Monday, March 16, 2015

Shadow Boxes for Baby

I'll never have a completed baby book for either of my boys.  I tried with Nathan, but it just didn't happen.  I plan to keep a memory box for each of them with special items from their childhoods, but that's probably the best I can do.  It's sad, because I always thought doing the baby book would be the most fun activity - but I have found my priorities are different and I just haven't made the time to do them.  Plus, it's a LOT of information to find and fill out!  I mean, who knows the price of milk when their baby is born? 

One of the projects I did want to do, though, was this shadow box.  The onesies were gifts from their grandmother, and I picked other small items to include from their birth of just after.  So, here's how I did it. 

They came from Hobby Lobby.  I kept an eye on the sales until I found them 50% off, so I was able to buy them for cheap.  :)

I really struggled to figure out just the right background for these.  In fact, Nathan's had black felt as a background for two years, but I never really felt right about it.  So, when I got ready to do one for Nicholas, I pulled Nathan's down and revamped it.  I'm completely happy with the result.  I decided to go with a receiving blanket for each one as a background.  I would love to tell you it was the blanket they were brought home in or something special like that, but it wasn't.  I just picked a blanket that I thought would look best with the items I had in mind for the box.  For Nathan's I chose a blue one with white elephants on it because the print on his onesie was blue.  For Nicholas, I didn't have a green receiving blanket, but I did have a great white one with beige dots that I think works well with the other colors.  I cut the blankets to fit the backing exactly and then attached them using double sided tape. 

For each boy, I used their birth announcement, a diaper out of their first pack from the hospital, their first pacifier, a tiny baby hat, and a photo of us.  I had a little extra room in Nathan's, so I put in a photo of just him in the hospital.  The hospital gave us the cute button with his footprint on it.  I wish the hospital we used for Nicholas had done that, but they didn't.  They did, however, have little old ladies who crocheted hats for all the newborns, so I included that.  It wasn't the first hat he wore, but it was one of the first. 

Honestly, it was all about how to fit everything in without it looking too cluttered.  Using the larger birth announcement for Nicholas really took up a lot of room and I may eventually pull it down and substitute one of the small ones instead.  I used straight pins to pin each item to the backing.  Be careful not to push the pin all the way through, or you will have a nightmare on the back of your frame.  Your fingers will thank you for keeping it angled and shallow!

I hung them on the same wall, side by side, with a decorative wreath that we were given when Nathan was born between them.  I may move them later, but I liked having them on the same wall, beside each other, so I can look at them together. 

Some Tips
  • Don't put too much in there!  I know you want to preserve every little memory and item, but remember that this is a display and if you cram every little thing in there, you won't be able to see much.  Pick the most important pieces and do something else with the rest.
  • Choose a good background.  I love the idea of using receiving blankets, or even those striped blankets from the hospital.  We had a million little blankets, so it was easy to find and cut two.
  • Do include a special onesie or outfit.  Remember that you will forget how tiny they were.  If you use the outfit you took them home in or something that they wore during their first week of life, it helps you remember just how small they were.  I love these little onesies with all the stats.  You can find lots of vendors on Etsy who do them, or go with someone local the way my mother in law did.  
  • Do include a diaper.  I know it sounds gross, but putting a diaper from their first package is such an amazing way to show how little they were and how much they have grown up.  I look at that tiny diaper that Nathan wore and I think, "no way did he ever wear that."  But he did.  And it was actually too big for him at the time.  
  • Do include a birth announcement.  If you had them made.  Or a photo of the baby if you didn't do birth announcements.  
  • Have fun with it! 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

"To Do"

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles
Every day, I get out of bed with one thought in mind.  I will get something done today.  And I probably shouldn't. 

You see, I've been doing this stay at home mom gig for about a month now.  But before that, I worked in the corporate world (and the nonprofit world) where the entire day was ruled by my schedule and my "to do" list.  But when you are a stay at home mom, what is on your "to do" list?  What are the priorities?  And how do you balance the "need to do" with the "want to do" in a way that makes everyone happy?  I don't have all the answers, but I do have some ideas on how to make it all work for me.  Maybe some of them will resonate with other moms, too.

A Master List
I do so much better with a list of items to cross off.  If I do a list for each day and something throws me off, it's a problem.  I won't get to everything on the list because Nathan will poop on the floor or Nicholas will need lots of extra attention that day.  Or one of the dogs will vomit in my shoes.  Making a master list of things I want to get done eventually helps keep me on track but doesn't put me under too much pressure.  If your house is anything like mine, you probably have dozens of projects you want to do.  Organization, rearranging, deep cleaning, crafty stuff - anything beyond the routine of cleaning the kitchen, sweeping/mopping the floors, straightening rooms, cleaning bathrooms, and doing laundry - these are all on the master list.  I try to cross at least 1-3 of these projects off my list per week.  But guess what - more projects are added every week.  Just like at the office, the list is never-ending.  But it feels so nice to cross things off.  Side note - a few days ago, Nathan spilled milk on my master list.  I rewrote the entire thing, including the crossed-off completed projects, just so I could cross them off again!

A Loose Schedule
With a toddler, a schedule is pretty much required.  We try to follow a loose schedule every day that includes play time, TV time, craft time, learning time, meal/snack times, and nap time.  Just as important as having a schedule is being flexible with the schedule, however.  If something derails, I have to remind myself that we are not missing a client meeting or losing out on a million dollar contract.  If we miss the MOPS meeting this week because Nathan had a fever the night before, it's totally okay.  This schedule includes leaving the house as much as we can.  It keeps us sane. 

Yep, one of the best skills for the corporate world works in the mommy world too.  My best tip is cleaning up while cooking.  My mom would always do this and it saves so much time. 

Make It Fun
If you have a toddler, get him or her in on the action!  We are working on this right now.  If you make it fun, they are more likely to help.  Sing a song or do a dance while picking up toys.  Alternate the task, "I put a toy into the box and you put a toy into the box."  Anything you can do to make it fun for your child will work.

Spend Time Playing
I'm still working on this.  I've been working so hard to make sure my staying at home is "worth it" to my husband (by making sure the house is clean and the clothes are washed and dinner is on the table) that I haven't been making it "worth it" for the kids.  Or for me.  I've realized the main reason I'm staying at home is to be with the kids, so I need to BE with them.  The priority should always be them. 

Me Time
Every single article or blog post about balancing life and work recommends "me time."  Why?  Because it is the way we recharge.  Right now, we alternate bedtime so that one of us takes the toddler and the other takes the baby one night, then we switch the next.  If I have the baby, I can watch something on TV while feeding him and getting him to sleep.  After they are both asleep, I can have some "us time" with my husband or we can both have time for ourselves.  He likes to paint miniature gaming figures.  I like to crochet.  We sit in the same room with something on TV as background and pursue our hobbies.  Or we watch a movie.  Or we go to bed early and talk.  Or have "adult time," as I like to call it.  ;)  Whatever we choose to do after the kids go to bed, it is always something for US.  It is so important. 

What are some of your tips for doing things on your "to do" list when you are at home with the kids? 

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Recipe: Bacon-Wrapped Stuffed Chicken

I was looking for something good to make for dinner one night and didn't have all the ingredients for any of the recipes I found online.  Tell me that happens to other people too!  Anyway, I didn't feel like going through the entire ordeal of getting the kids dressed, shoed and in the car just to pick up a few things for dinner, so I improvised.  The results were pretty amazing!

Bacon-Wrapped Stuffed Chicken

4 chicken breasts
1 package of bacon
1/4 package of cream cheese
1 cup mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup onion, chopped
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp olive oil
Salt, pepper, garlic powder, and oregano to taste.

1.  Heat oven to 350 degrees.

2.  To prepare the stuffing, saute the chopped onions and minced garlic in a tsp of olive oil.  Remove from heat when onions are transparent.  Combine cream cheese, mozzarella, garlic powder, oregano, salt, pepper, and the sauteed onion and garlic mixture in a bowl.  Stir well and set aside.

3.  Cut a pocket into the largest portion of the chicken breast, careful not to cut all the way through. 

4.  Carefully fill the cavity with the stuffing mixture using a spoon.

5.  Now for the fun part.  Wrap the chicken breast with bacon strips.  Be sure you cover the opening thoroughly or the stuffing mixture will escape!  It took about five pieces of bacon to completely cover each chicken breast.  If you have any bacon ends exposed, place a toothpick through the bacon and into the chicken breast.  If you do not keep it down, it will curl and singe in the oven. 

6.  Bake for 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the size of your chicken breasts.  Mine were very thick, so it took an hour.

I served this chicken with herb and butter rice, green beans sauteed with garlic, and some toasted bread with butter, garlic, and oregano.

We're a BIG garlic family, if you haven't figured it out.