Fantastic Friday with a TWIST and a $25 Safeway Gift Card Giveaway – CLOSED


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I must have at least a dozen recipes for soft pretzels pinned to my Pinterest boards. I remember making them in my 7th grade Young Living (home ec) class. From that point forward I was addicted to the yeasty, salty, chewey goodness, I frequented the mall to get my fix of Wetzel’s, Auntie Anne’s or Pretzel Time.  Yum!

I’ll toot my own horn as a cook – I’m pretty good, but baking is not my strong suite. Yeast makes me nervous and I don’t own a full set of measuring cups. So… I pin and pine for pretzels. Until today.

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Today I strapped Miss Jax into her high chair, piled frozen blueberries on her tray, promised her a delicious snack and set to work. The process was easy, I worked from this recipe with slight modifications. It took longer than I thought, having to pause every 15 minutes to find something new to occupy Princess Impatient, but the results were spectacular. I even made my own spicy cheese sauce (not the one that accompanies the above recipe).

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Flour + Butter + Salt + Baking Soda + Sugar + Yeast = Something Tantalizingly Twisted

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Adding the flour to the yeast mixture. 4 1/2 cups measured out with a 1/3 cup scoop. I really need to get some measuring cups and spoons!

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I’m hooked!

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Just a little dough waiting to rise up!

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That’s a lotta dough! Doubled in an hour.

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Getting into formation. 

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What’s the solution to this bubbling brew? Water and baking soda. 

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Let’s get baked!

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Fresh baked pretzels. Our house smells awesome!

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A cheesey accompaniment 

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Hot, soft pretzel and spicy cheese – a match made in heaven. 

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Nom. Nom. Nom. Jax approves. 

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Wanna make these at home? I’ll give you a chance to win a $25 Safeway* gift card to buy all the ingredients. And you don’t really have to use it to make these, you can buy whatever you want if you win! But you’ll want to make these because they are scrumptious.

Anyway, leave a comment on this post and tell me what you would make with the stuff you’d buy if you won. I might ask the winner to share the recipe. I need kitchen inspiration so this is a win-win for me and one lucky somebody! Actually two lucky somebodies. I have TWO $25 Safeway gift cards to giveaway. 

I will put all comments in a random drawing and announce the winners on the Yay Baby Facebook page on Friday, June 7, 2013. Deadline to comment is Wednesday, June 5, 2013, at 11:59 p.m. (Pacific time).

Be sure to like Yay Baby on Facebook to find out if you won!

Must be a U.S. resident to win.

*The gift cards are valid at all Safeway and Safe Co. locations, including Vons, Tom Thumb, Randalls, and Carrs. 

Guest Post: Becoming a Breastfeeder – by Jessica S. Marquis


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The journey of motherhood has brought many amazing people in to my world. It’s also solidified bonds with old friends already on the parental path. I find new wonder, interest and respect for moms and dads from all walks of life, curious about their views and parenting styles, what works for them and what doesn’t. I love to be inspired and as a mother, nothing inspires me more than a parents love and care for their child. On occasion I will invite an inspirational mom (and maybe even a dad) to guest post on Yay Baby.Today is such an occasion.

Jessica S. Marquis is a wonderful woman I met during Jax’s swim lessons. I was drawn to Jessica’s laid back aura as our babies splashed around. I found comfort in our conversations and there was something I knew about her, just by looking at her beautiful daughter, Moxie. A lactation consultant told me that babies that nursed almost always had flawless, smooth skin, tended to be chubbier and were often happier than their formula-fed counterparts. When I saw Miss Moxie, perfectly content with her tiny hands on her mother’s bosom, her alabaster skin glowing with health and her chunky thighs beneath the tutu of her pink bathing suit – I knew for certain she was breastfed.

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While Jessica’s birth plan and experience was very different than my own (I was all about hospitals and epidurals), I found a kindred spirit in her and a shared belief that boob is best for our babes.

Here is her story about her path to the land of lactation:

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“Nipple butter.”

Her finger swiped the air as if to underline the phrase. I watched her hand, she the orchestra director and I the lead violinist, anxiously awaiting her next stroke.

“You’ll want lots of nipple butter.” She nodded with herself in agreement and settled back into the chair. I nodded along with her in an attempt to fit in. I was not yet a mom, accustomed to having my breasts exposed to strangers by a hungry infant, and this talk about nipples wasn’t in my repertoire for the workday. Yet there I sat, across from my veteran-mama coworker, who was giving me the hard truth about breastfeeding.

She leaned forward. “You know those pictures of moms serenely looking down at their babies as they quietly nurse? Fake. You’ll be dripping sweat and wrestling them while your nipples bleed. So, nipple butter.”

How had I missed this crucial detail about breastfeeding: That it totally sucked?And yet, as the months wore on, I was privy to a growing album of battle hymns about plugged ducts, infections, tongue ties, supply issues, pediatrician concerns over malnutrition, and the miraculous blessing of formula. “It’s fine to supplement if you need it,” a growing line of women assured me.

But why did everyone seem to need it? And why was something my body did so naturally such a cause for disgruntlement?

Before my little peanut started growing in my gut, I didn’t have much of an opinion on baby stuff. I knew for certain I wanted to deliver at a birth center because I didn’t want a hospital birth (unless medically necessary), and I wasn’t gutsy enough for a home birth. All other decisions flowed out of that one conviction.

As my husband, Bob, and I attended the prenatal classes that came as part of the birth center package, my arsenal of knowledge grew and, with that, the responsibility of more decisions. Cloth diapers or Huggies? Strollers or babywearing? Delayed cord clamping or cord blood banking? Formula or the boob?

Upon a review of relevant research and some conversations I never expected to have in this lifetime, I realized I was a breastfeeder. I was dedicated to doing everything within my power to ensure the only thing my baby tasted during her first six months came out of me.

And so, as I gazed into the dark newborn eyes of our mini Marquis for the first time, I inhaled intensely in preparation for the pain and frustration of that first latch.

And then she found my nipple on her own. And then she drank deeply.

That night after she fell asleep, I set my iPhone timer for two hours so I could wake her up to ensure she received adequate nutrition. And an hour-and-a-half later, she woke me up with a hungry whimper. And I never set an alarm to feed her again.

My breasts were available on demand, and we both found that arrangement quite pleasing. Sure, it meant a lot of sitting – I finished five seasons of Friday Night Lights in three weeks and read Mike Doughty’s The Book of Drugs in two days. I was at the whim of her expanding tummy, yet I never felt more relaxed. My body was supplementing her body, and it was supremely symbiotic.

I saw how breastfeeding was benefiting us both. I lost a ton of birth weight, and she didn’t get any of the illnesses that floated around our home, including three times I ended up with a fever and had to nurse her in a zombie-like state. There were no ear infections, no freaky constipation, and every time she hurt herself I could calm her down immediately by offering my arms and my nipple. When I got plugged ducts, she was the one who cured them for me. And every time she spit up – which was a lot! – I didn’t have to worry she had reflux from something inorganic.

We were in rhythm, in an intimate dance that these nourishing skin-to-skin moments choreographed. It was a great way to start off as a new mom: Not worrying.

However, the statistics weren’t great for long-running breastfeeding commitments, despite strong advocacy from the American Association of Pediatrics. Many mamas started, some continued to the six-month mark (when solids could be introduced), and a handful made it the recommended full year. I was encouraged during those early days of nursing to discover the numbers were on the rise: nearly a half of mamas (47.2%) were still breastfeeding when their kiddos were a half-year old, an increase of nearly 3 percentage points from the stats used in my breastfeeding class.

Nonetheless, I knew I would need solid cheerleading to see this through till she was ready to wean. Bob was great, as was my mom in the Hungarian apartment where she and my dad lived as missionaries nine hours in the future. But I needed other females who would reassure me during those 2 a.m. nursing sessions and 4-hour long marathon feeds.

So I started watching. I conducted surveillance in restaurants, waiting rooms, church chairs, and grocery stores, looking for mothers with tiny feet protruding from their sides. I chatted with moms at my daughter’s swim class, and in local boutique baby stores with wacky names that sold organic pacifiers. I joined a Facebook group through my birth center, through which I met a friend whose kiddo also liked to nurse more than sleep. We sent messages back and forth like, “Treasure these moments because you’ll miss them when the little one is 13.”

It was through this observing and interacting that I grew more confident in my stance, both emotionally and literally. Just yesterday, I was nursing my nursling in a restaurant sans cover as customers passed by. My dining companion beamed at me as she remembered her own bonding time with a son who is now a father of three.

The fact is, I was blessed to be able to take a 3-month maternity leave, and then become a stay-at-home mom who could nurse at any time. I was fortunate my body worked to produce the right amount of milk, and that my infant could drink it to the point of being in the 90-something-eth percentile at six months. I truly realize how lucky I am, and I don’t take a beat of it for granted.

But I do not think I am an exception. I believe the weight of it comes down to commitment and support. If a mama really wants to make a go of it, she needs to say so and then surround herself with people who also share that value, including new mamas, tried-and-true mamas, and experts who will share medical knowledge and inspirational tales when things get tough.

Oh, and the nipple butter? Tossed it in a drawer before week two was through. I was too busy serenely looking down at my child to notice I needed any.

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Jessica S. Marquis is the author of Raising Unicorns: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Starting and Running a Successful – and Magical! – Unicorn Farm (Adams Media). Her work has appeared in Redbook, Geek Monthly, Going Bonkers?, and the Quirk Books blog. She blogs at Unicornomics.com and spends the rest of her time in Phoenix with her husband and daughter.

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ImageThere is still time to get your comment in on last Friday’s post for a chance to win a pair of Freshly Picked moccasins! I’m drawing the winner tonight.

Mama Talk: Snack Foods


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Berries in the buff. They stain clothes and skin but oh, what a treat!

One of the most frequently discussed topics amongst my group of mommy friends is what we give our babies to munch on between meals. It’s so easy to succumb to convenience and give our kids junk. I try very hard to give Jax wholesome snack foods (although she has had an Oreo or two in her life).

My love bug’s all-time favorite snack is organic, frozen wild blueberries — wild because they are small and I don’t have to worry about cutting them up. She goes CRAZY for them, they’re like tiny frozen juice pops that she can’t get enough of. I simply plop a handful on her tray and she goes to town. They make a huge mess, but I love to see my girl so happy. A less messy treat I give her is frozen organic, mango chunks, but I do have to cut those up in to small cubes.

Any fruit is welcome in my house, Miss Jax loves watermelon, plums, honeydew and pears.

Another fantastic snack I’ve discovered can be found at Trader Joe’s: Cinnamon Apple Snack Sticks. Unlike fruit, these are completely portable and mess-free. I give Jax one for each hand when we head out and I watch her munch quietly in the safety mirror. They have 7g of fat, 100mg of sodium and 4g of sugar per serving – but get this, a serving size is 38 sticks! And while my girl is a hearty eater, she is completely satisfied with 4-6 sticks at a time, so the sodium and sugar doesn’t bother me at all. These crispy, lightly sweet sticks are hollow and very airy so they soften and dissolve quickly, reducing my anxiety over choking hazards. Another plus is that I like them too; I find them slightly addictive and come much closer to eating 38 than she does!

Of course, I also buy the just-for-baby snacks like Happy Baby Munchies (her favorite is the broccoli, kale cheddar flavor), Happy Baby Creamies and Plum Organics puffs and melts, but I do like to talk to other moms about what they like to give their children.

Tell me what kinds of snacks and treats you feel good about giving your munchkins. I’m always on the lookout for new tastes to introduce.

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logoI’m drawing the winner for the Freshly Picked moccs tomorrow night! Be sure to get your comment in on last Friday’s post before it’s too late. These moccasins are just too cute.

Hoovering


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“What’s in your mouth?” That is a question frequently asked of Miss Jax.

She’s our human Hoover. I vacuum at least once a day (usually twice) and she still manages to find some speck or crumb to put in her mouth. I bring her in the bathroom while I shower and when I take a peek at what she’s up to, more often than not, she’s got wet toilet paper on her chin, a clue of what she just munched on (Charmin is her favorite).

The same goes when we’re outside – pebbles from the pool deck, grass, leaves – mmmmm. On this particular day, at the playground, it was sand. I guess I could have intervened before it was ingested instead of taking pictures, but she’s just too cute not to photograph.

I usually manage to fish out what’s in her mouth before she actually swallows, but I shudder to think what I’ve missed. That little bugger is quick; she’s got ninja moves when it comes to the idea of eating…anything.

What kinds of crazy things has your rugrat(s) put in their mouth?

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Image I’m drawing the winner of the Freshly Picked moccasins this Thursday, May 30, 2013! Don’t miss out, there’s still a few days to get your comment in for a chance to win! Check out last Friday’s post for details.

Sweet Simplicity


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There was an impromptu swim party at Casa de Jax over the weekend. The guests brought the food and I rounded out the meal with a sweet treat. Inspired by Dessert Rosa (my favorite) from Carraba’s Italian Grill, this parfait was simple to make and a delightful fruity treat on a hot day.

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Simple ingredients you may already have in your fridge and pantry. Boxed cake mix (yellow, vanilla or butter), fresh strawberries, canned crushed pineapple and vanilla pudding (There was also Cool Whip and bananas but I forgot to add it to the photo line-up).

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  • Make cake according to package directions and allow to cool completely
  • Thoroughly drain the pineapple and pour the juice over the cooling cake
  • Hull and slice the strawberries
  • Make the pudding according to package directions
  • Slice the banana
  • Cut the cooled cake in to small cubes and place a few cubes into individual dessert dishes (I used plastic cups)
  • Scoop a dollop of pudding to the cake cubes
  • Add the fruit – strawberries, pineapple and bananas
  • Repeat the layers until you reach the top of the dish
  • Frost the top with the cool whip and garnish with a strawberry
  • Allow to chill at least an hour before serving
  • ENJOY!

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logoDon’t forget to leave a comment on last Friday’s post for a chance to win the most adorable baby/child moccasins ever! You’re cutie pie will look fabulous rocking a pair of these stylishly hip moccs so don’t miss out!