Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Rocking Chair

Ava received a fun birthday gift from her grandma and grandpa Berkey that also has some family history.

Her grandparents came down to celebrate with us for her ladybug-theme first birthday party and brought Ava her very own kid-sized wooden rocking chair. The chair is a replica of a rocking chair that they originally got for Aaron when he was a baby. Ava gets to follow the fun tradition and have her own special chair like her Daddy.

Even though she's only a year old, she knows how to rock in it and laughs the entire time! She gets the rocking action going and then over time starts to inch forward. As she scoots forward, she eventually launches herself forward and lands on the floor on her feet. Good thing Mommy and Daddy are close by to make sure she doesn't fall and hurt herself. It's very entertaining for all of us!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Super Easy Homemade and Healthy Refried Beans

A few weeks ago, I shared on the blog that I have been cooking dried beans in the slow cooker as one of our main sources of protein since we have become full-time vegetarians. The method I use for cooking dried beans is soak overnight, slow cook all day, then store. The time saving tip is that I make big batches to use in multiple meals for the week. Check out my post for more. Beans are so versatile!

Pinto beans is one of our favorites and eating them brings me back to my Mexican heritage. They're so affordable! Organic pinto beans are about $1.60 per lb from the bulk bin at Whole Foods. What a steal when you think about the nutritional value you're getting from those beans. I often cook pinto beans to use for vegetarian enchilada casserole or just serve them plain on rice with a bit of sour cream and salsa. I reserve the leftover cooked pinto beans with some cooking liquid for refried beans. If I don't have time to make refried beans that week, I'll pop the container in the freezer and defrost it when I'm ready. I usually put the frozen beans in the refrigerator in the morning before work and it will be defrosted by evening.

Buying refried beans in a can is convenient, but you have to careful for the additives in some brands. And it's so easy to make them yourself with pinto or black beans, especially if you planned ahead and had cooked beans stored in the refrigerator.

My mom and grandmother used to make refried beans with lard when I was growing up. Now, my mom and I use heart-healthy olive oil. They're a staple to serve as a side dish or eggs in the morning. Check out my packable 5-minute egg breakfast burrito recipe.

Quick method for Healthy Refried Beans:
  • Start with cooked pinto beans with reserved cooking liquid, which is why you need to cook from dried beans so you can use the cooking water for the refried beans. Use whatever you have leftover like 3-4 cups (including the liquid). Set aside.
  • Warm a heavy pot or large skillet on medium heat.
  • Generous drizzle of olive oil. Add about 1-2 cloves of crushed garlic to the pan and cook for 1 minute. Add cooked beans and reserved liquid.
  • Using a potato masher, mash the beans and mix into the liquid as you're working. Check out the picture above. Eventually, it will be thick and creamy. The consistency may be thinner than the canned version.
  • You can add other seasoning like chili powder or cumin, but I prefer to keep it simple because it tastes more authentic to me.
  • Add a sprinkle of sea salt.
Serve as a side dish or the main ingredient for bean and rice burritos. Smear on a tortilla for a tostada and add your favorite toppings such as diced tomato, salsa, sour cream, cheese, avocado, cilantro, green onion, or lettuce. Or use the beans in a Mexican dip.

The beans can be stored for up to a week in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

As a working mom, making refried beans from our leftover cooked beans is such an easy way to make a quick dinner on a week night. We serve our burritos or tacos with fresh fruit. Enjoy!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Lady Bug Birthday

We had fun celebrating Ava's first birthday last Saturday! We hit this milestone so quickly! The theme of the party was ladybugs, which was one of my childhood favorites. We hosted Aaron's grandmother, parents, and his sister and her family for the weekend. Our friends came over to celebrate with us during the party. One of Ava's caregivers from daycare came to the party with her son, which was fun. We had the party at 3pm to give us time to prep food and I thought later it was perfect since Ava was born at 3:33pm. It turned out to be a sunny afternoon, which was perfect for our spring baby.

Our little ladybug birthday girl was in a great mood all afternoon! She played in the morning and grandma gave her a bath while I was prepping the food. She took a 2-hour nap just before the party started so she was very playful during the party. It was funny to see her look around at everyone because she knew all of them, but I bet she was wondering what they were all doing there at the same time.

I made red velvet cupcakes with red-dyed chocolate frosting. I added chocolate chips to the cupcakes and the chocolate frosting which had brewed co. I also made a two-layer chocolate cake and used the same red frosting and the middle layer was vanilla pudding. The pudding layer was a disaster because it oozed out of the side. I didn't even put it out on display at the party. When it came time to serve the cake, we served pieces of it and it was all gobbled up. It tasted great, but wasn't pretty. I made a veggie pizza, 7-layer Mexican dip, and a fruit platter.

I decorated with lady bug pop-up toys, a ladybug splash mat as a table cloth, and lots of red balloons. I put daffodils everywhere in the house with the ladybug toys. I didn't want to overdo it.

Ava enjoyed opening her presents. She got books, clothes, toys, a cute bunny bath towel, and a personalized growth chart to hang in her bedroom. Grandma and Grandpa gave Ava a kid-sized rocking chair the same as they had for Aaron when he was a baby. Ava's friend, Violet, sat with her while she opened presents. She had fun watching her cousin, Colin, run around the house all weekend, too! Her eyes are glued on him.

Then came time for Ava to try her cupcake. We sang Happy Birthday to her and gathered around her. Aaron and I blew out her candle and then she looked at it unsure on what to do next. I offered it to her and she opened her mouth to taste it. She was hooked! At first, she didn't know what to do, but she tried diving for it to lick it. Eventually, I pulled off some pieces of cake and she was not shy about putting in her mouth. Aaron and I were shocked since she barely eats any food! It was fun to see her eating and with the unmistakable "red" lipstick. Our friend, Shawn, took some amazing pictures of Ava while she ate her cake. I'll post them to the blog when I get the files, but for now they are on my Facebook profile page. He did an amazing job!

We are planning to take some family pictures in April after the spring blooms start coming up. Shawn loves to take photos outside and it will be prettier when we have some green and spring flowers.

On her birthday, it was emotional for me thinking about her birth and how much we've enjoyed Ava's first year! She's truly a dream come true for me. Ava has been so entertaining and we love her snuggles and laughs.

Now some growth stats from Ava's 1-year doctor's visit.
21lbs and 1oz 50th percentile
30 1/2 inches height 90th percentile
46 cm head size 80th percentile

Ava's weight gain has slowed down, but that's normal for her age because she's using more energy for moving around. She's still very tall, which I suspected because we're out of some 12-month clothes already and onto 18-months. Ava is as tall as the average 16-month old. She has a healthy appetite. She still waits for when we're together to nurse. Ava's caregivers are great about feeding her milk on-demand and in general she takes about 9-oz on a full-day. We're going to work with her on her sippy cup skills so she will take her milk in the sippy instead of the bottle in the next couple months. Then she'll get to nurse when we're together.

Ava's tastes for foods is growing, too! Right now, Ava is enjoying:
  • Mashed banana with plain yogurt (sweetened with a bit of maple syrup)
  • Pureed mango with plain yogurt (similar to my morning smoothie which she likes to sip)
  • Steamed sweet potatoes
  • Cinnamon applesauce
  • Butternut squash
  • Likes to lick orange slices
  • Self-feeding puffs, mum-mums, and LOVES yogurt bites
We give Ava food from our meal and it ends up all on the floor! We've been eating orange slices a lot because they are in season so they're coming in our produce box. It's funny because she asks for the rind and mimics us eating the orange. It's really funny because she only does it with the rind and not with the actual orange flesh. She even makes the sounds. Funny!

I have lots of food that I've made for Ava in the freezer and we've avoided store-bought food (except for puffs and yogurt bites, which are great because they're easy for her to eat). She's trying zucchini, beets, egg yolk, mashed avocado, and a soup I made for both of us this week - leek, potato, and peas. She seemed to enjoy it.

One thing is for sure, Ava is very strong willed just like her mommy and daddy. She is relentless about going after the TV remote, cell phone, or the cabinets in the bathroom. She has quite the dramatic flair too when she wants her way! Ava is having fun moving around and she loves to stand up.

We're having lots of fun with our little 1-year old!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

New Breastfeeding Journey....Helping Other Moms

Now that we're about to celebrate Ava's first birthday, we have been through a lot with nursing together. We had a challenging first few weeks to get started, but soon enough we got into a rhythm and like other breastfeeding moms know, now we can both breastfeed in our sleep! Along the way with working full time, teething, or with Ava's developmental phases, it's been so amazing to have the support and advice from other experienced nursing mothers from my La Leche League group. The organization offers mother-to-mother support with the backing of an international body that uses everything from scientific research to practical mother's wisdom to help breastfeeding families manage their everyday lifestyle within a bottle-feeding mainstream culture. If I have a question about food introduction or family sleeping strategies, I ask the group. I've become empowered by going to the meetings from the knowledge shared and in the early days it was great to learn to nurse Ava in public discreetly by watching other experienced mothers.

I've learned first-hand that being a breastfeeding mother from newborn to now at almost a year, has cemented a foundation for our mother-daughter relationship that will last our lifetimes. It's a relationship that takes effort, but it's so rewarding! When the babies in Ava's nursery at daycare are sick with RSV, pneumonia, or high fevers, Ava either avoids the bug or gets a milder form since she's getting antibodies in her milk. As a working mother, it's a relief to know that Ava is in good health and that I don't have to take excessive time off of work because she's sick. Another advantage for me is that while she's still ramping up on eating solid foods and only tasting foods, I don't have to worry about her nutrition since mother's milk is designed by nature for babies and toddlers to thrive.

Now it's my turn to give back! Last month, I was invited to a coffee meeting for members that were considering becoming a co-leader in the group. I was honored and excited that they thought of it. Aaron's mom served as a LLL leader when her kids were growing up and I felt like it was a great way to continue the family tradition.

For the next nine months, I will be my accreditation process with three other mothers that are going through the process at the same time as me. I'm also going to a La Leche League area conference in April here in Indy for a weekend. Babies and small children are welcome to attend. I love that through this process, Ava will be with me at all the meetings because she's part of the process! In the next months, I will do tons of reading with many different subjects around breastfeeding and in the end, I'll be able to support more moms and families. I knew it was my calling because since I've become a mother, I've become so passionate for breastfeeding and through that many friends have asked me questions. I'd love to help more women that want to make breastfeeding a core part of their parenting. I'm so excited for my new journey....