The stuff a rookie mom needs

Our good friend and rookie mom, Karen, has advice for all new moms and moms-to-be. Wondering about the stuff you’ll need? Here are a few of her favorites from her first four months of motherhood. We didn’t ask her to include our book, but we’re touched that she did. I left in the advice she sent to her friend because I figured we could all use the vote of confidence.

mama and baby

You’ll be a mom soon, and you may need some stuff from day one… and if you’re like me, you’ll have no idea what those things are! I tried a whole bunch of products out and here are the ones that got me through those first few months. I hope they’ll help you out too.

Skip Hop pronto changing station
Skip Hop pronto changing stationIf you’re on the go as much as we are, you will get great use from this! Room for wipes and diapers, plus a fold-out pad. You can stick it in your bag easily, because it’s flat. Comes in super cute Jonathan Adler patterns and colors too, which can be a good distraction from the task at hand. Find on Amazon.

Portable diaper bag dispenser (with extra bags)

[Read more…]

Kale chips for kids

Our friend (and everybody’s favorite auntie) has another recipe to share. This time it’s a side dish guaranteed to give you super powers: kale chips! Holden, age 5, and I can eat a whole batch ourselves. Too bad 3-year old Milo won’t touch ’em.

In my numerous forays into learning about good nutrition, there is one food that pops up over and over again: kale. It is literally one of the healthiest vegetables out there, packed with almost every nutrition buzzword I can think of right now, like antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, phytonutrients, and omega-3s. It’s been shown to prevent cancer, slow memory loss, aid with digestion, and much more.

So you probably want to get some in your diet for you, your kids, your partner, and so forth, so you can all live long and be smart and healthy and good-looking, right? But you have a hard time selling the pile of slimy green stuff on the plate at dinner time, yes? Enter the magical world of kale chips.

[Read more…]

Taco night, a new weekly tradition

One of my favorite dinners as a kid was taco night, where everyone got to make their own tacos from a buffet of filling choices. When you’re a kid, people are always telling you what you can and can’t do or what you should and shouldn’t eat. Taco night is autonomy. It’s freedom from authority. It’s your one chance to do it your own way. And that is why it’s fun for everyone.

Taco night is not a recipe, it’s a fungible and customizable set of guidelines that you can tailor to your tastes and time. Here are some ideas and variations of what to include:

Tortillas: My mom used to individually deep fry flour tortillas in oil to order for each family member (!!!) but for a variety of reasons involving my laziness and my arteries I don’t do that. I like corn or flour tortillas toasted over the gas flame of my stove top. Done carefully and over a low enough flame, you get a little char on there that’s just delicious. Of course, room temperature tortillas or hard shells are just fine too.

Meat: You have a few choices for the meat here. I sauté ground beef with a packet of MSG-laden Lawry’s taco seasoning, because I think it has crack in it, but my purist mother only used salt and pepper on her meat. You can also use ground turkey or chicken, or the meat from a rotisserie chicken. If you live near a Mexican market you can buy carnitas, carne asada, etc. Grilled shrimp or fish are unorthodox choices for me, but I will admit they can be delicious.

Standard accoutrements: Shredded cheese – heated refried, black, or pinto beans – sour cream or Mexican crema – avocado slices or guacamole – shredded lettuce – pico de gallo – hot sauce.

Non-standard but delicious accoutrements: Roasted corn – Roasted peppers – sautéed onions – cilantro leaves – chopped scallions – olives – sautéed mushrooms. [Read more…]

Gingered Indian Salmon, the easy way

This recipe utilizes one of my favorite kitchen cheats, er, techniques– the marinade and the sauce are one and the same, applied differently. Essentially you put some a couple seasonings in a food processor with some yogurt and use half of the mixture for the marinade while reserving half for the sauce. The salmon cooks perfectly in foil packets and stays moist and delicious.

Depending on their fine motor skills and/or how grossed out they are by raw salmon and green things, older kids can even help you wrap the salmon in foil for cooking.

To round out the meal, throw some rice in the rice cooker to serve with the salmon. You can substitute coconut milk for ½ the water if you want creamy coconut rice. For something green on the side, frozen peas, green beans, corn, asparagus, or broccoli would all go well with this. Or, you can simply serve the salmon pieces atop a bed of baby spinach and drizzle the whole thing with some of the reserved yogurt sauce.

Tip: when I’m using fresh herbs like cilantro or parsley, I really can’t be bothered to pull off the leaves individually. So I wash the whole bunch and dry it in paper towels, then grab the whole big hunk of leafy part with my hands, as if I were pulling someone’s hair, and rip it off. You will get a few stems but that’s OK. Of course, if you have a little kitchen helper, he/she might find it fun to take off the leaves individually, so that’s an option too.

Recipe: Gingered Indian Salmon [Read more…]

Quick Macaroni & Cheese (without the box)

Food, food, food! Do I seem obsessed to you? I truly believe that getting dinner on the table Every Single Night is one of the great challenges of rookie-mom-dom. We welcome our good friend, Karen, to share another easy peasy recipe with our readers: Quick (and healthier) Mac and Cheese good enough for kids and adults.

I admit I’m a sucker for that bacon trick. Oh, and the breadcrumb trick. Yummmy!

I am going to tell you a dirty little secret about myself: I like Kraft macaroni and cheese from a box. It might be because I ate it so much as a kid that I have some sort of Stockholm syndrome thing going on with it, or it might be that I am just not all that refined. I only occasionally eat it at home, and when I do it’s totally on the down-low and I shamefully hide all the evidence afterward. In case you’re not disillusioned enough by my bad habits yet, let me also reveal that I put soy sauce on it. Don’t knock it til you’ve tried it: the soy sauce actually makes the orange chemical cheese-like product taste more like, well, cheese. Strange, I know.

Of course, the sad thing about that Kraft box is the questionable ingredient list. Aside from the unnatural Doritos-colored cheese powder, did you know that one of the main preservatives in boxed Mac and Cheese is a common ingredient in laundry detergent? Ick.

The good news is that contrary to popular belief, macaroni and cheese is really easy to make from scratch, and offers a lot of room for customization. [Read more…]

Auntie Karen’s Crock Pot Pulled Pork

Our good friend Karen is amazing in the kitchen. When she invites you over for a fabulous dinner party, you don’t want to miss it. She assures us that she also can cook a quick dinner using regular-person ingredients.

We put her to the test and asked her for four terrific, easy-enough-for-a-rookie-mom recipes to share over the next few weeks.

I love pulled pork, and I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to work that hard for it. You can put 4 things in a crock pot before work and come home to a delicious-smelling house and a happy family. Plus, you get to eat sandwiches for dinner. Sandwiches!

This recipe will serve 6-8 people and gets dried out if you try to make less, so invite the neighbors over or have it 2 nights in a row! You can make this recipe with boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts as well. I like it on a soft bun with some coleslaw, but it’s also good wrapped in a tortilla.

Recipe: Crock Pot Pulled Pork
serves 6-8


  • 1 boneless pork shoulder, about 2-3 lbs, chopped roughly into 2 inch cubes
  • 12 ounces of your favorite barbecue sauce
  • 2 Tblsp honey (unless your BBQ sauce is very sweet already)
  • salt to taste (1-2 teaspoons)


  • Put everything in a crock pot. Cook on low for 6-8 hours.
  • Serve on a bun with coleslaw.

Not-so-secret hints:

  • Feed the baby: As long as it’s not too spicy, the pork and bread should be OK to cut up.
  • Picky toddler: If your kid likes meat there is a good chance he will go for this. Of course, peanut butter and jelly on a bun is a distinct possibility too.
  • Lower the calories: Make a lettuce wrap instead of using a bun; the bun is the caloric culprit here.
  • Make it fancy: Pulled pork ain’t meant to be fancy! {but you could be an overachiever and make your own coleslaw}
  • Leftovers? Do it all over again. I can eat these sandwiches for 3-4 meals in a row before getting sick of them.

Related Posts:
Activity #358: Declare Crock Pot Night
Who’s Auntie Karen?
Coleslaw recipe from simplyrecipes for overachievers

Let us know if you make it and what you think!

Fashion Don’t: Fake High Heel Shoes For Babies

I have a very long and diverse list of blogs I slog through each morning looking for content, so I see strange unholy things on the internet all the time. However, this is the only thing in recent memory that actually, literally, made me gasp aloud in horror.


These are soft faux leopard-print high heels for babies, and they make me cringe. Learning that they cost $35 makes them all the worse. Seriously. Just. So. Wrong. I don’t like to be judgmental about people’s baby fashion choices, but I am going to make an exception for these and say there is no good reason to subject your baby to this. Or me, in case I’m in the room too.

Image source:

Make your own play-dough

flying fairyI don’t know if you’ve had the opportunity to work with Play-Doh lately, but my niece Mitra loooooves the stuff so I get to play with it all the time. It comes in all kinds of crazy colors these days- you can actually buy a pack that claims to have 50 different colors! Oh, and it smells disgusting.

I never knew about REAL Play-Doh as a kid, because my resourceful mom made my sisters and me play with homemade play-dough. It’s cheaper, it’s safe, it’s edible, and it’s great for people like me who don’t have too many toys in their house. It only takes a few minutes to make, and can even be composted afterwards (if you’re into that sort of thing.)

playdoh sailboatYou don’t need the fancy toys and accessories either- you can find all kinds of great substitutes around the house. A garlic press was our personal favorite as kids. Plastic cookie cutters and rubber stamps are really fun as well. With littler kids, anything that makes a texture is fun and educational- a pot scrubber, a mesh strainer, etc.

To make play-dough: In a saucepan, combine 1 cup flour, 1 cup water, 2 teaspoons cream of tartar, 1 teaspoon oil, and ¼ cup salt. Stir over medium heat until smooth. Remove from pan and knead until blended. Store in a plastic bag or airtight container when cooled.

If you want to add colors, you can knead in food coloring pastes or liquids. It won’t be as vibrant as the store-bought stuff, and your hands will pick up the color when you mix it in. If you don’t want to risk blue hands, just let the kid mix it in! :)

> Related: A gallery of sculpting ideas from Play DOH

Karen is our friend and the sneak behind the gift Heather and her husband both got this Christmas: mailboxtees and a very colorful Auntie.

Auntie Karen’s guide of potentially impractical but completely fabulous gifts for families

The Baby
E is for Eames, a modern alphabet

Since I always think about how people can let a baby be a baby while not completely babyfying their home, I have some suggestions that are win-win for babies and parents. These alphabet letter magnets, decoupaged with stylish origami paper, are only $20/set from Etsy – so you can teach your child about letters AND aesthetics at the same time!

And while we’re on the subject, instead of the usual “A is for Alligator”-type animals poster, how about this Modern Classics Alphabet Poster? Beautiful rich colors and clean lines teach Junior that E is for Eames, L is for LeCorbusier (only $35).

I’m also really feeling these racecar wall decals from ModernTots- they are almost good-looking enough to go in any room of the house ($45/set).

The Daddy
Modern Mix TapeI am loving these District Cotton recycled billboard bags, starting at $54 – he can tuck away his laptop OR diapers and a sippy cup in these super stylish, handcrafted, one-of-a-kind bags made from old billboards.

Or, give him the updated form of the most romantic gift that ever was — the mix tape. Suck UK has a USB mix tape drive that looks like a tape, but opens up to reveal a USB drive you can load with all of those songs you used to love, before your auditory world was dominated by the Wiggles and the Backyardigans. Grown-up songs ONLY, OK?

The Mommy
Staying up all night with a screaming child can really ravage the look of your skin, but a touch of the Bare Minerals foundation powder will give you the illusion that you are a fresh-faced young thing who has never even heard the words “nipple chafe”. It takes about 5 seconds to apply and it’s SPF 15 to boot! A $50 gift certificate will get her (or you) the Kabuki brush and a powder of her choosing.

styley gliderThis one is a major splurge — but for $1100 you can get a glider, which we all know is the necessary objet of early babyhood, that’s really great looking.

I’ve always been partial to these probably-super-impractical-but-gorgeous silk shantung OopaBaby slings. Give it (or get it) before the holidays though, so you can wear it out to all of the holiday soirees! They start at $79 and there are some that come in more everyday fabrics as well, if you think the equation of baby+silk = disaster.

The Big Family Gift
What could be better than a colorful DNA print of the whole family’s DNA? DNA 11 will send your gift recipient cheek swabs and instructions, and then create a surprisingly beautiful and colorful print of each family member’s DNA. They start at $390.

Or — and this is not such a big splurge gift, but would be super cool — if you’re crafty, take this idea of the “Missing Husband Pillow” from craftzine and make a pillow that represents each member of the family so you never ever ever have to miss each other. Plus if your real kid is being bratty you can momentarily take solace in your silent and always well-behaved pillow-child.

The Grandparents
warhol your babySince the grandparents are so kind and generous to everyone else (at least in my family) you have to get them something good. Maybe the grandparents are hipsters too… in which case you can order custom prints of your kid in a Warhol-style poster. Send your photos into PopArtWorks and they’ll do it for you. They’re not cheap, so if you’re a) clever, b) own Photoshop or know someone who does, and b) and live near a Kinko’s, then try Melissa Clifton’s online tutorial and make your own!

To highlight tiny pictures of their lovely grandchildren get them this lovely Slide Light from The Conran Shop for $285 that they can fill with their favorite photos and change at will. And don’t worry — you can send your digital pictures here and for about 2 bucks a pop, they’ll mail them back in 35mm slide form!

Thanks to Karen for inspiring both outrageous spending sprees and thrifty craft projects! Since she’s the only childless in her family, they count on her to keep them hip at the holidays… while they give each other sweatsuits, power tools, and other such necessities.

If you’re itching for more, check out 39 mom-tested holiday gift ideas in the Rookie Moms Holiday Shopping Guide.

Gift Idea: Keep your cheesiness to yourself

I stumbled on something else that might make a cool gift for a parent. I used to sell these silver necklaces at my store: they had two different origami papers on each side, so it was like two necklaces in one, depending which side you wore. The ones I sold had a monkey on one side and pink flowers on the other. They are really well-made and beautiful. So, I looked at the website and now she is doing custom jewelry incorporating your own personal photos.

I think the most appealing is one that has the pretty paper on one side, and a picture of your kid on the other- so you don’t actually sit there displaying your kid on your chest. You can wear it paper-side out, but you have a cute picture close by (and close to your heart, awww) in case someone asks or you miss him too much!

Who’s Karen? Oh yeah, now I remember!

Remind Yourself That You’re A Great Parent

You are a better parent than these guys

I proffer two examples to remind you that in the parenting pantheon, you are a great parent! I am, of course, assuming that it wasn’t you who ordered this rather ill-advised “Grand Theft Auto” cake for a 4th birthday

Nor buy your child this toy gun with a whistle on the barrel, which encourages him to put the gun barrel in his mouth. Yikes!

So as long as you’re not doing either of those things, you’re ahead of the curve. Good job!

Karen is our friend and the brains behind the fabulous We thank her for thinking we’re such awesome parents because we don’t do this stuff. Yet.

[Photos from boing boing]