Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A library in the making

I posted previously about my daughters first books and how I was hoping to infect her with my love for reading,  and I can tell you it is working already! Her face lights up when I give her a book and she loves to turn the pages and pretend to be reading it.  After the first few cloth books, I decided to introduce a few board books; a couple at a time.We made it part of our bedtime routine to read at least one story every night and it's going great so far. The only issue we had was book storage. I wanted a form of book storage that would be visually appealing and practical, without breaking the bank.

I researched online and was intrigued by how many other moms had improvised and used non conventional items as book storage. I especially liked the Ikea Spice race turned book shelf.

This Ikea rack is literally a spice rack which is meant to be mounted in a kitchen to store your everyday spices but as you can see below this spice rack works great for storing children's books too. Books for toddlers are best stored with the cover facing out because it is easier for them to find the book they want to read by recognizing the cover photo.


Considering the fact that this Ikea spice rack retails for $3.99 per rack I was pretty excited to try this because that is a much better deal than most of the book cases or book shelves out there.   We decided to pick up a few of these racks on our next visit to Ikea. sadly for us when we got there these were out of stock {cue sad music} so I had to move on to plan B.

While browsing through the many innovative products at Ikea I came across their picture ledges which are a bit more expensive than the spice racks but look just as good if not better. It reminded me of similar book storage ideas I had seen online.

I decided to to try a couple of the picture ledges in place of the spice racks. I liked the fact that just like the spice racks these picture ledges are expandable, which means we can start out with just a few ledges and expand it to cover as much of the wall as we want, as her library expands. I also love that when she is older and transitions to a regular book case that displays books with the spine out rather than the cover, we can re-purpose these ledges into other rooms in the home. So it's a good investment either way.

The photos below show how we mounted our picture ledges in her room.

We only have two ledges at the moment and my husband put them quite low on the wall so she will be able to reach them on her own soon. We could have put them side by side to create one long shelf, but I decided to put one on top of the other, so there would be room for the wooden growth chart we are making for her. The books we have so far are:

  1. Dr Seuss's ABC: An Amazing alphabet book This is the abridged version of the full book and its  great for her age, it has the rhyming lines and silly made up words typical of Dr Seuss!
  2. Ten Fat Turkeys. This book also has silly made up words, rhyming lines and a count down.   
  3. The Nose book Just like the Dr Seuss book, The Nose book is the perfect size for small hands and has a rhyming little story about noses.
  4. Moo, Baa, La la la Both of us really love this book. This is our favorite.
  5. Where is baby's belly button? This lift-a-flap board book is fun and interactive. My daughter giggles excitedly when she sees whats behind the flaps
  6. Baby touch and feel, Colors and shapes This isn't really a story, but each page has a textured photo and is great for teaching colors and shapes
  7. A child's first Bible This was gift from my mother-in-law for my daughter's first birthday. It is awesome. I have wanted to get her a bible since she was born, so I really love this. It has a collection of short Bible stories with great illustrations. This is the only book we have that has regular pages and not thick board pages so I have to supervise her with this otherwise she would rip all the pages out.
  8. We also have the Brainy Baby ABC board book   which was a gift from her god-mother. We received this book as part of a set with a DVD and pack of flash cards. She loves the vibrant photos in this book

    I love looking at her little library in the making and knowing that as the months and years go by we will keeping adding to it until she truly does have a full blown mini library of her own

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Just B. You - B. Zany Zoo

I seriously love the toys made by B. toys, to the extent that I wish I was a child all over again so I could play with them all day. I posted a while ago about how I prefer old fashioned wooden toys over new electronic toys because wooden toys encourage more learning and imaginative play and fit the bill! After buying the Uncle Goose wooden blocks, I set my sights on the B. Zany Zoo. This toy is amazing!! It is an animal themed wooden activity cube that has endless play options. I bought this for my little one after her first birthday and she loved it immediately. The combination of bright colors, animal paintings and fun shapes captivates her for hours.
Like many other toys by the B. company, the Zany Zoo wraps itself as a gift and has a gift tag already attached.

It also has a little booklet attached with the cute B. themed quotes the company is famous for

This toy has also won the following awards 
• Creative Child 2010 Toy of the Year Award 
• Parents’ Choice Awards—Recommended Toy
• The National Parenting Center Holiday 2010 Seal of Approval 
• Highly rated by Able Play™ for children with special needs

As you can probably tell I love this toy immensely and can’t say enough good things about it!  I think I love playing with it as much as my daughter does! It is a bit more expensive than battery powered activity tables but it is worth every penny.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Dressing up her walls!

Moving with a toddler is stressful to say the least but the one thing that really excited me about moving was that my daughter would finally have a room to call her own! And best of all I would get to decorate her walls!! After my first experience with a small monogram decal over her crib I couldn’t wait to try something bigger and more elaborate. I didn’t know exactly what I was looking for, but I had two things in mind. Firstly I wanted something with her name in it and secondly I wanted a wall growth chart like the one shown in the photos below. 

I simply love the growth chart decals and originally wanted to put that up first but later decided to hold off on those because the wall decals can’t be reused once they are taken off the wall which means I would loose all the markings I made on it if we move again. I decided that instead of a decal chart I would buy or maybe even make my own wall chart out of wood like this one I found on Pinterest. The advantage of the wood is that we can always take it with us if we move.


So with the growth chart project on hold I started looking for inspiration for a personalized wall decal. While searching on etsy I stumbled upon this decal by Surface Inspired.

It was love at first sight! I thought it was without a doubt the sweetest wall decal I had come across so far, and I had seen more than my fair share by this point. But I was a little hesitant to order it because it was bit expensive. With this decal in mind as inspiration, I narrowed my search to decals featuring a tree, birds and a name. I saw many other decals that had similar features such as the ones shown below. 

They were all really nice and each of them had elements I liked and better prices too, but for some reason I still kept going back to Olivia decal by Surface Inspired. There was something about that Olivia decal that just drew me in. It was the right balance of fun and sweet without being too cartoon-like, or over the top.

I decided to reach out the to seller Surface Inspired and see if he would maybe give me some sort of a discount. I had no idea what to expect since I don’t buy on etsy often. I asked if he could scale the decal down and make it smaller or possibly give me less leaves, birds and grass for a lower price. He responded and said he would be willing to give me $15 off the price for less birds, leaves and no grass. He also told me that if I checked out his facebook page he had a promo code there for an additional discount.  I thought about his offer for a while and initially said no. But after discussing it with my husband and showing him all the other decals I had considered, my husband also preferred the Olivia decal so we decided to go ahead and order it. Now I had to decide which colors to get.  This is the color chart on his etsy page.

I was really tempted to use the same colors as our previous decal which was chocolate brown and pink in honor of our wedding colors but decided to mix it up with a fresh color palette. I couldn't use the same colors as the Olivia sample since our walls are ivory and too light for the white tree to show up properly. So I decided to choose dark grey and  violet. When the decal arrived the dark grey looked a bit darker than I expected and looks almost black in pictures but I still love it.

I received the decal sooner than he told me to expect it and best of all when I opened it up, he had included the full amount of leaves, grass and birds!! I was pleasantly surprised.  I was really impressed with Surface Inspired for  giving me more than he had agreed to. He also included a squeegee decal tool and clear instructions of how to apply it to the wall, as well as printed out copy of the picture. I highly recommend them and will order from them again!!

The decal arrived  just after we had moved into our new place so it took about two weeks for me to finish applying it on the wall because I didn’t have much free time. Once I started working on it, it brought back memories of all my wedding DIY projects and how scary they all seemed until they were completed. This was no different, it was very time intensive with so many pieces of the puzzle to put together. The decal arrived in small sections all printed out on big rolls of paper and had to be cut out and carefully applied to the wall in such a way that it would look like one piece once I was done.

As you can see in the photos above I used her toys as paperweights to keep the paper flat while I cut out the pieces. The photo below shows the blank wall in her room before we started the decal.

I started with the biggest piece first. I used painters tape to secure it to the wall. I learnt my lesson the hard way from my first experienced with decals when I mistakenly used electrical tape which left black marks on the wall!  Painters tape is great it is designed to come off smoothly and leaves no marks at all.

Once I was satisfied that it was straight, I carefully removed the backing paper which was pretty tricky to do since the decal was so large. I used the center hinge trick that was explained in the instructions.

 Once I had the first piece properly applied to the wall, I now how to add the smaller pieces. It was a bit confusing but i just followed the picture to try to make sure my tree looked as similar as possible.

When I was done with the tree, I took a break for a couple of days and then set about on the most labor intensive part of the project; the leaves.  I lost count of how many leaves there were!

 Once I had cut up all the leaves I started putting them on the tree. I used a printout of the photo as a guide. Every now and then I would glance at the photo to get an idea of which shape leaves were used at each section of the tree and which direction the leaves were facing. I realized that subtle changes such as rotating the direction of the leaves made the overall tree look very different.

Once the tree was completed I gradually added the grass, birdhouse, birds and name. I didn't use all decals he sent me; I used less leaves and grass because I felt the space was too tight for it and it would look too crowded.  I also decided not to have the falling leaves so instead I put a few leaves at the bottom with the grass. I also have one bird left over which I may use later.  Here is the finished project!

Overall it was time consuming but fun to see the whole picture coming together on the wall. It was far less messy than paint or wall paper and she now has a personalized work of art to wake up to everyday. It has really made her room come alive!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Adventures in finger foods: A day in the life of a toddler

Although I still have several posts about purees and other baby foods which I will be posting soon,  I decided to skip a few of them and post a more current update about her adventures in toddler foods. She is now 12 months + 2 weeks old and really likes to try new finger foods that she can feed herself with. On an average day, her daycare bag is full of a wide variety of healthy food to keep her full and occupied for the day. I think it’s very important to  offer a child many different foods early on and give them a chance to like them at an early stage rather than just assuming they won't like certain foods. Often times we believe that kids only want to eat “kiddie” foods like chicken nuggets, mac & cheese and frozen waffles, but I think they only prefer those foods because that’s all they are given first. My daughter has never tasted nuggets, boxed macaroni & cheese or frozen waffles and I hope to keep it that way for a long time to come!!  Here is a list of foods that I usually pack in her daycare bag

Grapes- When buying  grapes, I prefer black grapes but will sometimes buy red grapes too. I prefer to get them from the farmers market because I think they taste better.  I wash them with baking soda, and then chop them into quarters.

Blueberries- After our initial misfortune with blueberries I waited several months and re-introduced them once she turned a year old. She does enjoy eating them and I often crush them and add plain yogurt to them. I also chop them in half for her as a snack.

Strawberries- We just introduced these a week ago, she will eat a piece or two before she throws them on the floor but I keep offering them to her as I do with all new foods to give her a chance to really decide if she likes it or not. In the future I will also mix these into her yogurt and smoothies.

Shredded cheese- Cheese comes highly recommended for babies and toddlers because it is a great source of calcium but most of the time babies are given processed cheese slice like Kraft American singles or Velveeta.  But I am not a fan of those processed cheese slices because well they aren’t really cheese; they contain some amount of cheese but are not exactly the same thing! It says so clearly on the package it is a "prepared cheese product" but not cheese. I  was warned by other moms that babies usually don't like real cheese so it's best to start with the processed cheese slices first.  But I thought there was no harm in trying. I offered her real cheese in slices or grated and I discovered that she will eat the store bought shredded cheese but not cheese I shred at home. As you may have guessed I am not a big fan of the store bought shredded cheese either! Mainly because it has added chemicals to keep it from clumping and to inhibit mold growth. Nevertheless since she doesn’t drink much milk and likes cheese I concluded that the store bought shredded cheese was a good compromise. I give her the Mexican four cheese mix by Kraft. She loves this; she loves playing with it just as much as she loves eating it!

Almond milk – As I mentioned in my previous post we tried introducing Organic cow’s milk but she hated it. We tried it every day for nearly 3 weeks and she would make a face and just let it run out of her mouth. I was quite happy she didn’t like it because I didn’t really want to give her cow’s milk anyway. Since then we have tried unsweetened almond milk by Silk which she is gradually getting used to. And she gets a cup of this each day.  Several people have asked me about Soy milk and all I can say about it is that if you do the research you will discover that soy milk in large quantities has estrogen mimicking properties that I am not really comfortable with and don’t want to feed that to my daughter as her main source of milk.

Whole wheat bread- My little one loves whole wheat bread she would like to eat bread all day everyday if possible! We usually send a slice of whole wheat bread to her daycare. She doesn’t like anything on it. We have tried cream cheese or a veggie spread and she just gives me the look and throws it on the floor. Since she likes eating bread and shredded cheese I have tried making her a grilled cheese sandwich and again she launches the bread off her tray and unto the floor. What can I tell you, the girl likes her bread plain!
Raisin bread-I posted previously about introducing raisin bread to my daughter tells all about how much she enjoys this. I try not to give it to her all the time but every now and then I send in a slice to daycare.

Black Olives- Most people look at her in surprise when they see her happily munching on black olives! She loves them and will eat them with shredded cheese and whole wheat bread.

Carrots & Peas- On the days when we don’t send in olives, we send in carrots & peas instead. The carrots are bought fresh from the farmers market I chop them up and steam them. Then I cook up Birds Eye frozen peas and mix them in. I really wanted to only cook fresh peas but they are so hard to find and pretty expensive. So I make do with frozen peas. Once they are cooked I store them in separate containers and then mix them only when packing her lunch

Boiled egg- We usually include a source of protein in her lunch bag, such as egg or tuna. She is moderately likes boiled egg especially if she eats it with bread, cheese and olives.

Tuna- Just like with the boiled eggs, she enjoys eating tuna with bread and cheese and actually will eat tuna all by itself!

Yogurt- Even though this isn't a finger food, my daughter is a big fan of yogurt especially if its mixed in with pear puree. I posted earlier why I don't give her commercial baby yogurt but instead I mix in my own homemade purees with plain yogurt. I do this in the morning as I pack her lunch bag.

For now I pack everything in individual jars and containers but in the future when she is older and eats more at a time I hope to transition to the awesome bento boxes I have seen online. A bento box is basically a food container with multiple compartments and can be a fun, and functional way to pack lunch. I am especially inspired by Mrs Bee's Bento boxes. She always posts the most inspirational bento ideas and photos!