Summer Recap: Family Edition

I know it’s still hot outside, but now that kids are back to school it feels like we’re in the last days of Summer. Luckily for me the Mid-Atlantic will still have a couple more weeks, maybe months of warm weather before things start to cool down. Anyhow, I wanted to share with you a recap of our Summer – which places we enjoyed visiting the most as a family. Alex is at that age where he is exploring things – jumping, climbing, and rolling. If you follow my Instagram (@braidedlulu) these will not be a surprise for you.

Maryland Zoo in Baltimore
We LOVE the Baltimore Zoo and so does Alex. Getting there is a bit tricky, but not impossible with a GPS on hand. The zoo is set up on fairly level ground which makes it really nice for the parents and little ones to walk through. I find the size of it to be perfect too – we can usually walk the entire zoo in two hours. The exhibits are not very large, when compared to other zoos, but you are much closer to the animals. This is nice because you can still see them even if they are hiding in their dens. Alex is obsessed with the rhinoceros! He is towards the front of the park so we always spend more time there, and usually have to circle around on our way out.

National Aquarium
Another favorite of our family. We usually start our day pretty early so the aquarium is still somewhat quiet. This is nice because we can take our time through each exhibit. The Blacktop Reef and Living Seashore are Alex’s favorite exhibits. He is starting to warm up to the dolphins.

Maryland Science Center
The MSC is great for kids of all ages. It offers a very hands on experience. The MSC is located towards the Western end of the Inner Harbor and things are a little more quiet on that side. The dinosaur exhibit is really neat and offers visitors the chance to excavate dinosaur bones. We particularly enjoy the kids section on the 4th floor. Because it has things that are all kid friendly we can really let Alex go to town on whatever activity he wants to do. The water table is always a big hit!

Parks, parks and more parks
Parks were our bread and butter this Summer. We are lucky enough to have several options in the area. It was nice be able to walk on a trail, or play on the playground or even throw some rock into the river. This is probably one of the activities I will miss the most once the weather turns cold.

Pool
I don’t know that there’s much explanation needed here. One word, FUN! Alex really enjoyed the pool this Summer and we were able to go almost every weekend. It was so nice to see how he became more and more comfortable. He is now practically on his own, with the help of the floating device. Again, we had an early start to pool days so we were able to enjoy most of the pool to ourselves before it got really loud and busy.

So, even though Summer is coming to an end, I am not that upset. We had a ton of fun and I know that next Summer will be even better. For now, I am ready for Fall – the BEST season. Can you tell I’m excited about Fall?

How was your Summer? Did you have a favorite place or activity you found yourself doing often? Anyone else as excited as a I for Fall?

Lulu

To Bento or not…

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Fit & Fresh lunch gear options

Some of you may be aware that it is back to school time. I have not been this aware of that fact since my college days, quite a few years ago. But alas, you have kids and “back to school” is bound to catch up with again. This is particularly tricky for me because Alex is not even three yet. We decided to move him from his current day care to a school with a more structured program. Many of you may have heard, or be familiar with the Montessori program, and we believe this will be better fit for Alex since he will be getting more personalized attention. He won’t start school for a few more days, but if I’m honest, I am very anxious about the transition. Ah, Mommy woes!

Anyhow, I happened to be browsing the back to school section by Target*, in complete denial that my baby was sort of going-to-school this year when I stumbled upon these lunch boxes. I wanted to share them with you in case you were looking for ideas. These are both options from a company called Fit & Fresh. The Mini Bento caught my eye because I thought it would be allow me to send Alex with a full, varied meal in one container. I think kids like the concept of having their food not mixed together. My hope is that this also allows me to do some portion control – not send too little or too much. The Hot Lunch Bowl is great because I can provide Alex a warm/lukewarm meal option given that we are not allowed to send food that needs to be re-heated. The challenge now is to find some yummy, healthy and balanced meals since this will be the first time we have to provide his lunch. I’ll have a post update for you guys later.

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Fit & Fresh Mini Bento Box

I also wanted to show you Alex’s favorite water bottles. Most of them are Camelbacks. These are my personal favorites because they have really neat patterns, are spill proof are easy to carry. Alex likes to hold them but the handle, which I think is cute. Te Buzz Lightyear bottle is really nice too, just a bit smaller. We like to use the Miles from Tomorrowland one because it has an attachment that can be used to store snacks. So you get a two-for-the-space-of-one bottle kind of deal. 🙂

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Alex’s favorite water bottles

What are your Back to School essentials? How do you prepare your kiddos for back-to-school? Any tips for newbie back-to-school moms like myself?

Lulu

*This is not a sponsored blog.

It’s been a hot minute…

Hello Lovelies!

This is going to be a super quick post to… let you know I’m still alive. Ok, that sounds a little dramatic but I realize it’s been at least a month since my last post. What happened? Well, to be honest I really needed a break. I felt overwhelmed with all the things I had on my plate. I didn’t want to write for the sake of writing, and then have a poor quality post for you all. “It’ll be just for a week.” One stomach bug, one cold, family-in-town-for-a-weekend, one week on business travel and three doctor visits later, and here we are. Phew… Ok, so life happens and you roll with the punches as best as you can, right? I have to say that I have missed posting and I have, what I hope to be, really good posts coming up. So, thank you for staying with me through this “sabbatical” break. I hope everyone has been enjoying the summer and staying cool! Man, for being a Caribbean girl I sure don’t like theses 100 degree weather days.

 

Love you all!
Lulu

How have you been spending your Summer? What fun things have you guys done this past month? Me? Well, El Hub and I went on a tour of Camden Yards and we got to see the view the players have of the ball park.

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Camden Yards! 

My Easy Weeknight Meals

Hello Lovelies!

I wanted to share with you a few of my quick fix weeknight meals. Things are always busy during the week but it’s important for me to take the time to fix some yummy and healthy food for the family. I value our dinner time and I want Alex learn to eat and love different foods. For the most part I tailor the menu to things he likes, or at least have one or two items in there that I know he is ok eating. We don’t force him to finish all his food but we do encourage him to try every thing on his plate at least once.

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Taco salad

Meal 1:  Taco Salad – This is super quick! The only thing you have to do is cook a ground meat of your choice and beans, and then cut up some veggies. I added spicy salsa to mine. For Alex I dished it as a deconstructed salad. I put every component on it’s own in his plate and he could choose and mix whatever he wanted. I also had some tortilla chips on the side.

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Orzo with pesto and peas and baked chicken

Meal 2: Orzo with pesto and peas and baked chicken – This meal is pretty tasty and can be done much quicker if you use store bought pesto. This is what I did but I want to try to make my own pesto soon, using the basil from our garden. I added some Italian spices to the chicken and some peas as the vegetable for the meal.

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Meat loaf with sweet potatoes and mixed vegetables

Meal 3: Meat loaf with sweet potatoes and mixed vegetables – I had not fixed meatloaf in a really long time. I wasn’t even sure Alex would like it but I figured it was time to start bringing out some of our pre-Alex traditional meals. I made my own meat loaf spice mix but you can just buy a mix at the store. The oven does most of the work and also double duty as you can bake the sweet potatoes along with the meat loaf. Win!

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Bratwurst with mashed potatoes and sautéed vegetable slaw

Meal 4: Bratwurst with mashed potatoes and sautéed vegetable slaw – Now that we are in grilling season I love to grill sausages. They make for super quick meals and you can pair them with so many different things. In this case I went more traditional with the mashed potatoes. I didn’t have sauerkraut but I wanted something that gave you that subtle crunch. So I took some broccoli slaw and sautéed it with a little bit of chicken stock, some soy sauce and a bit of salt and pepper. I really liked how this turned out. Alex tried it but was not a big fan.

So there you have it. Some of my latest quick, easy and tasty meals. These all take half an hour or less to make. Please let me know if you try any of these. I’d like to see or hear about your quick meals.

Lulu

A Memorial Potty Training Weekend

Over Memorial Day weekend we decided to take the plunge and start Alex’s formal potty training. We knew we wanted to try the three day method and that weekend was our first chance to have three days at home with him.  This was a hard decision for me because I felt like this was the last baby thing we had to left with Alex. Once he was potty trained he was a big boy. You know? We also started this a little earlier than we would have otherwise because Alex is going to pre-school in the Fall and he needs to be able to use the potty.

So, what is the three day potty training method? The idea behind this approach is that your little one will not wear a diaper or pull-up off the get-go. They are so used to going on the diaper that they don’t really know what it feels like to go on themselves. The first

couple of times that they go on themselves they won’t like how that feels and will be more open, or aware of having to use the bathroom. As your little one gets better about asking to use the bathroom you can start adding underwear and pants. We decided to augmented this potty training approach with lots of positive re-inforcement and lots of bribing. I know that bribing can be a little controversial with some parents but we figured that he would be more excited about the process if we made a big deal of his achievement.

We decided to put Alex in underwear from the start. We got some fun underwear prints and started talking to him about the upcoming change a few weeks before. He seems to do really well when we prepare him for big transitions ahead of time. We really played up the fact that he was going to be a big boy and he would get a surprise every time he went on the potty. “You don’t want to get Paw Patrol wet, right?” So, with lots of optimism and patience we carried on with the plans.

I have to admit that at first it it felt like we asked him if he wanted to go to the bathroom every 5 minutes. That was a bit exhausting for everyone. Slowly we all started to get into a schedule and we were able to relax a bit. I could not be more proud of my little guy! Was it an accident free weekend? No, but things went so much better than I expected. In my mind I was thinking I would be cleaning puddles and puddles of pee, instead we just had small leaks that were easily contained in the underwear before we made it to the potty. We celebrated every single time Alex used the potty, complete with our potty dance, M&Ms or gummies, and a potty sticker. It’s been a few weeks now but we still reward him with candy, just a few pieces for every time he goes. He has done well at school too and his teachers are a great source of positive re-inforcement. He is still in diapers during nap time and bedtime – we won’t tackle that until he is much older.

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Yummy rewards

There are times where I wish he was still in diapers – logistically it makes things SO much easier. So, while we didn’t really leave the house on Memorial Day weekend I think it was worth our time to try this approach and stick with it.

Lulu

I tried a few setups and training seats. Leave me a comment if you want to know my thoughts on the few that I tried. I would be happy to make a post about it.

 

 

Tasty and healthy dessert: Chia seed pudding

Hello Lovelies,

I have a quick recipe for you today. The weather is finally warming up and this quick dessert/snack is especially amazing for those hot, hazy Summer days. The base of this dessert only requires 3 ingredients and it takes 5 minutes to prepare.

Chia seeds are a good source of protein and fiber. They are also full of antioxidants and aid in weightless. Bottom line, they are super good for you. I have recently incorporated Chia seeds in my diet and this is my favorite way to have them.

Here’s what you will need:
3 Tbps of Chia seeds
1/2 cup of almond milk
1/2 tsp of vanilla

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The ingredients needed to make Chia pudding

Prepare:
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and refrigerate for at least one hour. The Chia seeds will plump and create a gelatinous, pudding like texture.

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Chia seed pudding base

Toppings:
So this is the best part because you can get all sort of creative with the toppings. My favorite ones are: fresh fruit, honey, granola, fruit jellies and chocolate/caramel syrups.

To assemble I put a desired amount of pudding in a cup and add the toppings.

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My toppings: blueberries and strawberries

I know this might look strange, but trust me, it is really tasty. It is not overly sweet, which I like, but it is very satisfying.

Lulu

Have you tried Chia seed pudding before? What are your favorite toppings? What other things do you use Chia seeds for?

Easy Dinner: Oven Roasted Chicken and Corn Quesadillas

If you ask me, quesadillas are a great alternative for any kind of meal. I usually have flour tortillas in the fridge because they are also great snacks or quick fix meals. Alex is not feeling well today so The Hubs and I are fixing quesadillas for dinner. Tonight’s version? Roasted chicken and corn quesadillas. You want to learn how to make these? Then keep reading…

I started off with a store bought roasted chicken and some corn we had left-over from earlier this week. I removed all the chicken from the bone and cut it into small pieces. I placed the corn, the chicken and some cheese in a separate bowl to make things easy for the assembly phase.

Heat up a non-stick pan or griddle to medium high heat. Place the tortilla on the pan and let it warm up. It’s hard to specify time but you just want to warm this side of the tortilla to make it a little pliable. I then flip it so that the other side warms up. This is when I proceed to assemble the filling.

First I add cheese over the entire tortilla surface. This allows the cheese start melting while I add the other ingredients. Next I add the corn and chicken. Using a fork or spatula, I then bend half of the tortilla over the other. I like to leave the tortilla on the pan until you start to get a some charring spots but you can remove from the heat whenever you like.

To serve, I put the quesadillas on a plate and then garnish with salsa and sour cream. Sometime I will cut the quesadillas in half or thirds – you can do this however you like. This version of quesadillas was a little bit on the mild side in terms of flavor. This is when those toppings can really make a difference – in our case, hot salsa. (Side note, that cilantro sprig is from our herb garden.)

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Voila! Dinner is ready!

If I wanted to make a bigger meal I will add rice and beans. The great thing about quesadillas is that the amount of fillings and toppings you can use are up to your imagination.

Lulu

What is your favorite quesadilla filling?