How to make Muno cake from Yo Gabba Gabba...Try it, You'll Like It!

If there was one thing Olivia wanted for her birthday (besides a pink trumpet) it was a Muno cake. "Who's Muno?" you ask...Muno is the big, red, bumpy cyclops from the Nick Jr. show Yo Gabba Gabba.

I have to admit if there was a Yo Gabba Gabba cake to make - the Muno cake is probably the easiest. Thankfully she didn't want a Plex cake or DJ Lance Rock!

Here's how to make a Muno cake:

What you'll need:
  • 1 box cake
  • Red food coloring
  • 1 container of white icing
  • 1 package of oreo cookies
  • 1 plain large sugar cookie
  • Red gum drops
  1. Bake a box cake in a 9x13 dish. Make sure to put a lot of cooking spray in the bottom of the pan so you can easily remove the cake
  2. Let the cake cool completely. 
  3. Carefully remove the entire cake from the dish and flip or slide onto a jelly roll pan.
  4. Using a sharp knife, trim only the top corners off the cake. 
  5. Reserve about 2 tablespoons of white icing
  6. Mix the rest of the icing with red food coloring in the mixer
  7. Spread the entire cake with red icing
  8. Spread the reserved white icing on a sugar cookie and place the icing-side up on the cake as Muno's eye
  9. Twist the top off an Oreo and place it in the center of the sugar cookie as the 'eyeball.' 
  10. Place the red gum drops all over the cake being sure to leave enough room to make the mouth. 
  11. Separate about 10 Oreos and remove the cream.
  12. From two of the cookies, carefully scrape the cream out and cut into triangles to use as Muno's teeth. Set aside.
  13. Crush just the cookie part of the Oreos in the food processor. This will be used for Muno's mouth.
  14. Draw Muno's mouth (like a crescent moon) on a piece of paper. Cut out the insert. 
  15. Gently lay the piece of paper with the mouth cutout on the cake (the gum drops will hold it off the icing.
  16. Sprinkle the crushed cookie crumbs into the mouth cutout so the crumbs form the mouth shape on the cake.
  17. Remove the paper and add more gum drops in the area of needed.
  18. Place Muno's teeth over his cookie crumb mouth
  19. Try it, you'll like it!  


Halloween Cake Pops! Yum!

We were invited to a neighbor- hood Halloween party and since this is our first Halloween living here I thought I better bring something to impress! I knew just the perfect dessert when I volunteered to make something sweet - Halloween Cake Pops!

Inspired by cake pop master Bakerella and my friend Linsey who made an entire barnyard of super cute farm animal cake pops for her son's birthday I decided to make my second batch of cake pops.

My first attempt was bride cake pops for my sister's bridal shower- they were A LOT of work because of all the detailing. Each had a 5- pearl necklaces and 3-flower bouquet all of which I had to 'glue' on individually. This time I figured I'd make pumpkins (not jack o' lanterns with faces) with nothing but some sprinkles and a tic tac stem.  The candy corn cake pops were a bit more labor intensive because I had to triple-dip them to get the three colors.

Cake pops are a relatively new phenomenon and they're quickly gaining popularity thanks to Bakerella and her awesome cake pop blog and cookbook. She's got tons of ideas and has inspired me for sure - of course mine never look nearly as good as hers. Anyway, here's basically what you do:

  • Bake a box cake according to the package directions
  • Let it cool completely 
  • Crumble the cake (I put it in the food processor)
  • Mix it with 3/4 container of icing
  • Put the mixture in the fridge to harden up slightly
  • Form into 1" balls (one cake mix makes about 40 cake balls)
  • If you want to shape the balls into something else such as the candy corns or pumpkins do this now, but always make balls first
  • Line the cake balls on a cookie sheet and put in the freezer for at least 2 hours
  • In a deep microwavable dish, melt chocolate melting wafers according to the package directions (if it's not thin enough add a little crisco)
  • Remove and work with just a few of the cake balls at a time so they're not out of the freezer too long - they soften up quickly
  • Dip the lollipop stick about 1" into the melted coating
  • Insert the dipped part of the stick into the bottom of the cake ball (or top - ie brides)
  • Dip the entire cake ball into the coating, tapping the sides to remove the excess coating
  • Stand the cake pops up in a pre-punched/drilled piece of styrofoam to dry 
  • NOTE: If you want to add sprinkles (like I did on the pumpkins) do this quickly before the coating dries. For other decorations add them later using a little of the coating as 'glue' 


Rice Cereal and Tummy Troubles

In typical #2 baby fashion, I don't have a shot of Blake's first meal. Here's Liv 
So in between breastfeedings Blake's been chowing down lately on all kinds of homemade baby food - avocados, pears, apples, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, and papaya. Unlike with Olivia and under the pediatrician's advice we started him on the fruits and veggies rather than the traditional rice cereal.

But the last few days it doesn't seem like the pureed produce has been satisfying this growing boy. So I figured we should add in some rice cereal to give him some real substance. I made him a decent size portion yesterday morning and served it to him with the pears. He ate it all and seemed to like them together. Plus, he seemed to stay content longer.  I gave him more rice cereal at dinner along with some squash. He ate that, too.

I put him to bed like normal and about five hours later - around midnight he cried out. I let him cry for a few minutes to see if he'd settle himself down, but he didn't. So I went in and he was all curled up. He likes to suck/play/bite on his feet so I figured he was fine. He went back to sleep for a little while (not sure how long since I was half out of it myself) but then woke up again. This continued forever, it seemed. Thinking it was teething I gave him some tylenol....when that didn't work I realized his poor stomach was in knots. That's when I realized the rice cereal must be causing his tummy troubles.

The next morning I checked online and sure enough rice cereal has been known to cause upset stomachs in babies who are already have sensitive bellies. All the advice was the same - switch to baby oatmeal.

So we switched and wa-la - no more tummy troubles! Happy Baby = Happy Mommy!


Melissa and Doug Coupons, Free Shipping, and Codes

What kid's toy room isn't half made up of Melissa &Doug toys. The classic wooden toys are a must have for moms...but they can be pricier than other, lower quality toys.

Check out these Melissa and Doug Coupon Codes to save you money! (Check back often as we continually update our Melissa & Doug offers)

Week of 3/25/13

Free Melissa & Doug binoculars with purchase of $45 

Free Shipping on all Melissa & Doug orders over $50 with Code: FSFIFTY (Regularly $60)


Working Online - So how much money am I really making?

I've blogged extensively about my online money making adventure - but there's one question that people always ask when they seem semi-intrigued enough to actually take the plunge themselves. 'Can I make real money writing online?' The answer is yes! I was among the skeptics when I first started this little writing adventure more than two years ago. But from the day I made my first .08 I was hooked.

For a year and a half my PayPal account saw growing earnings every month. Since my second baby was born in May, however I have had signficantly less time to write and let's just say time is money. The good thing about writing for Examiner.com however is earnings are residual - meaning you can keep earning money on articles you wrote months, even years ago as long as there's still an audience searching for it online.

So let's get to the meat of it - in January 2011 I had my highest earning month ever...up from .08 I made in November 2008.  Here's a breakdown of my two main online income sources:

Examiner.com: $4,099.00
Ehow.com: $727.03  

Making memories with my kids: priceless
I should point out that when I received my monthly payout in January from Ehow.com I had not written for that website in over a year. All $727.03 was passive residual income. eHow no longer pays their writers. Just a few short months after this payment, the website contacted writers with buyout offers. I accepted the offer and my article library now belongs to eHow and no longer provides me with that nice monthly residual income.

I continue, however to write for Examiner.com. Until January 2011 my earnings went up every month - but this became my peak. After January things got a little crazy in my life - we moved out of state, lived in temporary housing while we bought a new house and sold our other one, I was pregnant, had a toddler and then of course in May had my son. So here's what my monthly online earnings have looked like from February to August 2011 (I haven't received my September earnings yet).

February Examiner.com: $2,403.54
                     eHow.com: $ 542.80

March Examiner.com: $2,161.82
                 eHow.com: ENDED

April Examiner.com: $1,982.46

May Examiner.com: $1,716.34

June Examiner.com: $1,182.01

July Examiner.com: $1,164.26

August Examiner.com: $2,061.14

As you can see, I never did get anywhere close to that $4,100 level again, but I have had days where I've earned hundreds on just a few articles. My highest earning day was in April where I made a whopping $700 off just 5 or 6 newly published articles!

These days my monthly Examiner.com income hovers closer to $1200- $1500 with only an hour or two of writing a day (that's the extent of coordinated naps). But, I don't think that's too bad - if you consider my hourly rate. Besides, I'm not only paying a few bills...it's helping pad the savings. 

Since my writing time is so little I'm now working on coming up with more passive residual income sources that don't require so much daily effort to earn money. Of course, these will take weeks, months, if not a year to make a significant impact on my monthly earnings - but it may not take nearly as long as I expect. Afterall, I did go from making .08 a month to making close to $5,000 in just over two years times!

Click here to learn about working online for Examiner.com. Apply today and start writing about what you're passionate about.


Diary Free Breastfeeding Diet Ideas - For babies with sensitives tummies

Click for details from Amazon.com

Let me just start off by saying I love cheese. I could live on cheese. But I'm nursing and my son's little belly just can't handle dairy. Around 2 months old, when we got his reflux under control we realized his stomach issues weren't over yet. That's when we realized that dairy seemed to be upsetting his stomach. He'd have out of control gas and he was in obvious pain.

The pediatrician recommended I cut out dairy from my diet since the most common food allergy in kids is to an antibody in cow's milk.  Diary can pass through breastmilk to babies. However, it's not really possible to 'pump and dump' because dairy can last in your system for up to two weeks. The suggested giving it two weeks and then have a 'big dairy day'-to see if that was the reason Blake was so fussy.

I gave up the dairy and was very strict about it at first - I saw a noticeable change in Blake after about a week. Then on that big dairy day he was back to Mr. Fussy Pants. So I'm back to my dairy free breastfeeding diet.

In the three months I've been dairy free I've found the hardest part is remembering to check labels.
When you have two kids you tend to just eat whatever is fast, convenient, and in front of you - thank you to all of those who've suggested I check and make vegan recipes, but honestly that's just not practical when I'm trying to get lunch on the table between preschool and naptime.) But if I can't eat cheese, yogurt (my go-to breakfast), pizza (my go-to dinner), put milk in my tea (my go to morning drink), cream cheese..yada yada yada..what do I eat?


Hawaii trip and our most precious souvenir!

I've mentioned our fifth anniversary trip to Hawaii a few times - but did I mention we died and went to heaven for two weeks in September 2010?! It felt like we saw every inch of Maui and Kaua'i by foot, helicopter, horseback, and car!   But in between the horseback riding and the relaxing, I actually blogged! My blog 'The Silent Traveler' was a great way to remember every day and detail of our trip.  (I later used the blog posts and pictures to create a snapbook photo album.) It also allowed our family and friends to travel along with us - virtually of course. I have even used it as a guide book for friends who've followed in our footsteps to the beautiful Hawaiian islands.
Pregnant, but didn't know it yet

So I thought I'd share it on the this blog, too - just in case you're thinking of taking an anniversary trip - or maybe to give you a reason to take one.

PS Our most precious souvenir was delivered nine months after our return.


The best digital cameras for kids - New Mama Approved

Nikon D3000 - great for shooting kids
If you're like me you have one of those convenient point and click digital cameras that you can stick in your diaper bag, purse or hubby's pocket on a family outting. But if you're like me you also have a whole bunch of pictures taken a good second or two after the 'money shot' or at least your kid's smile.

We really started to realize how many shots we were missing when my now 3 year old daughter started moving and grooving around the age of 1. So with her and our five year anniversary trip to Hawaii in the back of our minds - we decided it might be time to look into a better digital camera. We wanted a digital camera that could snap pictures almost instantly to avoid that dreaded delay.  We settled on the fact that we wanted a DSLR - a beginner level SLR - in layman's terms 'one of those big cameras with the lenses.'


Baby Hydrocele...A big problem for little boys

Hydrocele - ever heard of it? Yeah, me neither. Well, that is until my son's 1 month doctor's appointment when the pediatrician looked at his 'jewels' - for lack of a better term - and then said matter of factly 'you know his testicles are about 2-3 times larger than most boys'.'

As I sat there with the words ringing in my ears and wondering why in the world my husband had never mentioned it - the doctor continued to press, poke and prod to the point that I quickly snapped out of my trance enough to wonder if all this poking would prevent me from becoming a grandmother someday. Before he could assure me that no it wouldn't impact reproduction I had already formed a million questions.

Ending the Dream Feed - An Update on my success (and stress)

Just wanted to let you know that I have updated the post on ending the dream feed. We are officially done. It was painless (well for him)...not for my boobs.

Anyway - here's the update and my main takeaways for knowing when a baby is ready to end the dream feed.


Getting a toddler to sleep later - The Green Light clock to the rescue!

If your toddler is an early riser, like many, there is hope. Dream on if you think the answer is teaching them to how to use the DVR remote so they can be safely entertained while you keep snoozing. We found the answer a year and a half ago or so in the 'green light.'

My three year old lives and well...sleeps by what she calls the 'green light.' I've caught her telling her baby dolls about the green light. I've even witnessed the daddy in her doll house setting the green light.  In other words: the green light rules in our house.

The actual name for it is is the Ok to Wake! Children's Alarm Clock and Nightlight.  Here's how it works: you simply pick the time in the morning (or nap) that it is okay for your child to wake up.  Set the clock and the wake up time. When the clock strikes 7am or whatever time, the clock will illuminate green...letting your child know it is okay to wake now and get out of bed.

When you first start using it, set the wake up time for about 15 minutes after your child is currently waking up. Then, gradually move the wake up time back until the desired time. It may take a few days for your child to understand the concept, but once they do they'll realize that if they wake up and the green light's not on they should either go back to sleep or at least stay quietly in bed. 

We have used the Okay to Wake clock almost exclusively for morning wake ups. However, if my daughter is giving me trouble at nap time I will set the clock for an acceptable time and say that at that time her nap can be over. Most times, by the time the light goes on she's fallen asleep anyway.

You can also set the light so it stays on for an extended period of time - if you don't, it goes off after 15 minutes. This presents a problem if say you set it for 7am and your child sleeps until 7:20. They will wake up and see the light is not on and may stay in bed. (Not that that's a bad thing, but when you're first trying to establish the clock make sure the light's on when the child wakes up.)

By the way, the clock also comes with a changeable pink front plate for girls who insist green just won't do!


How to stop the Dream Feed...ouch

So I've decided it's about time to stop the dream feed. If you're not familiar with the dream feed it's the 10 or 11pm feed (either bottle or breastfeeding) that some people offer their babies to help them sleep through the night.

But how do you know when it's time to eliminate the dream feed and exactly how do you stop the dream feed when you decide it is time to phase it out? I couldn't remember when my daughter stopped the dream feed so I checked the trusty blog and it turns out she was about 5 months....which is about the same age my son is now.

But how exactly do I go from giving him a 5 or 6 ounce bottle or nursing on both sides to nothing and expect him to sleep 3 more hours? Here's the thing I nurse him at 7pm and then usually the dream feed at 10...then he doesn't get up again until 7am to eat. So as you can see cutting out the dream feed is expecting him to sleep 3 additional hours without eating. But I think he's ready because he's been eating solids for a good solid two weeks and he's getting plenty of calories during the day.

The last thing I wanted was for him to wake up at 3 or 4am hungry and demanding to be fed b/c that would likely start his middle of the night wakings again. So instead of stopping the dream feed cold turkey I decided I'd gradually wean him. Instead of nursing him on both sides at 10pm last night - I just nursed him on one side. I picked the left side where I always get less milk when I pump.


Working Online: My second stay at home mom job

It has to be one of the most asked questions to new moms: "Do you work?"  Of course, we all work...it's just a matter of where, who your boss is and if you earn a pay check.  Until recently, I always responded with 'no' (playing patient isn't work, is it?)  But there was always this little part of me that wanted to add 'but...'

From time to time my husband would be there during this line of questioning and would always pipe in and defend my working online as legit work. That got me thinking - actually I do work and I do earn a paycheck. Heck, there have been months I've earned more than him - working in corporate America. So now my answer is 'Yes, I stay home but I work part time as a freelance writer.'

Working online, I have found is one of the best stay at home mom jobs because I can make my own schedule (or should I say my kids make my schedules - let's be honest they're the real bosses here!). Then the next question - 'What do you write?'  Eek - I hate that question because I always feel like I'm leading some double life. I usually try to get by with saying I write an entertainment column for Examiner.com but sometimes that's not always enough to divert the conversation.

That's when my double life is exposed. Yes, this SAHM of two, this wife from Delaware, this former TV news producer who just three years ago was writing about city hall and the Flight 93 memorial - now writes about Jersey Shore.  Not only do I write about the MTV reality show about 8 20 and 30 somethings who pretty much get paid to drink, party, and have sex - but I think I know more about Jersey Shore than should be legal. That's when I have to tell myself - it's a business decision and let me tell you- business is booming.

I actually have five Examiner.com columns but it's Jersey Shore that pays the bills; it's Jersey Shore that's trumped my husband's paycheck from time to time; it's Jersey Shore that has helped rebuild our saving account to where it was pre-move; and it's Jersey Shore that has allowed me to stay home to raise my kids. 

Before Blake was born in May I had months that I made upwards of $4000-$5000 but time is money and I don't have nearly as much of it anymore. But that's the beauty of it and that's why writing online is one of the best stay at home mom jobs.  I write when I have time, when the kids are sleeping or when my husband takes full control of the remote. While we're always careful not to rely on the money I make - we quickly learned that when one of my other online writing ventures suddenly stopped paying its writers - it's nice to pad the savings, the kids' piggy banks, or do something fun.

For me, writing isn't working - it's something I enjoy.  And until I stop enjoying I'll continue to work online to make extra money and to satisfy my own feelings of needing to contribute financially. And when Jersey Shore runs its course I'll be on to something else...because I 'shore' won't be giving up my second job.
Click here to learn about working online for Examiner.com. Apply today and start writing about what you're passionate about.

Are you a closet Jersey Shore fan too? Subscribe to my Jersey Shore Examiner.com, friend the Jersey Shore Examiner on Facebook, or follow @JerseyShore411 on Twitter.


Blake - And our crazy, happy, dreams-realized, never-again year

I recently picked this blog back up after a year or so hiatus..and boy (pun intended) what a year you've missed. To be honest the only reason I started this blog back up again is because I've found myself routinely coming back to it to check out my own advice on what worked for my daughter as far as sleeping, eating, nursing, etc. That's when I realized the last post I made was about giving up the binky when she was 19 months old. She turned 3 in August.

So where have I been and how did I get here? There's no easy answer, really because 2011 has been the most stressful and best year for our family all rolled into one.

Let me back up a little - in August 2010 my husband and I finally took our long awaited fifth anniversary trip to Hawaii. We left Olivia with the grandparents for two weeks and took the trip of a lifetime in Maui and Kauai.  (I blogged daily from Hawaii on our trip and later turned my journal into a scrapbook). We'd been holding off on baby #2 until after the trip because I didn't want to be pregnant on another vacation. In May 2011, Blake was born. (Since I know you're doing the math - I'll just make it easy for you - yes, he was conceived in Maui.)

I had a relatively easy pregnancy at the beginning, despite running after a toddler during those tiresome and nauseous first trimester days. But then in December a job transfer back home turned our world upside down. For 12 years my husband and I had been taking jobs and making moves getting closer to 'home' but this job would finally land us there. The place we'd both grown up, the place all our family still lived, the place we'd always wanted to raise our family, the place we'd finally be able to call home again. I'm getting all teary typing this remembering the emotional day we found out we'd finally be making our last move...we had more than half a dozen moves and six states between us in the 9 years since college. This was it.

It was December 24 and I was barely 4 months pregnant.  Bob was starting his job after the holiday season and he'd be out of town and not able to come home every night. I had a toddler, a dog, a growing belly, and a house on the market - which we stood to lose a lot on. These were the most stressful, sleepless nights of my life.  Within a few days we decided it would be best if we all moved out of the house and simply left it staged to sell. On January 9 we moved out and into my mom's house with the plan that we'd be into something by April - giving us at least a month before the baby was born.

Thank the real estate Gods our house sold in 2 months, bought our dream house, and we are now 'home.'

A month later we were complete - Blake Robert was born May 16. And yet again our world was turned upside down by all that an infant brings.

And that my friends is our crazy, happy, dreams-realized year that I will never do again!


Baby Reflux...gag me now!

Surely you've heard of baby acid reflux, heck your kid probably has it. That's just the way it goes these days -ask any relatively new parent and they'll tell you their kid has been treated for reflux. Ask any parent whose kids are at least 15 years old and they'll tell you 'no one had reflux back then - it was colic.'  Well, it's not like there's some new surge in reflux, it's just that it's being diagnosed and treated far more now - in some cases probably just to shut the parents up.

I have to admit, I'm guilty. When my now 3 year daughter was an infant she was cranky - or at least what I considered cranky. I all-but begged her pediatrician for a solution to stop the cranky pants. He put her on Zantac - the most common acid reflux med for babies. I didn't see a difference and she eventually outgrew it. Now did she outgrow the crankies or the reflux?

I only ask myself this now because my 4 month old son has legit reflux. His pediatrician (a new one since we've moved) forced me to wait 6 agonizing weeks before treating my son's reflux - despite having every classic symptom. He threw up (a lot), he projectile vomited (a lot), he screamed bloody murder when he spit up, threw up, and gagged, he had hiccups after nearly every feeding, he often was cranky while trying to nurse, and at times I swear he threw up half of what he just ate.

When the doc did finally put him on Zantac I didn't notice much of a difference. Beside myself that I couldn't take away his obvious pain and on the verge of giving up breastfeeding after less than 2 months (I nursed my daughter for a full year and intended to do the same with my son) I took him back to the doctor. They put him on an additional medication called Prevacaid. He was to get Zantac in the am and the Prevacaid at night. Please forgive the totally non-medical explanation, but each of these reflux meds shuts down different acid producers in the stomach. It's the stomach acid - hence acid reflux - that causes the pain when it comes back up the esphagus.

After a week or so on both meds my son was like a new baby. My doctor warned me however that he would continue to spit up - it just shouldn't be painful. Now I have a happy spitter who despite making me change my clothes, his clothes, and wipe up the floor more times than I care to count each day is no longer in pain.

Now, excuse me I'm off to do another load of reflux laundry.


New Mama Round 2

So....it's been awhile. Okay it's been a LOOOOONNNNNGGG while...but I'm thinking of bringing the blog back. I'm technically no longer a "new mama" -  my first born just turned 3 years old. However, I'm trying this new mama thing out all over again. We added a son to the bunch in May and I gotta say it's not much easier the second time around.

Despite having been through it before I still find myself questioning almost everything. Why he won't sleep, why he won't eat, is he gaining too fast, why does he have cradle cap - still, why does he have a hydrocele and when will it go away or will it require surgery, why won't he sleep longer than 30 minutes at nap time, why won't he stop crying in the car ... you get my point.  And then there's that one big WHEN - when will I start getting a full night sleep again?
Anyway my brain is fried right now so I will leave you with a few pictures of my two loves.

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