Epic Thanksgiving Feast Layer Cake

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I’m so thrilled to see so many of you sharing the One-Hour Turkey post with your families and friends on social media! Thank you! I can’t wait to hear about your life-altering experiences with it. But, if that one blew your minds… hang onto your hats! This one takes the cake! (pun heartily intended.)

“What’s better than a thanksgiving feast?” I ask you. WELL, A THANKSGIVING FEAST IN ONE EPIC LAYER CAKE FORMAT, FRIENDS! I got the inspiration from a series of posts on “meat cakes” over at Vegansaurus back in 2010 (in a past life long ago… when I was a (gasp) vegan). Culinarily curious gal that I am, I felt compelled to take up the challenge and put my vegan cooking skills to the test of tests by making as much of it from scratch as possible… from the faux turkey base to the mashed potato icing and cranberry sauce topping. Mind you, this could easily be made carnivore-style. Just swap in real turkey, butter, and cream as you please! Mmmmm.

how to make a thanksgiving feast layer cake
With Turkey Day right around the corner, I thought I’d bring this post back from the archives, for those of you still looking for that “blow them away” holiday table treat. I have to say, making it was much simpler than it seems (bonus!), and I still consider it one of my greatest culinary endeavors thus far. (You’ll have to bear with the shoddy photo quality. I was but a wee blogger back then!)


It’s an entire holiday dinner in one meal: “turkey”, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, and stuffing. For a lover of sweet and savory together, this business rocked my palate’s world. And everyone, even my most carnivorous of friends, was transfixed by the beast. They thought it was a regular cake, until I sliced it open and displayed its hidden magic! Everyone embraced it, vegan or not, and they gobbled it up like they were the (very very hungry) turkeys. And oh yeah baby, it was even better the next day.

how to make a holiday feast layer cake
I started with a base of homemade “turkey” seitan, for the meat part. Seitan is a protein-rich meat substitute made from vital wheat gluten powder… and though it may seem intimidating, its super easy peasy lemon squeezy to make. After a “meh” test run with one recipe I found, my bestie directed me to Ellen DeGeneres’ recipe… and holy gobblesworth, it was DELISH!

The big “trick” to making it successfully is to freeze between layers, which allows it to “set” and makes for easy spreading with the softer components like the potatoes and sauce. For the turkey and stuffing, I filled them each into a round pie pan, packed them down, and froze them for about an hour before layering, which created the right shape and size to begin with.
I also planned ahead to stack them in a way that makes sense, considering their textures. Turkey on the bottom because it’s sturdy and pre-shaped from the pie pan, then I slathered that with mashed potatoes. Once that had set in the freezer, I turned out the pre-frozen stuffing from the pie pan on top, and slathered that with sweet potato puree. Once that was set, it was easy to layer on the cranberry sauce. Then another layer of turkey, then sweet potatoes, another pan of stuffing, and the icing of mashed potatoes once more. I “piped” out a border to hold in the cranberry sauce topping, using a Ziploc bag with a corner snipped off, which really added to the “cake” effect. I know, it sounds m-fing crazy. And it was time-consuming, but actually really fun, and more rewarding than I ever imagined. I mean, I never pictured myself making a whole (delicious) thanksgiving meal by myself, much less turning it into a trompe l’oeil like a layer cake!


Hungry yet? Well, an epic feast deserves an epic post, so here come the recipes! And yo, it’s so much simpler than it sounds. Trust.

The Seitan Turkey

  • 4 Cups vital wheat gluten
  • 1 Cup bread crumbs
  • 1 Cup nutritional yeast
  • 3 Tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1 large onion small dice and caramelized
  • 1 Tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 Cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 Cups strong No Chicken, chicken stock (veggie stock)
  • 1 full sheet of cheesecloth
  • Butcher’s twine

Start a large pot of water boiling. Mix the dry ingredients in one bowl, and the wet ingredients in another. Caramelize the onions until soft and golden brown and add them to the dry ingredients. Mix the two bowls together until a loose batter forms, and shape that into a loaf-y shape. Lay it out onto a full sheet of cheesecloth, folded over once.

seitan turkey
Roll it up tight into a cylinder, and tie it with bakers twine at either end and twice in the middle. Drop that puppy into your hot water, cover, and let simmer gently for 2 hours, turning once throughout.

When it’s done, carefully unwrap it while it’s warm. Otherwise, the outer layer sticks to the cheesecloth and makes it much harder to remove. If you’re feeling cheeky, you can brush it with Earth Balance butter and blackening spices and bake it awhile to get a nice browned outside. I didn’t find this necessary, either way really. By the by, this makes a HUGE roast, so I’d halve the recipe if you’re cooking for a smaller crowd. Or, just freeze half and save it for a rainy day!

The Stuffing

This is the one component that was semi-homemade, as I used Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix and followed the instructions by adding veggies and broth. I just wanted to mention it because I used sauteed Trader Joe’s Stuffing Starter (a blend of celery, onions, fresh parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme) as the base, which was too easy and tasty for words. But I am bereft to report that, this year, they’ve discontinued the stuffing starter. WHY, TRADER JOE, WHY?!? So sub in some celery, onions, and herbs of your choice. In my mother’s tradition, I also added raisins, which bring a supremely sweet and rich dimension that I simply adore.


The Sweet Potatoes

  • One 3-pound bag whole sweet potatoes
  • Unsweetened, organic soymilk to taste
  • Earth Balance butter, to taste
  • Sea salt and pepper, to taste

This one is very dependent on how you like your mash. I boiled the sweet potatoes whole until they were fork tender. The skin just slips off when they’re warm, but be careful not to burn your fingers. I pureed them in my sexy-ass 14-cup Cuisinart (thanks, Cuisinart!) and added enough milk and butter until they were juuuuuust right. I gotta say, this was the silkiest, most satiny, savory-sweet deliciousness ever. I lurved these babies!

We don’t have pictures of these final two parts, whoops! Use your imaginations, k?

The Mashed Potatoes

  • One 5-lb. bag whole russet potatoes
  • Unsweetened, organic soymilk to taste
  • Earth Balance butter, to taste
  • Sea salt and pepper, to taste

I did these the same way as the sweet potatoes, and I don’t really know what I did wrong (was it the type of potato? The cook time? Did I over-puree?)… but they turned out a bit gluey and thick. It was actually pretty suitable for this dish, especially the icing part… but if it were just a side dish I’d have tossed it out and started over cuz I prefer my mashed taters more light and fluffy in general.

The Cranberry Sauce

  • 1 bag whole, fresh cranberries
  • 1 cup orange juice, with pulp.
  • 1 cup sugar
  • cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg to taste
  • pinch of salt

This one is simple pimple. Just boil everything up in a pot, then reduce and simmer until it reduces to your desired thickness. Add the spices last, so you can monitor how potent you want them.

That’s it! Just layer and freeze, layer and freeze, “ice” with mashed taters, and brace yourself for an EPIC flavor party in your mouth. To serve, just cut into slices and warm them up individually, but it’s also super yum when cold. Oh, enjoy all the compliments and comparisons of yourself to Martha Stewart…. cuz that’s just how fly this bad boy is. It really is. YUM. And if you’re like me, after your tastebuds do a happy dance, you and your friends can do one too… like we did!


So, what do you think? Would you give it a shot?


How to cook the perfect holiday turkey in only one hour.

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This is not a joke, nor an exaggeration. Indeed, it is a promise. A gift to you, from the bottom of my heart. Because you CAN cook the perfect turkey in one hour, and transform your Thanksgiving experience forever. Believe me, you and your guests deserve it. Not only is it perfectly juicy, tender, and flavorful every time… but the skin is crisp and gorgeous, too. It’s everything you want your bird to be… in a fraction of the time of normal cooking methods.

cook a perfect turkey in one hour

I’ve been cooking turkeys this way for about 9 years now, ever since my high school bestie posted her father-in-law, Ron’s, youtube instructional… and I’m never going back. Nor are the friends and family that I’ve turned onto this style (and there are many). Why in gobble’s name should anyone slave over a bird for hours on end, basting and fussing and checking temperatures… when you could be kicking back with a glass (or three) of wine and good conversation and family and friends?!?

So without further ado, I present to you… Ron’s One-Hour Turkey. Beloved by all who dare to try it themselves – satisfying dinner guests with minimal effort and maximum reward!

And to make it even easier for you, here’s a handy dandy link for the Granite Ware Covered Roaster you’ll need. I got mine at Target, but Amazon Prime is even easier!

Your guests will be shocked and awed when they find out how quickly your bird was cooked. It’s like a magic show and dinner. DINNER THEATRE! Welcome to the good life, friends.

(…and stay tuned, folks, because coming up soon is my famous, epic, thanksgiving feast layer cake recipe! I’m full of delicious inspiration and holiday cheer!)?


Long Time No See….

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Hello, friends! It’s been (more than) a long while, but I’m easing myself back into writing and wanted to breathe a little life into this blog and share some brief updates about where I’ve been and what’s new.

First, we have a new blog name! While I was away, my ownership of the url LaRueblog.com lapsed, and someone quickly snapped it up and is holding it hostage for more than I’m willing to pay. I don’t know what kind of moneybags they think I am, but it seemed like a good chance for a fresh start. (Or anustart, for my fellow Arrested Development fans out there.) So I put some thought into a new name and came up with Write On, Dana. I like it because it is both a directive command to create and also a phrase of kind encouragement… both of which I often need. Hopefully, I’ll heed its advice to heart and start posting more often.

Next, a lot has happened, so here’s the quick-and-dirty overview. In 2017, we sold our westside condo and moved to Koreatown. Then some dicey family stuff went down that required a temporary move back to the Chicago area, which lasted about 18 months. We returned to Los Angeles in February of this year, happily reunited with Koreatown again. Maeve is now 4 years old (I’m not sure how, since she was just an infant yesterday). Paul went into business for himself. I did a stint or two teaching preschool but ultimately decided that’s not the path for me. My eyes came out of remission, so I had 2 more surgeries to quiet them down again for a bit. I rediscovered how much I love to dance. I decided to retire The Broke-Ass Bride for good (which you can read about here). Now I’m getting back to freelance work, writing copy and articles about this and that. After a long period of so much upheaval, we’re finally starting to settle down and dip our toes back into “normal life.” Phew, friends. It’s been… a lot. I’m looking forward to what’s next.

So, stay tuned here for more of the same as before (parenting, memoir, lifestyle, cooking, korean wife camp) with even more fun things to come (are you a fan of BTS? Because if not, you’re gonna be). And in between posts here, you’ll find me over on twitter and instagram.

As always, thanks for hanging with me! I’ve missed you.


Safe Space for a Wild Child

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When your baby starts crawling at 5.5 months, pulling herself up and cruising at 7 months, and climbing at 8 months, creating a safe play space for her to explore her abilities and push her limits becomes priority #1. (Wine quickly becomes priority #2.)

A little backstory: Paul and I are heavily influenced by the RIE parenting philosophy, which (among many other things) encourages parents to create an environment that is physically safe, allow time for uninterrupted play, and…

“have basic trust in the infant to be an initiator, to be an explorer eager to learn what he is ready for. Because of this trust, we provide the infant with only enough help necessary to allow the child to enjoy mastery of her own actions.” – Magda Gerber

(Read more on the RIE approach here.)

In summary: we strive to allow Maeve space (under a close, watchful eye) to test her limits and express herself physically, without us intervening unless she’s in serious danger. Which includes learning to fall safely. A lot. And that meant dreaming up the perfect playspace!

Our first basic need was a large comfortable, cushioned playmat, for Maevie to crawl on and fall on. Finding a completely non-toxic option was a big priority for us, so when we discovered the Pillobebe CorkiMat, and they generously offered us a mat to review, we were thrilled. The CorkiMat is made from certified organic bamboo and cork – all completely safe and natural. It is so luxurious, and soft, with handy (and adorable) removable covers that can be tossed in the washing machine which is incredibly convenient. Plus, it’s independently owned, and we love supporting indie businesses!

Maeve can take big spills onto her CorkiMat and come out completely unscathed. In fact, her new favorite game is to throw herself from her softplay climbing structure onto the mat, and land ungracefully onto the mat, over and over. I recommend it to everyone I know. It’s easily one of my favorite things we’ve gotten.
safe playspace for a wild child

Speaking of her softplay climbing structure… this thing is amazing! Once we recognized Maeve’s instinct to climb, we really wanted to find something safe to practice on, that would work indoors. When I found the ECR4Kids Softzone Little Me Wall Climb & Slide on Wayfair.com, and it was absolutely perfect for our condo living room play area. Maeve took to it immediately, and explores every corner of it, continually finding new ways to make it more challenging for herself. It can be velcroed together in various configurations, which allows us to change it up for variety and to fit various spaces as needed. I always knew of Wayfair as a great home furnishing store online – but I hadn’t thought of it for baby until some creative googling lead me there. It was a great find!

Having such a mobile baby presents many challenges, not least of which is finding ways to use the bathroom or wash my face, or accomplish some other quick task that would prevent me from being able to keep an eye on Maeve to make sure she’s safe. We don’t have a gated-off area in which I could drop her and walk away (yet). Enter the Oribel PortaPlay: a foldable, convertible activity center that grows with your baby, evolving from a bouncer into an adjustable-height play table.

While I generally try to steer clear of using a constrictive device to hold Maeve for very long (or act as a babysitter), nor do I?believe that babies need bouncers or jumpers to develop strength (plenty of time on the floor to explore builds that up just fine), it has been a lifesaver in the times that I need to ensure her safety for a few minutes at a time, while keeping her occupied and entertained. And I love that The PortaPlay is not a one-and-done gadget since we can replace the seat with the included tabletop, and use it for play for years to come. It’s sturdy enough for her to pull up on and cruise around, the toys attached are simple, analog, and beautiful, and when we need it out of the way, it folds up and slides under a bed, easy peasy.

These 3 items have helped us create a safe-yet-challenging, aesthetically appealing playspace for Maeve, and it is amazing?to watch her use them to learn and grow. She’s moments away from walking now, which is going to open a whole new world in terms of baby-proofing and providing her engaging opportunities to play at home – but I’m up to the challenge!

 

 

Affiliate Disclosure: Some of the links in this website are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. This helps cover overhead and keep the blog up and running – so, thanks for your support! I only endorse items in which I truly believe. Special thanks to Pillobebe, Wayfair and Oribel for providing me with their products for my fair, unbiased review.


Jujube BFF Diaper Bag Review

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I’ve been on a quest, since having my baby. A quest of epic proportions. The quest… for the perfect diaper bag! As a cloth diapering, formula feeding, baby wearing, on-the-go mama – I needed a comfortable, backpack-style bag with plenty of room for bottles (preferably insulated pockets) and big fluffy diapers and all the trappings of daily infant care. Seemed like a simple enough ask, right?

Not so much, friends!

jujube BFF review

My initial research yielded the Jujube BFF as being the best bet. Super roomy, stylish, machine-washable, even convertible from backpack to satchel for added functionality… on paper, it was everything I wanted. Plus, they’re relatively easy to find, feel, and try-on in a store, which makes it a lot easier to commit to than something I can’t “try before I buy.” So I added it to my registry, received it as a shower gift from a generous friend, and packed it up with great relish and excitement.

ju-ju-be-legacy-b-f-f-tote-backpack-style-diaper-bag-the-duchess-16Initially, I loved it. So many pockets! Such easy to clean surfaces! Such wide, supportive shoulder straps (connected by latches which makes it so easy to swivel on and off the shoulder to reach into for quick grabs)! Nice, light contrasting fabric interior which prevents the “black hole” phenomenon in many bags! Convenient top-carry handle! Matching, cushioned diaper changing pad included! Handy, mom-friendly features like a key fob and sunglasses pouch!

legacy-bff-in-the-duchess-11

But I just couldn’t seem to get my “essential” supplies packed in it in a convenient way. And it was kind of heavy, when packed. So heavy, it tipped my stroller forward if I took Maeve out of the carseat while it was hanging from the stroller hooks. Not great, Bob!

 

So I re-packed it.

And wore it on a few outings.

And re-packed it again.

And after a few months of rigorous daily use, I took a good, hard look at the reality of things. The BFF was not my BFF. We just didn’t get along. I needed a lighter-weight, differently-oriented bag that could handle my baggage, but still had all the pockets, the comfortable straps, the convertible practicality and stylish function that I desired and required.

My biggest complaints?
1. The weight when packed.
2. When the pockets were filled, the interior of the bag was rendered quite narrow.
3. My beloved Comotomo baby bottles were too wide for the exterior insulated bottle?pockets.

Don’t get me wrong. The Jujube is a fantastic bag, with loads of fantastic features. But for the kind of load I carry, (bulky cloth diapers, multiple bottles, formula container, wipes, bibs/burp cloths, make-up, wallet, keys, sunglasses, cellphone, teethers/toys, extra outfit, wetbag, snacks, and more) it just wasn’t working out.

It’s not you, BFF. It’s me. We’re less BFFs, and more like, frenemies. You’re so cool and popular and well-dressed, but at the end of the day, we just don’t really get along.

I think, once Maeve is a little older, and we’re not carrying so much of her food load around (in terms of bottles), you might be a better match for me. But right now, it’s just not meant to be.

So I headed back on the old internet-research trail, tracking for the perfect bag. Stay tuned for my next review!

 


Korean Wife Camp: Kkakdugi – Cubed Radish Kimchi

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kkakdugi cubed radish kimchi recipe

Kkakdugi, or Korean radish kimchi, is a common banchan (side dish) served with meals such as galbijjim (korean braised short ribs), gomtang (oxtail soup), or tonkatsu (fried pork cutlet). But it’s delicious with any meal, any day of the week, in my humble opinion! (And it has a delightfully scatalogical-sounding name, which pleases my inner 12-year old endlessly. Pronunciation: cock-dooki. LOL.)

Being a kimchi, it is a salted, fermented, (aka pickled) vegetable – and the result is a tangy, spicy, crispy, salty and a tiny bit sweet, refreshing bite that’s chock full of health benefits such as probiotics, vitamins and fiber. It’s got the umami factor in spades, and it’s easier than easy (and super affordable) to make!

Impress your friends, family, and your own mouth with a scrumptious batch of homemade Kkakdugi!

kkakdugi steps

What you’ll need:
1 lb Korean Radish (aka Mu) – cut into 1″ cubes (choose a heavy radish with smooth skin. the higher the ratio of white skin to green skin, the sweeter the radish will taste.) NOTE: if you can’t find Mu, you can substitute Daikon, which is widely available. But if you can get proper Mu, it’s a bit sweeter and more nuanced in flavor.?
1 Tbs Kosher Salt
1 Tbs Honey (or sweetener of your choice)
3-4 Cloves Garlic – finely chopped
1 tsp Ginger – finely chopped
1/3 cup Gochugaru powder (korean red chili flakes.) There is no substitution for this, but if you can’t find them in your local Asian grocery, you can order them on amazon.
2 Tbs Fish Sauce (I love this brand, because it’s just fish, salt, and water – and no creepy additives. If you can’t find (or stand) fish sauce, you can use soup soy sauce, or simply plain soy sauce.)


kkakdugi ingredients breakdown

What you do:
1. Toss the cubed radish with the salt and honey, until well coated. Set aside for 45-60 minutes.
2. In a separate container, mix together the garlic, ginger, gochugaru, and fish sauce.
3. Drain the radish, reserving 1/3 cup of the liquid and add both to the spice mix. Toss well to coat.
4. Pack the radish into a lidded container, trying to eliminate any air pockets. Loosely place lid on top. ***Don’t put it on tightly, or the container could explode!
5. Leave the kimchi out at room temperature for 1-3 days, depending on your preference. Taste the kimchi once every 1/2 day, and when you feel it’s done, you can transfer it to the refrigerator for storage. We personally prefer ours best when it’s gently fermented, after about 1 full day, but your mileage may vary.

The kimchi will last in your fridge until, basically, the end of time. It will just get more sour, unctuous, and carbonated as it continues to slowly ferment with time. But honestly, this stuff is so damn tasty it won’t last long at all.

PS: my kkakdugi is much more of a brownish-red color than yours will be, so don’t fret. The gochugaru powder I used is from our family estate in Yeoju and is much less vibrantly fire-engine red than most commercial brands. So expect your finished product to look like cubes of delicious hellfire, friends!cubed radish kimchi kkakdugi


Maeve’s Faves: a baby gift guide for 3-6 months

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Tis the season for gift giving! So, I thought I’d do a quick round-up of some of our favorite items from the last couple of months to inspire anyone looking for gift ideas for kids in the 3-6 month age range.

Introducing: Maeve’s Faves!
gifts for 3-6 month old babiesManhattan Toys Sqwish: Hands-down, Maeve’s favorite toy for chewing, shaking, banging, and even cuddling. I nearly laughed myself off the couch when I saw her lay her head on it like it was a cozy pillow. It’s my favorite toy for her, because it’s made of wood, not plastic, and offers so many open-ended play opportunities. In a sea of toys that are only fun for a short time frame, this one definitely has staying power.

Baby Bling Bows: It’s no secret that my daughter is large of noggin, and finding bows that don’t strangle her poor noodle with overly tight elastic was a tall order. Baby Bling’s bows are super stretchy and wide to accommodate heads of all sizes comfortably and come in all shades of the rainbow. They’re just darling. I have a bit of a compulsion with these, so Maeve is rarely seen without one!

Rags to Raches Rompers: These adorable rompers have my heart. They’re ridiculously soft, cozy, cute and stylish. They slip on and off easily through the stretchy neck-hole, so there are no annoying snaps to mess with. And they’re a good investment because they can be worn snug or loose, so one pair can last you 6 months of growth or more! I went a little crazy on Black Friday and now they seem to make up most of Maeve’s winter wardrobe. And I’m not even sorry about it.

Kickee Pants Pajamas: We discovered Kickee Pants and their incredibly well-made, adorable jammies when my nephew Grayson was a baby, and they immediately became family favorites for all babies who’ve come since. They’re made of viscose bamboo and spandex, which makes them extra soft and stretchy and they come in a ton of adorable patterns and styles with features like butt ruffles that I can’t get enough of. Maeve’s PJ collection is easily 95% Kickee. Caution: they make babies even more huggable than usual. It’s a bit dangerous.

Angel Dear Lovies:?Hi, my name is Dana, I’m almost 38 years old, and I still sleep with my childhood lovie. No shame. So I took finding Maeve her own lovies very seriously. Enter Angel Dear. So soft, so snuggable. But most important, breathable. Two of Maevie’s four lovies are by Angel Dear, and she takes them everywhere she goes. I fully credit an early attachment to lovies as part of Maeve’s magical self-soothing powers, and will forever be grateful for so many peaceful night’s sleep as a result.

Fisher Price Snail: We got this toy as a hand-me-down from my nephew, and it’s a big hit with Miss M. She loves looking at herself in the mirror, swinging her Sqwish and hitting the snail to activate its song and lights, making it a great toy for cause-and-effect learning. And when she starts crawling, it can roll along with her, so it’s not just great for one stage of her life, but can evolve with her.

Chewbeads: These necklaces, toys, and stroller attachments are such high-quality teething toys. Made from silicone, they’re super chompable and soothing to a teething baby’s gums. Maeve gives tons of love to?the one we keep hooked onto her carseat handle.

Cheeky Chompers Neckerchew: Clever as they are for marrying a bib and a teething toy, I love these most for being the most absorbent bibs we own. Our drooly monster goes through multiple bibs daily, except when she wears these, which somehow last all day without saturating through to her clothes. And they come in an adorable array of colors and prints. But yes, the teething tip is also a seriously awesome feature, and Maeve happily chomps hers whenever they’re around her neck.

Fisher-Price Infant Bouncer: Maeve loves to bounce and bat at dangling toys, and once she learned to roll from back to belly, there were few ways we could entertain her on her back. But contained in this recliner, she would happily lay back, bouncing herself and swiping at the toys, and enjoying the calming vibrations while I got some work done in the kitchen or jumped into the shower. I got it for free from a neighbor in my Buy Nothing community, and she’s just now outgrowing it, but it was great while it lasted!

And if you want a splurgey gift idea, look no further…

Dyson Humidifier: I love this humidifier so much! When Dyson offered me one for review, I jumped at the chance, because we’ve had one of their vacuums and loved it, I know their quality is top notch. It is whisper-quiet, easy-to-use, and very sleek looking. Living in the desert, it?s hard to achieve the perfect indoor humidity year-round. The Dyson Humidifier is the perfect solution for my baby’s nursery, because we can set our desired humidity level and it will run automatically, keeping it at the perfect humidity for her space! Other, unprogrammable humidifiers either over-humidified or under-humidified her room, and now we don?t have to worry about that being a problem anymore. It also kills 99.9% of bacteria using Ultraviolet Cleanse technology to kill bacteria before the mist projected into the room, and boasts features like a sleep timer, intelligent climate control, and a handy remote so you can change settings from the comfort of your own bed (or the hallway outside your baby’s room, so you don’t disrupt their slumber). Its absolutely wonderful and gives us great peace of mind.*

Hope this list gives you some fun ideas for how to keep a 3-6 month old in your life entertained, well-dressed, and comfortable! I’d love to hear your faves too!

 

*Disclosure: Dyson provided me a humidifier for free in exchange for an honest review of my experience with it. Thanks, Dyson!


Freshly Picked Baby Moccasin Review & Giveaway!

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What’s better than baby feet? Smushy, mushy, kissable toes, and soft, sweet, scrumptious soles. Sigh. I could play with Maevie’s feet all day.

But when you put teeny tiny shoes on those adorable little tootsies, a whole new level of cuteness is achieved. And when those shoes are fun, fringey moccasins, then hang onto your socks, cuz the cute just got turned up to eleven!

So when I was offered a pair of Freshly Picked Soft-Soled Baby Moccasins to review and pair up with a giveaway on the blog, I was all “YESPLEASEANDTHANKYOUVERYMUCH.”
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Freshly Picked Baby Moccasins are some of the best on the market, but better yet, they have an incredible origin story. Started by Susan Petersen, a mom who saw a hole in the baby shoe market, and born of her own sweat equity and hard work… Freshly Picked Moccs are durable, well designed, and most importantly: they stay on your child’s foot. Experts now recommend keeping children in soft-soled shoes for as long as possible once they learn to walk because it helps them develop better fine muscle control, balance and coordination. Freshly Picked Moccasins have soft, durable soles – just perfect for baby’s first steps.

And the designs are utterly swoonworthy. From tried-and-true solids to playful prints, shiny metallics, pineapples, cats and more… there’s something for every style. Here’s Maevie rocking her heirloom blush moccs with gold dots.

Freshly Picked Giveaway

The leather is buttery soft, and even though I deliberately choose a size too large for Maeve right now so she could grow into them, they held onto her feet perfectly! I love how radiant the metallic dots and soles are, too. It’s hard to find leather with such gleam. I just love them.

Now that I’ve whet your palate with why you should want as many pairs of these sweet moccasins as you can get your grubby paws on, to cover your baby’s precious piggies… here’s how you can win your own soft-soled moccs, in any style and size of your choosing!

Freshly Picked Baby Moccasin Giveaway!

The contest ends December 8th, and the winner will be announced here. Good luck!

Shop Maeve’s look here:
Romper: Tea Collection
Headband: Baby Bling Bows
Toy: Manhattan Toys Skwish


DreamWorks Adventure to Santa

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The magic of Christmas has always been a very powerful force in my life. I think it’s partly thanks to my vivid imagination as a child, which kept me happily leaving out milk and cookies for Santa long after I learned that he didn’t exist; and partly due to our family being on hard times over many a holiday season, which resulted in me clinging with a death grip to the wonder of the season as a way to keep spirits up. Because while presents may cost money, magic is priceless.

And sharing that magic with my own children is something I’ve always looked forward to with great anticipation and emotion. So last weekend, when Maevie met Santa for the first time ever, thanks to DreamWorks Adventure to Santa and Club MomMe, my heart exploded with such violence that the vibrations were felt all the way up in the North Pole. Honestly, the whole experience was so saturated with magic that my mom and I were choking back happy tears throughout the entire thing!

The adventure begins when you approach the DreamWorks animated LED Christmas house, where beloved characters from Shrek appear and disappear behind windows and doors, getting the house decorated and ready for the holidays.

Families are admitted 3 at-a-time to the house, by appointment, so there’s no waiting in endless lines like many mall Santa experiences. And better yet, there were many interactive features of the adventure as we got closer and closer to our encounter with Santa.

First, we played a video game in order to win our Pilot’s License, to help us pilot the sleigh to visit Santa at the North Pole. Later, we got to virtually decorate Gingy the Gingerbread Man from Shrek. 3-D printed ornaments of everyone’s finished products are available for purchase online at gingyscookiemaker.com.

These interactive elements are a great way to keep families entertained and engaged as they wait their turn to meet Santa, and bring great added value to the experience. It was great fun for my mom and me to do since Maeve was too young to participate.
Adventure to Santa collageThe ride to the North Pole was definitely a huge highlight. We all piled into a sleigh in front of a huge screen, which transformed into an amazing, exciting, and charming virtual ride to the North Pole with Shrek and Donkey. My mom and I had such a blast on the ride, and even Maeve seemed into it! Check out this brief clip from the beginning to get a glimpse into the magical illusion and excitement of the ride.

Soon after, came the moment we had all been waiting for. Santa’s elves told us to get ready, and opened the door with a cheerful exclamation: “It’s SANTA!” and we were ushered into a gorgeously decorated study featuring the man himself.

Adventure to Santa final

I’ve seen many a mall santa in my day, and let me tell you, this guy was the REAL DEAL. He was incredibly warm and tender and gentle with our wee Maeve, and had all the trappings of your dream Santa Claus conceivable. And when I saw my little girl look up into his eyes with such wonder, my heart burst.

DreamWorks Adventure to Santa is available in 14 locations across the US and even in London – and reservations are required.

Dreamworks adventure to santa

If you’re lucky enough to live near one of the locations for Adventure to Santa, I cannot recommend it highly enough. I’m already looking forward to taking Maeve back next year when she’s able to understand and enjoy the experience a little more. It was a completely magical day for 3 generations of LaRue women: Maeve, me and my mom!

Thanks to South Bay Galleria, DreamWorks and Club MomMe for the invite! It was a truly unforgettable experience!


Drink this: Califia Farms Toasted Coconut Almond Milk

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best coconut almond milk

Yes folks, a post about almond milk. “Why?” You ask. BECAUSE IT IS THE BEST DAMN ALMOND MILK IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD. How much do I love it? Enough to write a whole post about it, out of the kindness of my own damn heart, to enrich your mouths and lives. That’s how much. Dammit.

Or at least, it’s by far the most exciting new grocery-store find Paul and I have had in the past year.

We’re not huge “milk” people. Don’t get me wrong… I love me some cheese, and all the butter, like any good midwestern girl should. But, keeping cow’s milk around isn’t my super jam. We really only use it in our morning coffee/tea, and our acupuncturist prefers that we avoid true dairy as much as possible. So one day last year I picked up Califia Farms Toasted Coconut Almond Milk after seeing it in the refrigerated section at Whole Paycheck Foods and thinking the bottle was cute. I looked at the nutritional information, and I thought it was all good – no added or artificial sweeteners or any creepy unpronounceable ingredients. Then I learned Carrageenan, one of the ingredients, is super shady, which put me off it for a while, and it as back to cow’s milk for us. Sad trombone.

But thanks to a recent flare-up of my arthritis, which is exacerbated by too much dairy, I revisited the non-cow’s milks on the market, and my dreams came true. Califia just announced they’ve removed “the C-word” from their products. REJOICE! In fact, it boasts better-than-milk nutrition with 50% more calcium, less fat, less sugar and less calories. So I took it home for a spin. And rekindled my steamy love affair with their creamy, coconutty concoction.

It makes everything better.

Their unsweetened, plain version is also delectable, if coconut isn’t your lover the way it is mine. We all have different predilections. I understand.

I mean, I think you’re a weirdo. But we’re cool.

I guess.

I also got a sample container of their Almond Coffee Creamer last weekend at Club MomMe’s Fall Family Fest, and it makes my mouth sing. Takes our quotidien PG Tips tea and elevates it to somehow taste like my most beloved fancy french tea.

But here’s what’s absolutely no bueno, much to our shock and dismay… do not, by all means, buy or drink their seasonal “Holiday Nog” flavor. That shit was foul. I was so disappointed. Also, I wish it came in paper cartons rather than plastic. But you can’t win ’em all. (Califia, do you hear me? I love your sustainability practices, and your bottles are cute, but plastic is persona non grata around my house!)

Go, get you some, friends. You won’t regret it. I promise.

Screenshot 2014-03-04 23.23.02You’re welcome.

(this post was not sponsored by Califia. it really is just that good.)