My Love Affair With Trader Joes

Can you be in love with a grocery store? I think it’s possible 🙂 Since moving to Fairfield and living 2 minutes away from Trader Joes, I’ve developed a great appreciation for the store and it’s unique products, great pricing, and stellar customer service.

I figured I’d share a few of my most favorite products and how I use them.

Starting at the front of the store and working my may through, this is what I grab each and every time…

Not pictured but always in my cart- inexpensive flowers, organic fruit and vegetables, nuts in large qualities, and frozen acai

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Gluten Free & Dairy Free Mini Pancakes- these come in a pack of three and are one of my little one’s favorite breakfasts. I usually serve them with blueberries and strawberries and a bit of maple syrup.

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Frozen Mangos- so delicious, right out of the freezer, as a healthy snack and perfect to use in smoothies

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Zucchini Fries- these are my daughter’s go-to after school snack

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Chocolate Covered Bananas- a perfect nibble when you want something sweet

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Multigrain Crackers- We use these for blueberry cheese (more on that below) and hummus

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Everything But the Bagel Seasoning- Can you say OBSESSED? I put this in my eggs, on toast, and sprinkled over avocado

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Orange Blossom Hand Soap- I use this as my kitchen hand soap. It smells great but my favorite thing about it is how it feels; the oils in it make your hands feel super soft!

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Lavender Scrub- great ingredients, amazing smell and my skin feels awesome after using

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Coffee- just good coffee 🙂

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Blueberry Cheese- someone recommended this to me and somehow, someway this has become my little one’s favorite snack (goat cheese is a bit of an odd choice for a three year old but it’s so tasty so I can understand why)

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Spicy Hummus- WARNING! VERY ADDICTING if you like spicy things

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Cereal- I always need to have on hand when my college- aged daughter is home. She like this one and the Banana Crunch Clusters.

 

Did you know Trader Joes has a website with amazing recipes using their products? Check it out!

 

Finally, here are some links to some incredible blog posts which feature more Trader Joes recipes.

 

Are there any incredible products I missed? Please share your favorites in the comments!

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Friday Favs

Friday Favs- a spot where I share my favorite products, apps, sites, articles, and moments from the week.

Between taking an online class this week, two going down with the stomach virus, and my mom visiting from Florida, it was a busy week. Here are my Friday Favs a day late 🙂

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By know I’m sure you know what an Acai Bowl is but have you heard of a Buddah Bowl?

Check out these recipes.

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If you have a toddler and play their tunes in the car, you may love this rendition of If You’re Happy and You Know It just as much as I do- and yes, I need a car wash desperately 😉

I loved reading these reminders on Ways to Raise Good Kids.

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Favorite moment of the week- getting to see a bucket list concert with my 17 year old.

I’ve loved Red Hot Chili Peppers since I was 12 when Under the Bridge came out 🙂

Lets Eat! Starting Solids

It’s an exciting time. You and your baby are ready to explore the world of food together!

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Most doctors recommend starting between 4-6 months. Our doctor said Jules was ready at 5 months based on how she was sitting and her cues (beginning to show interest in what I was eating and trying to grab food from my plate). Back in the day, it was very common to begin with rice cereal because it is thought to be easy to digest. Nowadays, rice cereal is falling by the way side (did anyone see yesterday’s news report? Arsenic???) and most doctors will give the green light to begin with oatmeal or vegetables. Ask what your doctor recommends at their four month check up so you can put your plan in place.

First, will you be making some or all of your baby’s food? If the answer is yes, you may want to look at baby food makers and there are certainly plenty on the market. Since I knew I would be making some but not most of her food, I didn’t want to invest in yet another gadget. I have a Vitamix (which I highly recommend because it rocks) and a steamer and that is really all you need. I picked up a few freezer containers so that when I make a batch of food, I can freeze the rest in individual containers.

You will also need soft spoons, small bowls, and a ton of bibs of you don’t have already.

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I love this bowl and plate set and it’s currently on sale at Pottery Barn Kids

Next, if you’re buying foods, you’ll be starting with Stage 1. Baby foods come in stages based on the simplicity of the food, the amount it is pureed, and the size. For example, a Stage 1 food may simply be “carrots” while a Stage 2 may be “carrots, butternut squash and apples”. Stage 1 foods are typically 2 ounces while stage 2 are between 3.5-4 ounces. I did a lot of research on brands and I stick with Plum Organics and Happy Baby. Both are organic with non- GMO ingredients but what I think sets them apart is the variety of meals after stage 1 and less added ingredients. At most of my local stores, the stage 1 foods were in short supply (so annoying) so I did a big order from diapers.com and stocked up.

As per the doctor’s recommendation, we gave the same food for three days in a row to watch for allergies. We would try new foods either in the morning or around lunch time to allow for plenty of time to watch for any adverse reactions before bed.

With fruits or vegetables, you would begin by giving half the pouch and give the remaining half the next day (they are good refrigerated for 24 hours). If beginning with cereal, follow the directions on the box. If your baby is eating everything you are serving and wanting more, increase the amounts.

After we had a few foods under our belt, a typical schedule looked something like this.

7am- bottle

8am- oatmeal with fruit (we love this oatmeal that was recommended by a friend)

11am- bottle

12pm- a vegetable

You’ll then add dinner and eventually replace the afternoon bottle with a snack.

I felt strongly that I didn’t want to give her vegetables combined with fruit because I thought it would possibly turn her off to regular vegetables (I worried she would grow accustomed to the sweetness of the fruit) so I stuck with stage 1 for awhile.

Even now at 9 months, I still buy stage 1 fruits and buy only stage 2 vegetable meals, always with some type of protein.

Random Tip– Target makes these fruit pouches that we buy for the big kids which have exactly the same ingredients as the baby food pouches for a lot less $ so if you are a Target shopper, make sure to check them out

Jules did experience some constipation when we began solids, which is fairly common. Prunes and pears, as well as the probiotic oatmeal, worked wonders. We still stay away from bananas because they are so binding.

At our 8 month check up, we were given the green light for her to eat anything (with the exception of cow’s milk and honey which cannot be given until after the first birthday). Now the real fun begins!

All advice above is solely my personal opinion based on my experience. Always consult a medical professional with any medical concerns. 

 

 

How “clean” are your beauty products?

A few months ago, my daughter began collecting “pocket bacs,” the small, hand sanitizers from Bath & Body Works. Personally, I’m not a fan of the store- I feel like I get a headache from the scents just by walking in- but since she wasn’t actually using them (don’t even ask), I didn’t give it much thought.

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But then the obsession quickly grew to include their body washes and lotions, as well as body washes, lotions and bath bombs from other stores. I decided it was time to do a little research to see just what was in all of these products.

My first stop was Skin Deep, a great site where you can type in a product and get a rating on how good/bad it is based on the ingredients.  The only problem was most of the products I was looking up weren’t on there. Hmmm. I needed to do a bit of digging.

Have you heard of the “dirty dozen” for fruits and vegetables? Well, apparently there’s a list for chemicals too!

1. BHA and BHT– Used mainly in moisturizers and makeup as preservatives. Suspected endocrine disruptors and may cause cancer (BHA).
2. Coal tar dyes: p-phenylenediamine and colours listed as “CI” followed by a five digit number
In addition to coal tar dyes, natural and inorganic pigments used in cosmetics are also assigned Colour Index numbers (in the 75000 and 77000 series, respectively). Look for p-phenylenediamine hair dyes and in other products colours listed as “CI” followed by five digits.1 The U.S. colour name may also be listed (e.g. “FD&C Blue No. 1” or “Blue 1”). Potential to cause cancer and may be contaminated with heavy metals toxic to the brain.
3. DEA-related ingredients– Used in creamy and foaming products, such as moisturizers and shampoos. Can react to form nitrosamines, which may cause cancer.
4. Dibutyl phthalate– Used as a plasticizer in some nail care products. Suspected endocrine disrupter and reproductive toxicant.
5. Formaldehyde-releasing preservatives– Look for DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, methenamine and quarternium-15. Used in a variety of cosmetics. Slowly release small amounts of formaldehyde, which causes cancer.
6. Parabens– Used in a variety of cosmetics as preservatives. Suspected endocrine disrupters and may interfere with male reproductive functions.
7. Parfum (a.k.a. fragrance)– Any mixture of fragrance ingredients used in a variety of cosmetics — even in some products marketed as “unscented.” Some fragrance ingredients can trigger allergies and asthma. Some linked to cancer and neurotoxicity.
8. PEG compounds– Used in many cosmetic cream bases. Can be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, which may cause cancer. Also for related chemical propylene glycol and other ingredients with the letters “eth” (e.g., polyethylene glycol).
9. Petrolatum– Used in some hair products for shine and as a moisture barrier in some lip balms, lip sticks and moisturizers. A petroleum product that can be contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which may cause cancer.
10. Siloxanes– Look for ingredients ending in “-siloxane” or “-methicone.” Used in a variety of cosmetics to soften, smooth and moisten. Suspected endocrine disrupter and reproductive toxicant (cyclotetrasiloxane).
11. Sodium laureate sulfate– Used in foaming cosmetics, such as shampoos, cleansers and bubble bath. Can be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, which may cause cancer. Look also for related chemical sodium lauryl sulfate and other ingredients with the letters “eth” (e.g., sodium laureth sulfate).
12. Triclosan– Used in antibacterial cosmetics, such as toothpastes, cleansers and antiperspirants. Suspected endocrine disrupter and may contribute to antibiotic resistance in bacteria.

Pretty scary stuff, not to mention overwhelming. I decided we’d start by going paraben and BHA/BHT free.

Needless to say, my daughter was not thrilled when I began confiscating her products to analyze the ingredients. To include her in the process, I used this very cool, FREE app called Think Dirty. With this app, you can scan products with your phone and it will give you a score (much like the other website I mentioned but the scanner makes it fun!). Within moments, she was scanning away and screaming when she came across a 10 (“OMG! Get this out of here!“). I love that she could see that the items weren’t good  for her so she didn’t resist. She even joked she could become a “paraben hunter” 🙂

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Her products that she will no longer be using.

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My products that didn’t make the cut.

Do you have any favorite “clean” products? I’d love to hear about them!

 

Pregnant after 11 years!

Hi everyone!

So it’s been quite awhile and in case you’ve missed it, I’m pregnant! This will be baby #3 but since my youngest is 11, it quite honestly feels like baby #1.

(This is a second marriage for both myself and my husband. He has two sons from his first marriage; I have two daughters from my first marriage)

We found out in early November and shared the happy news over the holidays. We opted not to do a gender reveal party but still wanted to share the news with our family in a fun and exciting way. We did a reveal cake and it was great!

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It’s a GIRL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The first trimester was tough and I didn’t really start to feel better until about 15 weeks. Ginger ale (Whole Foods makes a good “natural” one), saltines, popsicles, and Preggie Pop Drops helped but honestly I was nauseous from the moment I woke up until I went to sleep at night 😦

Currently I’m 21 weeks and feeling great. I’m trying to work out 3x a week and am still doing The Bar Method. I gained a lot of weight with my last two pregnancies so I’m trying to be really conscious as to not gain as much but I’m also not stressing myself out over it. In the first trimester, all I wanted was carbs and I certainly wasn’t going to fight it.

I just bought some maternity clothes and I must say the fashion has improved greatly since I was pregnant last. I remember searching high and low for a good pair of maternity jeans and now all the great designers make a version- yay!

Here are some pics from 14 weeks and 17 weeks.

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xo,

Tanya

 

 

 

Dinnertime Organization

When I first got divorced, I vowed to continue to have sit down family dinners every night. This was a staple in my home growing up and I wanted my girls to have the same great memories of sitting around the table and discussing their days, while enjoying a good, home-cooked meal. This was no easy task given I was a single mom to two young children while working full-time and tutoring most afternoons until 5pm. I would then rush to pick my little one up from pre-school and get home around 6, just in time to face the ever-stressful dinnertime dilemma. Necessity is always the mother of invention so I developed a process of meal planning that helped me considerably. Even though I now have more time on my hands, I still use this system because hey, it works!

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On a Saturday or Sunday morning, I sit with my cup of coffee, my folder full of recipes I’ve torn out from magazines, my personal cookbook (more on that in a minute), and my computer so I can pull up recipes I’ve pinned on pinterest (follow me here!) and plan my meals for the week. I make a quick list- M, T, W, T, F and plan full meals (usually adding one or two desserts for the week) for each of the five days. For each meal, I list all of the ingredients I’ll need on my running grocery list which I keep on my phone.

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Recently, I’ve taken this one step further by listing all the meals on this great chalkboard I found at Home Goods. I also add a quote of the week that we spend some time discussing (it works great for discussing literal meanings versus the deeper meaning most quotes have). We also do something called “high/low” where each of  us talks about the high of our day and the low of our day (the lows are always interesting…I have found that here you’ll hear things that wouldn’t normally get brought up).

Now about that personal cookbook- it’s really important in my house! This blank cookbook was given to me by my grandmother when I first moved to college. She told me to fill it with the best recipes I could find and I take that task very seriously. Since I enjoy cooking and like to try new recipes, I scour recipes online, on pinterest and in magazines and try them out on my family. If the comments are “it’s ok” or “it’s good but it’s not great” we toss it. If everyone loves it, it goes into the book. The book is now filled with my family’s favorite recipes and both girls have asked numerous times about getting the book when they move out. I figure I’ll convert it into a hardcover book when the time comes and I already know how much they’ll cherish it. Find something similar here.

I usually make two to three recipes from the book that are tried and true and two to three new recipes each week. This way the girls always have a few dishes to look forward to and new dishes and foods to try.

So that’s how I do it and I have to say, dinner is one thing I don’t stress about. 15 minutes on a weekend morning and a few minutes here and there looking for recipes is all it takes to have 5 well-planned dinners throughout the week.

xo,

Tanya

Book Review- French Kids Eat Everything

Have a picky eater? Or are you a picky eater? If so, you simply must check this book out! The title caught my eye in the window of a bookstore. I’m notoriously picky and, unfortunately, my youngest is taking after me. I was ready to do something about it and this book came at just the right moment.

In this book, French Kids Eat Everything, the married, mother of two, recounts her experience of living in France for a year. She has come up with ten food “rules” and goes into great detail about how she formulated them, as well as her experiences, challenges, and successes.

I happened to be smack in the middle of this book when we took a trip to St. Barth’s. Primarily a french island, I had tons of opportunities to put into practice what I was reading all about. “You don’t have to like it but you do have to taste it,” applied to all of us (I tried tuna tataki, lobster risotto, and even foie gras!). Will I be ordering any of these any time soon? Probably not, but I set a great example and my little one ended up devouring fried shrimp. I said no to quite a few snacks and look forward to implementing le goûter (a scheduled, afternoon snack) once the school year starts.

Most of the rules are common sense when you stop to think about it, but the problem is, we often don’t stop and think about our eating habits and the habits our children are forming. I know snacking isn’t good for my daughter’s dinner appetite but I didn’t connect the dots that it may be the reason she’s not open to trying new things. And I certainly didn’t realize how many times she needed to taste something before she accepted it! This book definitely opened my mind on how I eat and how I feed my family.

Bon appetit!

Tanya

Turn Your Black Thumb Green

Ok, I’m determined. I can and I will turn my black thumb green.

I adore flowers, especially orchids, but can’t seem to keep anything alive more than a few days. Even hardy plants seem to wilt in my presence (I killed bamboo for goodness sakes! Who kills bamboo?!) but with my mind set, I know I can accomplish anything so here we go.

The girls would love a vegetable garden but considering my past history and after doing some research, it seems herbs are a better place to start. I went to my local nursery (farmers’ markets are also a good choice) and picked up organic potting soil, three beautiful pots that fit perfectly on my windowsill, and some seeds. I will give updates if anyone’s interested and would love to hear any tips from my fellow gardeners. With any luck, I’ll have some fresh herbs to add to my fall meals. Listed below are the basics to get started in case anyone is a novice like me.

Source: http://www.oprah.com/food/The-Urban-Herbalist#ixzz1TGZkgTt5

  • Light: Herbs love the sun, so choose a spot with plenty of it. Southern exposure is ideal, but any bright window with four hours of direct sun will do.
  • Containers: Pot especially pungent herbs like cilantro, mint, basil, and lavender individually, so their roots don’t overwhelm one another. Try planting other varieties together in a single hanging basket or a long ceramic trough. Choose containers with holes in the bottom for drainage.
  • Soil: Fill the pot with potting soil, which is lightweight and drains quickly.
  • Water: Allow the soil to become dry before watering. Pay attention to shifts in temperature—consider air-conditioning, radiator heat, and seasonal variation in sunshine—and adjust your watering schedule accordingly (anywhere from once a week to once a day during hot spells).
xo,
Tanya