Freezer Meal Prep and Crockpot BBQ Chicken

My saint of a husband and I knocked out some serious freezer meal prep this weekend. We typically purchase our chicken from a local meat market in 5 lb untrimmed bags in order to save a little extra cash. My hubby then trims up the chicken and we freeze it in appropriately sized portions for meals that I’ll make over the following weeks. I do not care for uncooked chicken- it gives me the heebie jeebies in a very real way, so any time I can avoid handling it I jump at the opportunity. Since Karl was going to be trimming up the chicken already, I figured this would be the perfect time to make some freezer meals that require diced or strips of chicken so I wouldn’t have to do any dicing/handling of the yucky raw chicken the day of the meal! Freezer meal prep was one of the big to-dos on my pre-baby checklist. Because of Ricky’s food allergies, even when we are fortunate enough to have people drop off meals after the new baby arrives, Ricky will not be able to partake. So, home cooked, Ricky safe meals will still need to be on rotation, even when this momma is in recovery and does not have the energy to cook. Enter freezer meals *cue heroic music*!

Allergy safe freezer meals

This weekend we made:

Baked Chicken Fajitas
Honey Balsamic Chicken
– Rosemary Dijon Chicken
– Chicken and Wild Rice Soup
– Crockpot BBQ Chicken

I’ll share more of these recipes throughout the week, but let’s start with Crockpot BBQ Chicken. This recipe is super simple and great to freeze ahead! Just thaw the chicken mixture in the fridge overnight, then dump the bag contents into a crockpot in the morning or mid-day and cook until ready to serve! I prefer this yummy shredded bbq chicken as a sandwich on a hamburger bun, but you could serve it alone as well.

Crockpot BBQ Chicken

Ingredients

  • 1 cup canned tomato sauce
  • ½ cup ketchup
  • 2 Tbs and 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 2 Tbs and 2 tsp cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Directions

  • Mix all ingredients (except chicken) in the crockpot and stir. Add chicken, stir to coat and cover in the sauce.
  • Cover and cook in crockpot on high for 3-4 hours or low for 7-8 hours
  • When fully cooked, shred chicken with two forks and serve on hamburger buns

Note: To freeze, simply combine all ingredients (including chicken) in a ziplock bag and store in the freezer until ready to cook. 

Best First Birthday Gifts

Ricky still plays with many of the toys he received for his first birthday and with his second birthday fast approaching, I’m trying to come up with a list of gifts with the same sort of longevity. Alright, his birthday is just over two months away, but knowing that there will be a new baby before then makes me pretty confident that a birthday list will not be at the top of my priority list come September. So, while I troll the internet for 2nd birthday lists, I figured I’d provide you with my favorite gifts for a one year old!

First birthday gifts are tricky because a lot of kids are still in the early stages of walking/getting around and at a very transitional period in their interests and abilities. Keep in mind that whatever you get for a little one’s birthday does not have to be their favorite thing that week, or even that month! Most kids get the bulk of their toys at birthdays and Christmases, which means those toys need to last for a while and it is ok to get a toy that the little one might not be ready for quite yet. I like to stash away at least half the toys from holidays/birthdays and bring them out over several weeks, once current toys start to lose their appeal. So, here are some of our favorites that have stood the test of time (so far)!

Best Birthday Gifts for One Year Olds

First Birthday Gifts

Melissa and Doug Car Carrier– This toy has been a favorite of Ricky’s for at least 6 months. He first received the toy at around 15 months and didn’t show a ton of interest right away. Within a month though, this became a daily favorite. He loves to place the cars on the carrier, move it up and down, as well as play with the four little cars by themselves. The best part is that I don’t foresee this getting put away in storage any time soon.

Melissa and Doug Stacking Train – Stacking toys are great for toddlers and this is no exception. Ricky’s obsession with vehicles actually started with this little guy. He calls it his “chooch”- short for choo, choo, of course!

MegaBloks– MegaBloks First Builders legos are wonderful for encouraging creativity in little ones! Ricky and I have spent many hours playing blocks and if he gets sick of them after a few days of playing blocks all day, I put them away for a week or so and then get them back and his excitement is renewed. These are just a classic toy that will keep kids’ interest for many years.

Wooden puzzles– These are great for little hands and are guaranteed to last. There are tons of great options out there, but we really like Melissa and Doug sound puzzles, this shape puzzle, and this Janod dinosaur puzzle.

Lawn Mower (or other mini-me objects) – Kids at this age love to mimic mom and dad. Some of Ricky’s favorite mini-me toys are his lawn mower, mini Dyson (for real, you guys- kids seem to adore vacuums) and a kid-sized broom.

Fun Sippy Cup – This might seem like a silly gift since most parents have strong preferences for different types of sippy cups, but I assure you that they will be thrilled after you introduce them to this little beauty. Karl and I saw the Lollacup on Shark Tank (fave!) and had to try it! It is a little pricey compared to most sippy cups, but this is not your standard cup- they aren’t joking when they boldly state that the straw allows little ones to actually drink all the fluid in the cup. Having tried many cups, this is by far my favorite.

Riding Wagon – I’m a little obsessed with our wagon. It is awesome. Granted, we probably didn’t need the full blown “deluxe” model, but our parents spoiled us and I’m not complaining. I have no doubt that this thing is going to last through all the kiddos and it is a huge bonus that we won’t have to worry about upgrading to a bigger version as our family grows. If you have a little more sanity and aren’t planning on quite so many kids, you could probably get a slightly less obnoxious version 🙂 Either way, a wagon is great for a first birthday as it is right when a little one is starting to be able to ride around and they have a good amount of time (hopefully) before they start refusing to sit and want to walk on their own everywhere.

Stylish Mom Bags (aka avoiding looking like a hobo)

It is the natural instinct of a new mom to pack ~7 bags every time they leave the house with a newborn. These bags will often include (but are not limited to): 5 diapers, wipes, blanket, extra blanket, change of clothes for baby, change of clothes for mom, pacifier, at least 4 toys, water for mom, possibly bottle for baby, sunhat or winter hat, diaper cream, baby lotion, changing pad, bib, pajamas for baby in case you stay out late, cheerios in case your newborn suddenly decides to start eating solids, highchair cover in case you decide to stop at a store or restaurant, and possibly a pack n’ play just because you’re trying to build up your mom strength. I like to think I’ve (appropriately) toned it down since those days. I’m happy to switch back to my beloved diaper bag once the new baby comes along and needs a few more things, but while I’m rocking out with just Ricky tagging along, I’ve been on the hunt for a mid-sized cross body. Ideally I’ll also be able to continue to use this smaller bag when running quick errands with the baby and Ricky. I finally pulled the trigger and invested in this beauty today, but here are some of my other favorites.

Favorite Cross-Body Bags
(that are big enough to carry a diaper)

Cross-body purses1 / 2 / 3 /

Now the question is, what exactly is in my “mom bag”? My tactic is to keep one bag stocked for a trip out with Ricky (errands, park, play date), a bag stocked for my own outings (date night, girls night), and a small zipper pouch of my must-haves that can be easily switched back and forth between the two. I have high hopes that I’ll be able to use one section of the new bag for my basic zipper pouch and the other for Ricky’s most basic needs when running quick errands.

Bag Contents

My zipper pouch:

  • Keys and wallet
  • Pony tail holder
  • Burt’s Bees Chapstick– I’m a die-hard fan and have yet to find a better basic
  • Clinique Chubby Stick in Super Strawberry– one of my favorite beauty products. Goes on like chapstick, but adds just enough color plus can be layered for a slightly more dramatic look if that is the goal.
  • C.O.Bigelow Mentha Lip Shine– apparently I’m a bit of a lip product addict considering my most basic, must-have bag contains 3 lip products… I like to think it is ok though because they each serve their own purpose- moisture, color and shine!

My bag:

  • Lipstick- this varies depending on what I’m wearing that day, but this is my every-day favorite! Again with the lip products, I know, I have a problem…
  • Small brush & bobby pins
  • Compact mirror- apparently I get vain when I’m out by myself 😉 I like to think most moms do this too, since you are definitely not thinking about pulling out a mirror when you’re out and about with little ones.
  • Orbit gum. Karl teases me that I’m the definition of a brand loyal shopper. Once I find a favorite, I rarely stray.
  • Gift cards. A while ago my MIL gave me a cute little card holder (similar) to hold all my gift cards and it has been extremely helpful in actually reminding me to use them! I had a bad tendency of leaving the cards home and then unintentionally going to places that I had cards for, but not getting to use them. Gotta love the little things that keep life more organized and simplified.

Ricky’s bag:

  • 1 diaper (maybe 2 if I know we are going to be out a while)
  • Small pack of wipes
  • Ricky’s Auvi-Qs 
  • Pack of these fruit snacks- one of our best Costco finds
  • Sunscreen (in the summer)
  • Travel container of Cheerios
  • Sippy cup or water bottle for us to share, depending on the outing
  • Antibacterial sanitizing gel (B&BW PocketBac)

The top four items are what I bring with me when running quick errands, the other items are for longer trips. My secret to keeping our diaper bag so lean is an always-stocked kid car bag. I use a Thirty One Zipper Pouch and just keep it in the pocket behind one of the front seats. It contains 2 diapers (make sure to update the size as your little one grows- I’ve made the mistake of forgetting before and it isn’t pretty), mini baby wipe pack, small blanket and one plain white onesie (again, remember to change out the size as your little one grows). This way you always have these items with you as back-up to your diaper bag stock and don’t need to worry about physically carrying them in and out everywhere you go!

I’ll leave you with a couple photos my little future farmer. We spent yesterday evening helping my father-in-law plant his beautiful garden, with promises of lots of fruits and veggies in our future 🙂

FIL's garden

Ricky planting

Summer Gear

What a beautiful weekend! We spent most of our time outside working on the yard. And by “working on the yard,” I mean Karl worked on the yard while I ran around with Ricky and supervised. Pregnancy has it’s perks 😉
We are in the process of removing an outdoor waterfall by our patio that hasn’t worked since we moved into the house. Over the last 3.5 years Karl has spent numerous hours attempting to find and remedy the problem, but to no avail. Even though we have never used it, I’ve always been averse to tearing it out because it was just so pretty and IF we ever got it to work, it would be even nicer! I realize now that holding on to such a large piece of landscaping that doesn’t function as it should is not actually a good idea, especially with an almost 2-year old that is very into exploring the outdoors. The last thing we needed was for him to climb up onto the uneven rocks and take a little dip in the nasty water that tended to accumulate in the “pool” portion of the waterfall. So- goodbye waterfall, hello wood chip play area for Ricky! My mom still has the Little Tikes play gym from when I was younger-  you know, the one that every 90s kid either had or had a friend that had, 4 different colored walls, one of which had a platform and slide attached. In case you didn’t grow up in the 90s, this is what it looks like:

90s little tikes

Excuse the blurry photo, but this is the best I could find online of a practically iconic piece of history. Anyways, we kept ours in the basement growing up, so it is in excellent shape and will be perfect for our new outdoor play area!

My mom was feeling extra generous and surprised us today with this water table as an early birthday gift for Ricky. She wanted him to be able to use it over the summer, so she (mostly) convinced me that 4 months before his actual birthday wasn’t too early.
We had a blast watching the little man splash and play in the water, which left me very excited for the next few months of summer heat. Ricky felt very ok about his new toy.

DSC_0519Just kidding, he loved it! What little kid doesn’t love playing in water? A few more adorable shots with his new favorite toy:

This kid LOVES playing with the hose!

This kid LOVES playing with the hose!

Playing with daddy

Playing with daddy

My mom doesn't baby him at all... oh grandmas.

My mom doesn’t baby him at all… oh grandmas.

A water table was one of the things I wanted most for this summer, but there are definitely a few more summer must haves in my book!
Summer Gear

1. A great take-along picnic blanket. I have an old one from Vera Bradley (pictured), but this one is similar.
2. Bubbles! Similar to playing in water, what kid doesn’t love playing with bubbles? These types of wands are super inexpensive and so much fun on a nice summer day.
3. Outdoor picnic table. Ricky loves having his own table to set his plate and cup in the kitchen, so I knew we had to get one for outside once grilling season rolled around. They are all pretty similar, but this one is my favorite.
4. Sunscreen. If you’ve seen my child, you know he practically glows in the dark. As soon as the nice weather started, this sunscreen became a diaper bag staple for me. I’m known to slather it on so thick he resembles Casper the Friendly Ghost even more than normal.
5. An excellent hat. If Ricky is outside, he is pretty much always wearing a hat (again, please reference his lack of pigment). Since he is going to be wearing it ALL the time, it was important to have a great, semi-neutral baseball hat. Karl’s brother gave us this hat for Christmas this past year and it fits him perfect right now. We get compliments on it pretty much everywhere we go and I love that he matches daddy!

Do you guys have any summer must-haves for littles? This is our first summer with a kiddo on the move, so I will definitely be learning as I go!

Favorite Baby Gear (0-6 months)

As I prepare for Baby #2, I’ve started thinking about our most used and loved possessions when Ricky was just a babe in arms (which seems like a lifetime ago). Luckily, I had several friends who were having their first babies several months after Ricky was born, so I have a nice little list of favorites that I created for them that I can refer back to for myself now.

Side bar- it is amazing having kids at the same time as your friends. Ricky is 3 months older than my best friend’s first child (boy) and 6 months older than my other best friend’s 2nd child (girl). When you are pregnant with your first child, that is literally ALL you want to talk about- pregnancy and baby stuff. It was wonderful having people in the same boat who shared my desire to talk about topics that made most people slowly back away and pretend they were needed elsewhere (ahem, breastfeeding and different styles of child birth are apparently not everyone’s first choice dinner topic). Not to mention, when the three of us girls get together, our kids are all around the same age and enjoy playing together. PLUS we get to compare notes about the different stages of development. Obviously, all kids develop at different rates, but it is nice to get a ballpark of what other kids of similar ages are doing.

Back to the fun baby products! Here is my list of registry must-haves from Ricky.

Baby Registry (0-6 months)

1. City Mini GT Stroller: comfortable for the little one, compact and easily folded (one pull strap and boom, folded in half!) and easy to handle. We also got the adapter that allows you to put an infant car seat on top
2. J Cole Bundleme Car Seat Blanket: this thing is amazing. Anyone in cooler climates that will have a child in an infant car seat during winter months needs to own one of these. This was such a time and hassle saver- this little car seat addition makes it so you don’t have to worry about bundling up the little one every time you leave the house in cooler months
3. Boon Grass Bottle Drying Rack and flower/twig accessories: This works really well for pump parts and bottles and looks cute on the counter. It is a basic design, but highly functional and aesthetically pleasing. If you are planning to pump exclusively, consider getting the lawn size, rather than the smaller grass version
4. Tommee Tippee Bottles: I did a lot of research before choosing a bottle because I was planning to breastfeed exclusively until I went back to work, and once I was at work, I wanted Ricky to take a bottle only when I was not available. I read a lot of great reviews for Tommee Tippee, especially for breastfed babies and for avoiding nipple confusion. However, I will also say that almost everything I read supported the fact that there is no best bottle for every baby- there are a lot of great options and one baby might take to certain bottles better than others. Other great brands to consider include Born Free, Dr.Brown’s, and Avent Naturals
5. Tommee Tippee Milk Feeding Bibs: these bibs are nice because they have a thick ring around the neck to catch milk dribbles, which is especially helpful when baby is just learning to drink from a bottle. Ricky was a hot mess the first few weeks because a bottle was so unfamiliar, so half the milk seemed to dribble out the side of his mouth!
6. Pack of cloth diapers to use as burp clothes: Cute burp clothes may have their place, but I am all about the cloth diaper. Those things will soak up an insane amount of fluid and you don’t have to think twice about using them because you aren’t afraid to stain or get them extra messy
7. Boppy Pillow: This thing was my BFF for pretty much the entire first year of Ricky’s life. Ricky was a really terrible sleeper and we did a lot of night time feedings, so this was especially helpful for a mommy that was having a hard time keeping her head up, let alone propping up a growing baby to nurse. This is also wonderful for tummy time and helping baby learn to sit up on his/her own. I prefer the Bare Naked version, purchased with a couple covers to change out when they inevitably get gross
8. Fisher-Price Rainforest Jumperoo: Ricky liked to see what was going on around him, so he preferred the bouncer/activity seat over play mats
9. Aden and Anais Swaddling Blankets: I know you’ve probably heard enough about these already, but they really are deserving of all the hype. They are perfect for swaddling baby, but also great for throwing over a shoulder when nursing or laying on the floor for baby to play
10. Petunia Picklebottom City Carryall Diaper Bag: I love my diaper bag. It has plenty of room, plus it looks like a purse and has a changing pad on the front that is very handy and can be removed for washing
Bonus- Extra changing pad liners: You will need these, especially in the early days with a boy 🙂

Registering for a baby before you’ve ever had one can be a pretty daunting process- there are approximately one million options for most products. I did a fair amount of online research in addition to asking friends who already had little ones, which helped a great deal. So, hopefully this is helpful to anyone looking for real, mommy-tested suggestions!

Products for Baby #2

Baby #2 is joining us at the end of August, so we have more than enough time to plan….but since it is in my nature- I’m already brainstorming what we’ll need to purchase! We did not find out the gender for either Ricky or Baby #2, so we have quite a few gender neutral basics that we’ll be able to reuse for the new little one. Since the littles will only be 23 months apart, we still have everything from Ricky’s baby months packed away neatly (for the most part…) in storage. That being said, there are a few things I either want to upgrade or need adjusting to accommodate two tots.

Baby Carriers

Baby Carrier Standoff

I have a Moby wrap and Baby Bjorn Original from Ricky. I loved my Bjorn for when he got a little older (5+ months), but he was such a little nugget for so long, that it didn’t seem overly  comfortable for him when he was younger. I really like the concept of the wrap, but didn’t use my Moby very often because it was so bulky. So, I’m on the hunt for a baby carrier to use, both at home and on the go, when I need to be hands free in the early days after Baby #2 arrives (and Ricky is inevitably demanding mommy’s attention). My top two contenders are the Solly Baby Wrap and the Sakura Bloom Sling. The Solly wrap is a less bulky, lighter weight version of the Moby and the Sakura Bloom Sling is, well, a sling. I know I like the feeling of wearing a wrap from my experience with the Moby, so a lighter-weight version could be the solution, but I also love the idea of the ease of a sling. My biggest concern there, though, is feeling secure enough to do things around the house and with Ricky. Do any of you have experience with either?

Double Strollers

Stroller Standoff

The double stroller debate. Side-by-side or front to back? WHO KNOWS! They both have so many upsides and downsides. I like that a front to back stroller seems relatively easy to navigate in stores and through doorways, but I think I would miss the kids being able to converse and interact side-by-side. We live in a subdivision with lots of nice sidewalks, so we would probably use the stroller most frequently for walks outside, but I also don’t want it to be unusable should I decide to take it to the mall or any other store. Right now we have the City Mini GT (love it!) so I’m strongly considering the City Mini GT Double. I have read a couple of reviews that say the seats are so separate that the kids can’t really interact anyway, which eliminates my main goal for a side-by-side. There is also a bit of a concern with this one about storage. The City Select Double is front to back and is a strong contender if we decide to go that route. Again, help and suggestions please! I’m also very open to other brands and models.

Hands-Free Diaper Bag

Yes, please!

Yes, please!

I LOVE my current diaper bag. Seriously, cannot sing it’s praises enough- it is both beautiful and functional. That being said, I feel like it will be helpful to have a bag that is either cross-body (love this one) or can be worn as a backpack, as sometimes an over the shoulder bag can get in the way when carrying a little one, let alone juggling two! I should mention that my current bag has an optional long shoulder strap, so this is not really a must-have, more like a really want. I have never really worn a backpack purse, because taking it off to get anything seems like a bit of a hassle. #firstworldproblems #dopeoplesaythatanymore? I’m also thinking a cross-body bag may not work if I plan to wear baby often when running errands. Any suggestions on well-designed diaper bags or purses that are roomy enough for baby gear, but resemble a normal woman’s purse more than small luggage?

Are there any other products that you found necessary or helpful when your family grew from one to two (or more) little ones? Any feedback or suggestions are greatly appreciated!

Getting to where we are now

A little background on the blog title. Ever since my husband and I met, we have been working towards the next stage in our lives. Obviously, the first stage in our relationship was dating- intentionally, I might add. Call me old fashioned, but Karl was my only serious boyfriend because I did not want to waste my (or anyone’s) time with someone that I didn’t think I could marry. In my experience, you can tell after a few dates whether or not you are truly compatible with someone and I never found anyone that came close to what I had with my wonderful hubby. I digress… After 13 months of dating, Karl proposed. We were engaged for 11 months and got married on a beautiful, uncharacteristically warm January day. After a year of marriage, we found out we were expecting our first little one. The next 9 months were spent thinking about wiggly baby toes and how we would incorporate said toes (and the rest of the baby) into our lives. Once Ricky was born our world got turned upside down and we were definitely in what you might call a “transition stage.” Desperately trying to figure out how to balance parenthood with work, social lives and day to day obligations, we were struggling. This may have been affected by the extreme sleep deprivation- Ricky did and still does not care for sleep, more on that later.

I returned to work after 12 weeks of maternity leave, but only part-time (3 days a week). We were extremely blessed to have our mothers watch Ricky on the days I was at work. As wonderful as this was, it was still not ideal. Karl and I always wanted me to stay home with our children. As explained in my introductory post, it still wasn’t an easy decision, even though it was always the goal. After months of debating, we finally made the call and I put in my notice at work.

We have arrived. This is the wonderful point that we talked about and dreamed of from the time we got married, 3.5 year ago. So- what now? I know there will still be many changes in our lives as we welcome more children into our family and watch them grow, but this is the arrangement we were working towards. The ever-planning person in me does not know what to do with herself. Now it is a matter of working to enjoy and live for the present, focusing on the day to day instead of the next 12 months.

All of that being said, I’m still a planner at heart. So instead of planning the next year of our lives, I will plan small trips, lessons for my son and meals for the week. My planning tendencies are nothing new- I was that girl in high school that carried around a Franklin Covey planner. I hung on to that planner through the majority of college, but I like to think I’ve evolved a bit since then.

Here are some of my favorite planning apps:

app images

Any.DO / OurGroceries / Google Calendar / TeuxDeux / ListPro

Any.DO is my favorite to-do list app, followed closely by TeuxDeux. TeuxDeux is actually, in my opinion, better designed and more aesthetically pleasing, but it is not cheap. They transitioned to a subscription-based service last year, which is what caused me to seek out a new go-to for my daily to-do lists. The great thing about both apps is that you can assign tasks to a specific day, rather than just making one massive list. I prefer this method because it allows me to plan further out into my week and assign a realistic number of tasks to each day based on what I already know is scheduled.

OurGroceries is amazing. You can keep as many running lists as you need, and they do not need to be simply grocery lists. While I primarily use this for groceries, I also keep separate lists for Costco, non-food store items, and this might seem random, but movies to see. (Side-bar, my husband and I NEVER go to the movies anymore, so we keep a running list when we see previews to get them on On Demand or Netflix when they come out.) The BEST part about this app is that you can link it to multiple phones, so you and your spouse can both add things to the lists. Husband mentions that you’re out of milk? Go ahead and add it to the list yourself, sweetheart 😉 ListPro is a similar app, allowing you to keep running lists of whatever you need. This was my first replacement to-do app post-TeuxDeux, but I found I preferred using a combination of Any.DO and OurGroceries.

This brings me to Google Calendar. It might be silly to even mention this, but linking my iPhone calendar to my Google calendar is absolutely necessary to my sanity. I have the worst memory, so if it isn’t written down, I’m not going to be there. This is also an excellent tool to share with your spouse. My husband and I both have our phones linked to my Google calendar, erasing any chance of someone forgetting we were going to the parents’ for dinner that night or the other one had a night out with friends planned. A shared calendar also eliminates that awkward, “let me ask my spouse” moment when someone wants to plan something!

Alright, that’s all for now! Happy planning!