodles & Company: Join Nooodles & Company's Noodlegram to receive a free noodle bowl. has a long list of birthday freebies. Check it out.

What are your favorite birthday freebies or deals? Do you have any that I can add to the list?