Elf on Shelf

I decided to start the Elf on Shelf tradition with my daughter, and thought it would be fun to share the photos on the blog during this holiday season. If you have an elf in your home I would love a link to your photos as well.

So ... meet Mitten. We like to call him Mitt.

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Yum Tum

In my research on the topic of feeding my baby food I came across Yum Tum, and liked their site so much I decided to do a little interview to share with you.
Yum Tum is a delicious concept in feeding babies in toddlers ... how did you come up with the idea?

Heidi and I met at our birth class and later got reunited in a local grocery store when our babies were 4 months old. We instantly became best friends, our kiddos are only two days apart so we were going through the same things at the same times and we have many of the same ideals when it comes to raising our children and that is rare to find. When they were about 5 1/2 months old I remember freaking out because I had a very lovely daughter who cried unless she was in my arms, and my research time was limited and every time I did find something the next thing I read contradicted the article before.
Through many discussions with Heidi we split up the research, bounced ideas and recipes off each other and began our journey to creating healthy happy eaters. We also realized in this process that the only organic options in the market were pouched and jarred, so the nutrients have been cooked right out of them to ensure a long shelf life, up to two years even! They also contain up to 40% water. About five months later a career shift for Heidi came about and I said "Lets start a business!" I have always wanted a business of my own. I have had what I call pretend businesses and was ready for the real thing. When we sat down to think about it, we realized we had very complimentary skills. Heidi has a degree in Business and a Masters in Sustainability. She also worked with start-up businesses counseling them and helping then with their business plans. I have a degree in Art, lots of managerial experience in both retail and restaurants, as well as graphic design and some web design and building experience. The one thing we had in common was our passion for food, nutrition, and healthy babies, so it was obvious that baby food was what we are supposed to do. We started digging into research and after taste tests and really reaching out to parents we were confident there is a market for YumTum.
Everyone is looking to give their baby the very best when it comes to starting solid foods. How are your products different then "traditional" jarred baby food?
Organic, fresh, and locally made: YumTum is not only organic but it is FRESH! We use fresh local produce and freeze it to lock in all of those important nutrients that your little one needs. It's gourmet vegan food!

Gently steamed and pureed in small batches: YumTum steams the fruits and veggies, careful not to cook out any of the important nutrients from your baby’s food. We then puree it in small batches just like you would do at home.

In convenient grab + go bags: YumTum is now in convenient grab + go pouches! Small enough to take on the road or stick in your fridge and scoop out what you need when you need it!
More food in each bite: The only additive in YumTum is love! With only pure fresh ingredients and no added water, YumTum is thick so you get more food in each bite!

Eating YumTum will make your baby a better eater! Babies who start out eating whole foods acquire a taste for the good stuff and learn to prefer it over highly processed foods. Start your baby out right and set them up for a lifetime of healthy eating habits.

In your freezer section: YumTum wants the best for babies everywhere. That is why we freeze our fresh food. No one wants to eat something that has been on the shelf for 2 years, like some jarred and pouch baby food. YumTum contains more nutrient value and tastes amazing!

Nutrient Rich: Other baby food is watery and over processed, we retain valuable nutrients in our cooking process, and then add ground flaxmeal, which is high in fiber and Omega 3’s, wheat germ which is high in protein, vitamin E, and potassium among others. There is even a little spice added to train your little ones pallet!

Our Tummy Grubs are completely unique and vegan. They all contain a complete protein either by combining brown rice and beans or through the use of tofu. Each contains flaxmeal, a little spice, and they are very delicious! They are good for 8 months up. Tummy Grubs are even great for toddlers or babies that have moved onto table food. For example our Black Bean Tummy Grub contains, black beans, brown rice, sweet potato, spinach, flaxmeal, and cumin. It is delicious stirred into a pasta for sauce or my personal favorite spread onto a tortilla, with tomatoes, and cheese or vegan cheese melted on top. Then you know they are getting the nutrients they need and still able to mix it up a bit.
Also as mom's we learned very quickly that good healthy snacks are hard to find. So we knew it was very important to perfect some yummy, hearty, stick-to-your-ribs kind of snacks. Kids love bread so we created a recipe for a Breadstix that has wheat germ, wheat bran, and flaxmeal in it and it tastes great! They are great alone, for dippers, and if you keep them frozen they are perfect for teething babes.

The HoneyDoos contain quinoa and sunflower butter; the kiddos eat them right up. We also wanted to create a healthy on the go morning and afternoon snack, so we have Babycakes which are best described as a moist vegan carrot raisin muffin with a little wheat germ mixed in for protein and vitamin E.
What does a day of food look like in your life?
We get up way before the sun rises on the weekends and start cooking in the kitchen about 6am. We start out by thoroughly cleaning the kitchen and then prepping our fruits and vegetables. We have a variety of ingredients steaming or cooking like the beans and rice, but only make one menu item at a time. We also plan our production so we make all the fruit and veg purees one weekend then ones that contain gluten on another weekend, to minimize any risk of cross contamination. It's just the two of us and we enjoy it! It is nice to have the dad's at home with the toddlers for some bonding and it is nice for us to have adult conversations while we do something we enjoy doing...cooking! Plus we taste each batch to make sure it is scrumptious. We always get so excited because it tastes so good and we feel like we are doing our part to change the world. Once it is pureed we spoon it into silicon cube trays, cover them and transfer them to the freezer. Then on Monday we return to work, pop the molds and package the food.
When it comes to your baby what is the favorite dish on the menu?
We have toddlers so they are the perfect age for our hearty snacks. As our first taste testers, both kids are fans of most anything on the menu. When handed some Appy Kale or Pearrot as a side dish, Heidi’s son will say, “ooh this baby food? Yummy to the tummy!”
Where can people find Yum Tum?


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* This post contains affiliate links, but I was not paid by the manufacturer to review this product - I just like it! I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC's 16 CFR, Part 255.

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Breast Milk Keepsake Lockets

When I was pregnant I knew I wanted to breastfeed my child. The health benefits are so great that it seemed like the obvious choice to me. No further research needed. What I didn't realize was how much nursing this baby would rock my world.

The bonding experience of breastfeeding is unexplainable. I am so in love with the expressions baby makes while eating and the way she holds onto a scrap of shirt. Lap naps after a meal are now one of my simple pleasures in life. Not because she won't nap in the crib because she will , but because I enjoy watching her sleep and a little time of pure relaxation.

I wanted to preserve this moment forever, but I know that even with baby lead weaning someday my milk will be gone.

I looked into breast milk preservation and came up with my own technique to keep a little piece of this time for the future. I decided on a locket to keep my preserved milk safe.

And Milk Mom Baby was born.  I now offer this preservation service in a variety of locket styles.  I also listened to the little DIY voice in my head and created a kit for those creatives who love the idea, but would rather make it themselves.

Visit the website to view more samples of my work, read the blog, take advantage of the list of resources, and purchase your own keepsake of this special time in your life.

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Holistic Baby Sleep System Giveaway

We all have set backs in our journey to teach our children how to sleep.  Sometimes due to teething, travel or some other unknown force our babies don't sleep as well as they used to.  That's when I turn to the Holistic Baby Sleep System.

In a nutshell the Holistic Baby Sleep System is a program where you learn to apply acupressure points to your baby in order to gain balance and help baby sleep better.  It is based on Chinese Medicine to balance the circadian rhythm of your child.  There is a general protocol to start with, and then alternative protocols to refine baby's sleep.

When I received the DVD for the Holistic Baby Sleep System in the mail I was really excited to get started.  I am a big fan of no-cry sleep training so this seemed like the perfect way to help my baby sleep better.  I started with the general protocol, and was instantly hooked.  Not only did I see immediate improvement in my baby's sleep, but it was also a really enjoyable process.  My baby began to sleep better at night, and so did I!

I had to work harder for improvement on those cat naps, and went on to work with the alternate protocols which are quick and easy.  I love knowing that my baby will have a good nights sleep when I preform them, and they are a fantastic tool for those set backs I mentioned at the start of this post.  Her sleep continues to improve, and I continue to go back again and again to the alternate protocols to help her along the way.

There is also another part of the DVD that I have not utilized with a list of ailments such as teething, or cough and protocols to help when these issues arise.

When I started practicing acupressure through the Holistic Baby Sleep System I though it would be something I would do and then be done with, but the opposite happened.  It is a system that I revisit again and again to reset my baby's inner clock and help her sleep better.  I love having the DVD to reference, and it is a tool that has been easy for my husband to learn as well.

Would you like to try this quick, easy way to help your baby sleep better?  Well your in luck because I have a copy of the DVD to giveaway to one lucky winner.  Enter to win below.

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* This post contains affiliate links, but I was not paid by the manufacturer to review this product - I just like it! I was furnished with a copy of the Holistic Baby Sleep System DVD to review, and one to giveaway at no charge to myself.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC's 16 CFR, Part 255. 

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Best Baby Gear 0-3 Months

The research I did before having my baby was all well worth it, but now that I have the experience of being a parent I have some new insight into the best baby gear for the first three months.  I've been meaning to post this list of favorites for awhile now so enjoy -- and let me know your favorites in the comments!

Best Crib
Fisher Price Rock & Play Sleeper

No crib needed in this house for the first 3 months!  I didn't purchase a bassinet either.  For the first 3 weeks my baby slept in a Snuggle Nest, and then she moved into the Rock & Play Sleeper beside the bed.  I was able to scoop her up and feed her as needed during the night, and gently rock her back to sleep when she stirred all from the comfort of my own bed.

I didn't end up using it for naps as I had planned, but I got more then my moneys worth for night time use!  More sleep for everyone is a good thing!  As an added bonus this sleeper is angled to help babies with reflux as well.

Best Sleep Aid
HALO SleepSack Micro-Fleece Swaddle, Pink Cupcake, Newborn
Halo Swaddle Sack

In those first weeks and months almost all I thought about was sleep.  You can spend a lot of money on sleep and still not get much with all the sleep aids out there, but there was one that I could not live without.  Swaddling was essential in getting my baby to sleep longer, and after trying many a swaddle blanket I finally settled on the one that worked best for us.  The Halo Swaddle Sack has the hook and loop closure to prevent escaping arms, along with a zipper that zips from bottom to top making night time diaper changes easier.  My favorite feature about this swaddle is that you can sleep baby with arms in or arms out.  Although we have not yet weaned baby from the swaddle, by the morning she sometimes sleeps better with her arms out after a long night of being bundled up.  That extra hour I can get with the arms out trick is a treat when it works.  I wanted organic cotton for sleep, but this design won me over so I ended up using this swaddle for the long run.  I also have a soft spot for the pink cupcake design.

Best Toy
Freddie the Firefly

I didn't end up buying any toys in advance for my baby which was a good call since newborns aren't too into toys in the first few weeks.  I won Freddie the Firefly in a contest, and I am so glad I did because he is still a favorite for my baby.  This toy is one that you can get a lot of mileage out of.

In the first weeks my baby loved the black and white patterns on the back of his wings.  As she grew she began to enjoy reaching for Freddie if he was hung from her car seat.  Then she progressed to smiling at herself in the mirror, and touching the textures on his body.  Now at 4.5 months he is still a favorite, but mostly for crunching and munching on his wings!

Best Stroller
Quinny Zapp Xtra

I just adore my stroller choice, and for entirely different reasons then I bought it for!  I went with the Quinny Zapp Xtra for a stroller choice because it was the only stroller I could find that would fit in the trunk of my beloved Mini Cooper without having to put the seats down.  A stroller that fits in your car is an important factor to consider when making a purchase, but my second criteria was I wanted a stroller that would last so I wouldn't be buying more then one for the life of my child.  This stroller is lightweight, and has 5 positions to grow with baby.  When my baby was born she wasn't a fan of her car seat, but she loved the flat bassinet setting on this stroller so it was a lifesaver for some early outings.  When she got to about 3 months old I started to use the partially reclined setting where baby faces me which is ideal for my child since she likes to keep Mom in sight.  All this in an adorable shade of brown.  Storage space is limited on this stroller, but I can hang my diaper bag over the handles so that is enough space for me!

Best Baby Carrier
Boba 3G

I planned on wearing my baby from the start, but I didn't realize how tricky it would be to wear a small baby.  She was born at just under 6lbs so I started in a sling, but soon realized that she and I were much more comfortable in a Boba 3G Carrier.  Lucky for us this carrier features a snap up newborn setting so I was able to wear baby from the beginning with her legs in a comfy froggy position.  Some days this was the only place I could get my sweet little one to nap and I wore her around the house doing my day to day tasks in the process.  On the weekends it goes on my husband for hikes, or trips to the grocery store.  I own 4 other carriers, and this one is by far my absolute favorite.  I cannot wait for the coming months when baby is old enough to try a back carry!

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* This post contains affiliate links, but I was not paid by the manufacturer to review this product - I just like it! I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC's 16 CFR, Part 255. Images courtesy of Amazon.126905_Shop Green Baby at Diapers.com + Free 2 Day Shipping on $49+

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Bunzi Balance Bike Giveaway

Welcome to the Bunzi Balance Trainer Giveaway!

I have teamed up with Kate n' Kaboodle to share with you the hottest new toy to hit the U.S., the Bunzi from Chillafish!

The Bunzi gradual balance trainer bike from Chillafish is a unique 2-in-1 balance bike that can be switched between 3-wheel mode and 2-wheel mode in just a few seconds!  I absolutely can't wait for my baby to be big enough to play with one of these bikes - they look like so much fun!

The Bunzi gradual balance trainer takes it step-by-step to learn balance. Smaller children can start off on 3 wheels until they get comfortable and then switch to two wheels when they are older. If your child isn't quite ready, it's easy to switch back for a while to 3 wheels to gain some more confidence. Bunzi has two seat positions, a seat position in 3-wheel mode that is low to the ground for comfort and a seat position in 2-wheel mode that is higher for making more speed. It features a cute bunny design and even a little storage container in the seat.
Bunzi is the perfect balance bike to allow your child to learn balance at their own pace and comfort level!

ChillaFish Online

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Bunzi is available at select Toys R' Us store for $49-59.

Win It

Bunzi Gradual Balance Trainer in choice of color!

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Mega Gift Card Giveaway!

Welcome to the Mega Gift Card Giveaway! Blueberry Squash has teamed up with For Him and My Family, Always Searching for Savings,  Freebie Spot, Shopaholic Mommy, The Frugal Free Gal  and other awesome blogs to give all our readers the chance to win some gift cards! 

THREE LUCKY WINNERS will receive a $100 gift card of their choice! You can enter daily for the entire month of October, so be sure to bookmark this page and come back every day to claim all your entries!
Giveaway is open worldwide and ends October 31st at 11:59 PM EST. Good luck!

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Bunzi Balance Bike Giveaway

Attention bloggers! Sign up's are now open for the Kate n' Kaboodle Bunzi Giveaway. This is a free event to join!
Prize: Bunzi Balance Trainer
Dates: October 8-22
Sign up here.

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$100 Minted.com GIVEAWAY

Blueberry Squash has teamed up with Oh My Gosh Beck! and other awesome blogs to bring you this fabulous giveaway sponsored by Minted.com. The winner will receive a $100 Minted gift code plus good towards anything on Minted.com including any of the fabulous Minted Holiday Cards in ther 2012 holiday collection! 

I used Minted for my baby announcements, and plan on using them again for holiday greetings.  The quality is top notch, and I love all the customizations you can do down to the envelopes and return address labels.
Send your friends and family unique holiday photo cards from Minted.com with style this year! These luxurious photo cards were created exclusively for Minted by their talented community of independent designers. Each of the modern holiday photo cards is fully customizable with your favorite family photo and personalized greeting. 

Giveaway starts Sunday 9/23 at 3:00 PM EST and ends Friday 9/28 at 11:59 PM EST and is open to US.
Good luck!

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* This post contains affiliate links, but I was not paid by the manufacturer to review this product - I just like it! I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC's 16 CFR, Part 255. 

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Nap Extensions

With a 4 month old baby in my arms sleep is a topic that is constantly on my mind. I read about it and celebrate it when it happens. I track sleep and I think about ways to get more of it.

My latest sleep obsession is nap extensions. Once I finally got my baby napping in the crib I found that she was still taking short cat naps throughout the day so instead of 2 long naps per day she was taking 4 short naps and never waking up fully rested.

I was happy that she was napping but I wanted more. My goal is to have her take 2 long naps and a catnap each day until she is ready for just 2 naps.  So I downloaded a copy of Pantley's No Cry Nap Solution and got reading.

First I tried to extend naps in the crib since I was so proud of myself for getting baby to sleep there. I tried stalking her on the monitor an then patting her back to sleep. No luck. I tried waiting by the crib and picking her up to bounce her back to sleep. No luck. I tried jiggling the mattress to get her back to sleep. No luck. I experimented with timing, an technique but wasn't getting results.

Then I decided to try my luck napping baby in the Rock and Play Sleeper that she currently sleeps in at night next to my bed. I don't have a monitor set up in my bedroom so I swaddled and bounced the baby to sleep on an exercise ball and set up in bed beside her and waited.

A quick not on swaddling - I know that soon my baby will outgrow this magical tight wrapping, but it has been a lifesaver for us as far as sleep goes.  I experimented with several swaddle blankets and found that she sleeps best in a Halo Swaddle Sack where her arms are tightly velcroed in to prevent escape, but her feet are loose so she can still kick out those night time farts.  I have also noticed that she sleeps much better in the fleece sack as opposed to the cotton version.

I also put baby down with white noise, and Starry.  "Starry" is a Fisher-Price Ocean Wonders Soothe and Grow Seahorse.  We named it Starry despite the fact that this stuffed lovey is a seahorse not a starfish.  This sweet little animal is useful in two ways.  First we use it as a sleep cue by playing the music while putting baby down for each nap and bedtime.  I am hoping that by starting now Starry can eventually take the place of a swaddle when we are ready to wean.  The other important thing about Starry is that she plays exactly 5 minutes of music.  When you are soothing a baby back to sleep 5 minutes can seem like a lifetime so it is nice to have an idea of how long you have been at it.  I am always telling my husband that if he hasn't gone at least 2 Starry's then he hasn't tried hard enough to get baby down.

Now back to the nap extensions ...

The first time I tried to extend a nap in the Rock and Play Sleeper went well!  After 30 minutes without stirring her eyes popped open for a few seconds and closed again. I began to rock her back to sleep and she started to doze off.  She woke up and had to be rocked back to sleep multiple times over the next 20 minutes, and then at the 50 minute mark went down and woke up for good at 90 minutes.  The afternoon nap I didn't do as well, but was able to extend a 30 minute nap to 60 minutes.

Pantley suggests that after a week of extending naps baby should begin to take longer naps on her own.  I have been at it just a few days with some success, and some failures.  It is more work having to sit beside baby while she naps, but I am willing to give it a go for the rewards at the end of this tunnel. 

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* This post contains affiliate links, but I was not paid by the manufacturer to review this product - I just like it! I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC's 16 CFR, Part 255. Images copyright Brooke Photo Studio 2012.

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