A Squared

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Holiday Gift Guide: 10 Gifts for the New Mom or Mom-to-Be

While I try to keep this a more food-centric blog, my personal life as a new mommy has definitely bled into the A Squared blog content lately. Apparently though, you guys don't hate it? In fact, after my last product round up post (What We are Loving at 7 Months) a few of you asked to see more of the same! I'm happy to oblige and assume that a lot of those requests are coming right now because we are knee deep in the holiday shopping season and you'd like some suggestions on what to gift to the babies and moms in your life. With that in mind, today I'm sharing a list of thoughtful gifts for the new mom or mom-to-be in your life. Often times, we are so focused on gifts to give a new baby that we forget about taking care of mom too... so here are a few things that I would have loved as a mom-to-be or still would love as a new mom:

1. Great coffee without leaving the house - Coffee is a necessity for new moms, but good coffee is a luxury. I would have loved (and would still love) this Ninja Coffee Bar Single-Serve System, which makes tons of different coffee recipes one cup at a time without the wasteful pods.
2. A stylish diaper bag - If you're going to haul around a bag full of diapers, rash cream, and breast pads it might as well be cute. It should also be functional too though and our Kate Spade Baby Bag comes along everywhere that Hannah and I go. It's big enough to hold all the things (and then some), has several interior pockets for organizing, and a folding changing pad.
3. A sentimental piece of jewelry - This engravable Stella & Dot necklace is the perfect way for mom to commemorate a baby's birthdate and to keep if close to her heart too. It can also be engraved with initials or geographic coordinates too!
4. A chic winter nursing cover alternative - As you know from some of my previous posts (here and here and here), I'm a a proponent of nursing but also a fan of doing it discreetly. In the winter a stylish blanket scarf (like this one from Anthropologie) is the perfect accessory for fashion and two functions: it will keep mom warm and double as a nursing cover when she's out and about.
5. Stroller storage solutions - One of the hardest things about getting out the door with baby in the stroller is trying to figure out where to stash all of your stuff. It's a pain to have to dig your wallet, keys, and phone out of the undercarriage compartment every time you need them, but you're not always wearing something with pockets. This cute storage system from Skip Hop can hook on to the top of almost any stroller so mom has a convenient place to store all of her things when she's out with baby.
6. A dinner solution that does not involve delivery - Thank goodness for a slow cooker or for these first several months of motherhood we'd either be dining on takeout every night or not eating anything! Making dinner at home can be a struggle when juggling a newborn's unpredictable schedule, so a slow cooker is a lifesaver. I have this Cuisinart model and love it-- you can brown your food in it before starting the slow cook process which yields better flavor and one less pan to clean!
7. A chewable piece of jewelry - My Hannah puts everything in her mouth these days, but she's especially a fan of jewelry. I have a Chewbeads necklace already, but love these colorful teething bangles as another option. Hannah also likes to "wear" ring-shaped toys around her wrists, so these are a great baby-safe alternative for that too!
8. TLC for winter (and hormonal) skin - My skin is already crazy dry at this time of year, but add in the new postpartum skin issues (hello, bumps!) I have experienced in the past several months and it's just a mess. This coconut scrub is amazing because it is both exfoliating and moisturizing at the same time... like coffee (oh, and wine), a necessity and a luxury for new moms!
9. A cardigan that marries style and comfort - Cardigans are a new mom's best friend-- especially at this time of year. Layering with a cardigan is great for a nursing-friendly wardrobe. It's also a comfortable and flattering option for new mom bodies and can help to seamlessly transition an outfit from at-home comfy to out and about-appropriate. I love this soft cozy option, which is a flattering length and available in two great neutrals: soft gray and olive.
10. Cute cozy slippers - I think these slippers are the cutest! I'm a sucker for moccasins, for plaid, and for shearling, so these are pretty much the best... I also loved wearing slippers at the end of my pregnancy and those first few weeks after Hannah's birth. My feet were swollen and I was physically recovering, so I lived in cushy slippers when I was hanging out around the house.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Herb-Roasted Squash with Quinoa & Cranberries

I'm sure that many of you are feeling this way right now as well, but I think it has to be said: I need a detox. After a long weekend filled with takeout, turkey, and several glasses of wine and slices of pumpkin pie I am feeling pretty sluggish jumping back into real life again. My body is crying out for something healthier this week and this squash and quinoa recipe is just the answer!

This squash and quinoa dish is simple to assemble and is full of seasonal flavor. I like to pack it for lunch as a filling vegetarian main dish. It would also work nicely as a side dish for roasted chicken or pork. It's also incredibly versatile. As far as ingredients go, the star of the show is roasted squash. You'll need two small ones, but any variety you like will work-- I actually used one sweet dumpling and one delicata squash, both of which I had recently picked up at the farmer's market. However, acorn would work nicely, or even a small butternut squash too. The squash is paired with sweet roasted onions, cooked quinoa, dried cranberries, and toasted nuts. I prefer pecans or walnuts here, but you could also try this with almonds too.

To bring it all together, I toss the mixture in a combo of a little vinegar and homemade sage pesto. You may not have sage pesto on hand, but I'd highly recommend whipping up a batch-- especially if you're like me and wondering what to do with all of the leftover fresh herbs you grew before the winter freeze sets in. You can make a big batch, portion it up, and freeze it to pull out for recipes like this one (or this one)! If you don't have sage pesto on hand, you could also sub in a few Tablespoons of chopped fresh herbs (sage, thyme, parsley, rosemary or any combination of these would be great), a few Tablespoons of olive oil, a sprinkling of grated Parmesan or Romano cheese, and salt and pepper.

  • 2 small squash like acorn, sweet dumpling and/or delicata squash, seeds and membranes scooped out 
  • 1/2 cup sweet onion, diced *I like cippolini or Vidalia onions 
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves 
  • 2 Tbs. Olive oil 
  • Salt and pepper, to taste 
  • 1/4 cup prepared sage pesto *Recipe available here
  • 1 Tbs. red wine vinegar 
  • 2 cups cooked quinoa 
  • 1 cup dried cranberries 
  • 1 cup pecans or walnuts, toasted and chopped 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cut the squash into 1-inch pieces and toss in a large bowl with onion, thyme leaves, olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread mixture out on a large rimmed baking sheet and roast for 25-30 minutes or until squash is fork tender.

In another large bowl, whisk together sage pesto and vinegar until combined. Add squash and onion mixture (along with any liquid from the roasting pan), quinoa, cranberries, and nuts. Stir to combine. Season with additional salt and pepper as needed.

Serve warm.

Friday, November 25, 2016

At 7 Months: 10 Baby Things We're Loving Lately

It's been a while since I checked in on the mommy front, so figured it was about time! Hannah has grown so much and isn't a fragile little newborn anymore. She's so giggly and curious and affectionate... she's a little person now and we are having so much fun with her! It's also been amazing for us to see how much has changed with her in just the past few weeks. She's scooting around (only backwards so far, which is really funny), enthusiastically eating cereal and fruit and veggie purees, chatting away, teething (ugh), and sleeping through the night almost every night... except for a few recent ones where she's been awakened by teething pain. And with all of these changes in Hannah, I've got a new batch of favorite baby things to share with you today!

Here's a little rundown of what this mommy (and her baby) have been loving lately-- and seeing as today is Black Friday and Cyber Monday is approaching, consider this a holiday shopping list for any new moms, moms-to-be, or babies in your life too!

1. OXO Tot On-The-Go Drying Rack with Bottle Brush - This was so helpful on our recent trip to Boston! The brush comes apart and tucks neatly inside the drying rack, which folds in half into a compact little package that's easy to pack. This is perfect for drying bottles and pump parts that have been handwashed at a hotel.
2. Chewbeads Perry Necklace - It seems like Hannah has been teething for months, but for the last few weeks especially she's been putting everything in her mouth-- including my jewelry. Chewbeads must have been invented by a mom because they're really ingenious. Wear one of these discreet necklaces anywhere and your baby has a teething option readily available.
3. Stokke Tripp Trapp High Chair Complete Bundle - This is not an inexpensive high chair, but I'd consider it an investment. It looks cool (a plus since it is now front and center in my dining area), is well made, can be pulled right up to the table so Hannah can eat with us, and will grow with my child from infant high chair to toddler and child seats.
4. Sassy Ring O' Links - This is the simplest cheapest thing, but so great that I bought a second one after receiving one at my baby shower. These rings are always in Hannah's hands-- one of her favorite things to hold and chew on. They're also great for hooking toys to the car seat, hanging a purse or blanket off the stroller, and so small they can travel anywhere easily.
5. Beaba Babycook Baby Food Maker - While I had always planned to make Hannah's baby food from scratch, my initial plan was to use my own appliances to do so. Another mom friend with toddlers gave me her Babycook that she no longer needed and I have to say, I love it. It's so easy to fill with cubed produce, add water, steam, and then blend all in one vessel. And Hannah loves the food!
6. Skip Hop Lion Bandana Buddies Activity Toy - I picked this lion up as an impulse buy, but it has come to the forefront as one of Hannah's favorite toys. Even before she was as interactive as she is now, this lion could make her smile and laugh with all of it's different textures and noises. It's also a perfectly approachable size for baby.
7. Burt's Bees Baby Essential Organic Cotton Bibs - Since she's teething and also upright more often than not these days, Hannah drools and throws up pretty much all day long. In order to salvage her shirts, she's almost always sporting one of these bibs. They're made of the soft 100% cotton that I love from Burt's Bees products and most importantly, they're machine washable!
8. Ergobaby 360 Baby Carrier - Around 5 months old, Hannah decided she was all set with riding in the stroller. We had the Ergobaby 360 in her closet since before she was born and on a whim, took it with us on a visit to an apple orchard. She LOVES riding in this thing-- especially because she face outward and can see the world around her! I carry her around all the time in this now-- at the grocery store, on family walks, at the farmer's market... and unless she's super tired or cranky, she is always kicking her legs in excitement, smiling, and making friends with total strangers. And as the parent carrying her, I have to say it's a pretty easy system to put on, adjust, and it hasn't killed my back yet.
9. iPlay Solid Brim Sun Protection Hat - Unless you live in the south or are planning a trip somewhere warm soon (in which case, I am jealous), you may not have immediate use for this hat. However, on summer walks and on our trip to Boston this hat was in heavy rotation. It's soft and easy to pack and it's adjustable to snugly fit multiple head sizes (even big noggins like Hannah's) and it's wide brim and UPF 50+ material help protect your little one from harmful UV rays.
10. Evenflo Exersaucer Jump & Learn Jumper - Hannah is obsessed with this thing. Even before her feet could touch the ground in it, she loved sitting in the seat and interacting with all of the toys and sounds on it. Now that she's a little bigger and learning to balance, she's always excited to jump around in here, plus it gives her a higher vantage point than she's used to when playing on the floor so it's a nice change of pace for her to be able to see more of "the world" around our house too!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

How to Help: 10 Charities Fighting Hunger

I have always refrained from posting about politics on the blog and don't plan on starting now. That's not what A Squared is about. That said, it can't be ignored that a good part of America seems to be feeling frustrated, scared, angry, confused, and helpless... and that's no good for anyone. It's had me thinking a lot for the past several days about what I can do and what we can all do to feel a little less helpless-- by helping. Not to get too spiritual on you, but Ghandi once said "be the change you wish to see in the world" and that's what I'd like to do. 

In the spirit of being helpful, doing something, and with the holiday season upon us I wanted to do something a little different on the blog today. So if you've got the itch to help someone out or to make a difference, here are 10 charities you might consider donating your resources to-- that's money or time. All of these charities are aimed at fighting hunger and promoting physical and financial health through food in the US and abroad. This is a food blog, after all. ;)

Feeding America - The largest hunger relief network in the United States, working with a variety of charities and organizations to feed hungry Americans.
Meals on Wheels - A national program dedicated to delivering nutritious meals to senior citizens, specifically to those in need or in isolation.
Heifer International - Using the "teach a man to fish" philosophy, Heifer allows donors to gift animals to those in need, providing a sustainable source of food and income.
Greater Chicago Food Depository - 1 in 6 Cook County residents asks the GCFD for assistance each year. Donate funds or food and help feed your Chicago neighbors in need.
Feed the Children - This organization feeds over 263,000 hungry children around the world every day in addition to providing funding for long term solutions like clean water, healthcare, and education.
Action Against Hunger - Action Against Hunger provides a variety of services to the global community including hunger relief, clean water, hygiene assistance, food safety, and emergency response.
The Hunger Project - A global organization that empowers individuals and communities to develop their own sustainable strategies for overcoming poverty and hunger.
Food for the Hungry - Sponsor a child via this Christian-based organization that helps fight hunger in some of the world's most vulnerable areas, providing physical and spiritual healing.
God's Love We Deliver - Based in New York City, this organization delivers nutritious meals to patients suffering from HIV/AIDS, cancer, and other serious illnesses who are homebound or unable to cook for themselves.
No Kid Hungry/Share Our Strength - This campaign not only helps to feed hungry children, but also educates families on how to cook affordable nutritious meals too.
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