New Mama's Must Haves: December '08

Babies 'R Us gives me a headache. It's overwhelming. Have you ever seen the sheer number of bottles, nipples, binkies they have? I thought Bed, Bath and Beyond was overwhelming, but Babies 'R Us is ten times worse. At least at Bed Bath and Beyond I know what I'm looking at and what it does. That's an ice cream scoop, that's a spatula, that's something for coffee...you get the idea. At Babies 'R Us everything looks the same, but it's all different. It's not until after I registered for the stuff that I realized I needed two more of this or none of that. In my four and a half short months as a mama here's what I can't live without. 

This soft U-shaped pillow is a god-send. I've used it to wrap around my waist when I breastfeed, I've put it on the floor to prop up my daughter, it's helping her learn to sit (it goes around her butt and legs), and she can use it for tummy time by laying with her belly in the hole and her head and arms over the top of the "U". The two covers are key! One's bound to get spit up on, pooped on or drooled on! Just unzip it, and slip on the spare while the other's in the laundry. 

This "spaceship", as my husband calls it, has saved me so much time it's crazy! Sterilizing bottles can be a pain in the diaper if you have to boil water every time. This container just requires that you wash and rinse your bottles, nipples, pump gear, binkies  load them in the bowl with about 7 oz of water, snap on the lid and microwave.  The two minutes in the microwave steams and sterilizes the bottles so fast. 

The bottle dryer goes hand-and-hand with the sterilizer. After I take everything out of the sterilizer I load it on the carousel. The two tiered carousel saves a lot of room on the counter and holds a ton of bottles, nipples, and all my pump gear. Thank goodness I don't have to lay out towels all over my counter so everything can dry. 

I have a Medela Breast Pump so buying all the bottle accessories was one of the best purchases I made. I can pump right into the bottles and then just add a nipple. No need to pour the milk into a different bottles.  Less clean up, and fewer bottles to dry! I'm all for that.  You can get a pack of three bottles, with lids, and nipples for less than $15!

Perhaps my favorite piece of baby equipment so far - The Bumbo! Not only does it help my daughter develop her back and neck muscles by allowing her to sit upright with the proper support, it 
keeps her safe and entertained while being eye-level with us!  

Never leave a baby unattended in the Bumbo.
It should be noted: the manufacture recommends
 keeping the Bumbo off elevated surfaces. 


Dinner's in 5!

As in 5 minutes! Yes, it can be done. Even with kids! For me, it's essential to have quick, easy, and affordable dinners that are still healthy and tasty.  I plan out a week's worth of dinners before I head to the grocery store for the week. Then I post the list on the fridge so I am never left asking myself "what's for dinner???" 

Okay so that doesn't put dinner on the table though...but it's what I do with that little list that saves me bundles of time. I'll take a few hours one day during the week (the weekend's easiest when my husband is home to watch the baby) and I'll cook several  dinners for the week. I try to make things that can be frozen and/or split into more than one meal. Then all you have to do is pop them in the oven, heat and serve! Wa-la dinner in 5! 

One of my family's favorites is Chicken Turnovers. They're so simple and delicious. Not only can they be made ahead, you can make two servings at once and freeze one for the following week. If it was up to my husband, he'd eat the second batch the next day, he loves this recipe! Another easy recipe that puts dinner on the table in no time is Pulled Pork Sandwiches.  I split the leftovers (click here for  ways to avoid wasting leftovers) up into two serving portions put them in ziplock sandwich bags and freeze them. Since this recipe makes about 10 servings you can have a pulled pork dinner ready in no time. Just defrost one of the bags, heat up some buns and you're done!  You can do the same thing with your favorite Chili recipe.  I've always made Homemade Manicotti...they're great for freezing and forgetting.  Manicotti sounds complicated, but it's fairly simple and once they're made, I freeze them individually, then throw them all in a freezer bag.  If it's just me and my husband I'll pull out 4 and heat them up, if I have unexpected company I'll grab 10 or 12 or whatever I need, pair them with store-bought frozen meatballs and there you have it - a traditional Italian dinner! Pair it with homemade cheesy garlic bread and your tastebuds will thank you!  If you like seafood this Salmon recipe is the absolute best....all you need is five free minutes.  Make it within two days of going to the grocery store so you don't have to freeze the piece of fish and then worry about defrosting it.  There's no need to cut the skin off the fish...it'll easily separate after you cook it.  Using a spatula (or your clean hand) spread a generous amount of dijon mustard on the flesh side of a large salmon filet.  Cover the mustard with 6 tablespoons of brown sugar. You can either put it in the fridge for later when you're ready to cook it or stick it in the oven. Just cook it on 350 for about 20 minutes or until the fish flakes apart.

So there you go, I just planned a week's menu...and the best part, you'll have a second or maybe even a third full serving in the freezer for the following week or whenever you need to get dinner on the table in no time!  Be sure to check out all the recipes and let me know what you think. 

Homemade Manicotti with Cheesy Garlic Bread

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