Curious Minds Want to Know...

...Ok, well maybe none of you are curious as to why I don't have tons of posts.  But in case you are - it is because I've opened up my Etsy shop and started a second blog for it.  I've been busy trying to create new items for my shop and been busy keeping this house "show worthy".  I thought my cats were supposed to keep the house clean but they leave fur-bunnies and trophies from their latest "play dates" all over the house.  They are busy kitties.

So go check out the Element-OP blog, facebook page, or my Etsy shop to learn more about my chemistry-inspired creations!

I'll still update this blog with happenings though, so don't worry - all 3 of my followers! :p


The Newest Diet Craze

(at least it is at my house).

Have a baby, wait about a year and then loose weight like no other diet!  It is the "you aren't allowed your own food anymore because anything on your plate is really my food" diet!  Guaranteed to help you never eat a full meal again!  Even your drinks are not safe! 

I don't think I've eaten anything without little hands claiming some of it since September...

But who can deny this face?  Especially when she signs "more please" and shakes her head yes with a big grin. 

Now I know how my mom felt when I "shared" her lunch with her.


Toddler Travel Tips - Part 2

Sorry for the long absence - I had this post ready to go but things have been crazy in the Cassell Household the last few weeks.  I've been getting things ready to start my own etsy shop!  I just got pictures taken yesterday, so hopefully in the next week, I'll be able to make my listings!  So very excited!

So on to the post!  In my previous post I talked about plane travel with a young toddler.  As jam packed as that was with info, there are more things to consider, like what do you actually bring (other than your toddler of course).

1.  Carseat, base and stroller.  For us, she is still way under 30 pounds and is in her Chicco Keyfit 30 still.  This works out well because her stroller is the frame stroller and is very lightweight.  I used a Mommy Hook to attach the base to her stroller while we were walking around the airport.  It worked out really well. 

You could rent a carseat from the car rental company, but you never know what you will get and in what kind of condition it will be in.  This way you have a safe, clean, familiar place to put them while running around the airport (or a really great luggage cart to lug your stuff around in).

These items gate check free!  We used this bag which was worth the price and held up really well.  You can also put other things in it like coats.  I would think that if she were in the next size up carseat we would have brought it and gotten one of these nifty frames for it.  Researching online and talking to a few friends who have traveled with their little ones, it seems like the travel frame is a good option.  All children under 2 fly for free if they sit on your lap, which unless your child is a wiggle worm or if you have a particularly long flight, I would just hold them on your lap. 

2. Toys!  I brought some new, novel toys and some familiar ones.  This worked out pretty well.  Also, when picking out the toys, bring things that, if they were thrown and lost, you wouldn't fret about later.  I packed them all up in one of those zippered shoe bags that are used for travel and put it in her suitcase so it wouldn't be hard to find them.  I just used a small gym duffle bag for her carry on so we could get into it during the flight.  We also brought 4-5 books since she loves books so much.  I only brought one stuffed animal and her glow worm.  I didn't want to over-do the stuffed animals because they take up a lot of room.  (Though if you bring a glow worm, flip the switch to off or take out a battery during travel - it will go off and waste the batteries and you will be sad when you get to your hotel at 11pm and the thing won't turn on).

You only need enough to hold their interest on the plane at at the hotel room, if you are spending any time in it, so don't over do it on toys.

Just in case you are wondering, she had a few shapes from a Tupperware shape-o-toy.  She loves holding one in each hand.  She also had some of her "favorite" toys which were some wooden flower shapes, a couple rings from a ring stack toy, and some plastic block squares (about 3"x3" big) that have different parts in the middle (an hourglass, parts that move, etc).  Her grandma and grandpa gave her a new Duplo book, a new fabric book that has an interactive piece to it and some other small things she could hold.

3. Skip the PacknPlay or crib.  Call ahead to your hotels and ask if they have something available.  Both of our hotels did and it was free.  I brought a pair of crib sheets with me just in case, but didn't have to use it at one of the hotels.  The first hotel had a metal crib.  I wiped it down with a travel clorox wipe and the wipe was clean when I was done!  Still made me feel better though.  And the sheets were clean so she just slept in that crib.
Looks like a mini baby jail!

At the second hotel we are pretty sure they had gone out to buy the pack n play because it smelled brand new, had no stains or weird markings, and had all of the parts when he brought it to us (changing pad, newborn booster, mobile).  I put a sheet down on this since there wasn't a sheet that came with it.

Depending on where you travel, you might want to think about getting one of those travel cribs, but going to an affluent part of California, I didn't think we had to worry and it turned out great.

4. A harness of some kind.  Since she is getting older and doesn't really want to chill out in a stroller and wants to be eye-level with everything, I just pop her in the harness when we do any walking.  She is about 20 pounds so it does get heavy over time, but it is better than bringing another stroller.  (You could purchase a cheap, $20 umbrella stroller at your destination if you feel like a stroller is a must with your kid.  (Of course I'm wearing the same shirt in these pictures - our hotel had a washer machine.)

It worked out great for us.  When I got tired of carrying her, she went to her dad and loved it.  Or we would put her down and let her walk...which brings me to my next point - shoes!

5.  Baby shoes.  Whichever kind you get, get something that will stay on their feet...and something in dark colors.  Her cute pink shoes took quite the beating while becoming a world traveler.  I'm glad her shoes were so dirty instead of her tiny feet.

Her cute pink shoes got really dirty, I wish I had gotten some black ones instead.

6.  General baby gear.  I brought 4 sippy cups, 3 spoons, a snack cup, and 3 silicone bibs.  Everything I brought had few parts and could be washed off in a sink.  The bibs are great because you don't have to worry about washing them.  You could even just wipe them down and then put them in the bag.  I kept the spoons and bibs in a quart sized plastic baggie along with the lids to her sippy cups.  The amount worked out well for us for the week and a half we were there.  When we got to California, I just picked up a small bottle of dish soap for like 87cents.  If I had thought ahead (and had room in the TSA liquid bag) I would have put some from home in a container.

If in doubt, there are probably going to be babies were you are traveling, so you can probably get most of what you would want/need at your destination.  If you don't have room for diapers you can always order some online and have them delivered to the hotel's front desk and have them waiting for you when you arrive (you can also do this for baby food, wipes, pretty much anything baby-related).

One last tip is - call ahead.  Call them a few times if you want.  After talking with the hotel probably the third time, I realized that the bathroom didn't necessarily have a tub.  I had to special request that we had a tub so I could give her a bath.  I also found out that our second hotel that we spent a week at had free laundry services which included soap and softener.  (I did bring some of these just in case I didn't like the kind they had.)  They also had min-fridges in the room so I could buy some milk and I could request a microwave for free.  Unfortunately the hotel was in the middle of renovations on their restaurant so there wasn't a complimentary hot breakfast option available, but they had some fruit, juice and pastries available each morning.

Is there anything else I missed that you have found to be invaluable?  Or do you have any other tips or questions about something I may have left out?  Leave a comment below!


Leaving on a Jet Plane...with a 13 month old!

I don't know if I'm more crazy than I think sometimes, but the temptation was too great to pass up this chance.  My husband is a PhD student and had a paper accepted to a conference in California - a week-long conference!  At first I was so excited to finally go to California, or at least go in a not-growing-in-my-mommy's-tummy capacity.  Then reality started in with logistics for a 13-month old on a cross-country plane trip for a week. 

I read a lot of blogs and they all pretty much said exactly what my parents have always said "you can do anything you were going to do without a kid, with a kid, except it takes a little more planning".  So with that in mind, I spent the next few weeks preparing.  I took note of what things we used daily that I liked to have and those that I didn't think I could get by without.  There are a lot of elements to the trip and I'll probably have to do more than one blog post to discuss them all.  I'll focus on the plane trip for this post.

Top 15 Tips for a plane trip with a lap infant:

15. Wherever you are going, chances are, there are babies there too.  I almost brought her to Turkey when she was 5 months old.  Thinking about logistics was kind of nerve-racking until I realized this.  We ended up not going and only my husband went (for another paper he got published), but looking back, it would have actually been easier then at 5 months than it was at 13 months, but it really wasn't that hard this time either.  I'm pretty sure everyone has seen a baby in person and has had to hear them cry from time to time. Also, if you forget to bring extra diapers, food, or even a crib - chances are, you will be able to buy or rent wherever you are headed. Though I would advise against renting diapers and food, probably not the best idea.

14.  Clean your house before you leave.  Sounds strange, but when you get home you won't have to do anything but clean up yourselves and do the laundry.  Getting back into the swing of things is tough after a long trip with an infant, so one less thing for you to worry about is always a bonus.

13. When it comes to choosing your flight, I don't think it matters between a layover or direct flight, at least for our family.  We had a layover on the way there and a direct flight on the way back.  Our flight leaving was early and, with the time change, we didn't get in until dinner time.  This kind of helped because after such a big day, I gave her a bath and put her to bed and we could start new the next morning instead of trying to cram an adventure in.  On the way back we left in the afternoon which allowed us to sleep in and we got back to our airport around 9pm with an hour drive home.  This worked out because there was no traffic on the way home and Little One fell asleep and was easily transitioned into her crib when we got home.  Trying to plan flights around nap times isn't always feasible.  Unless your kid is a super schedule orientated baby, it probably won't matter as long as you tucker them out before the flight.

 12.  I got this tip from another blog, I can't remember which one.  Make sure your lap child is registered with the airline.  Aria got her own ticket for the flight that said "lap infant".  Our airports didn't require her to have her own ID to go through security, but depending on your destination or airport, they might, so be sure to check with them.  Depending on where your seat is, some rows will not allow lap infants (like exit rows) and depending on how many lap infants you have, may require you to split up your seating due to available oxygen masks per row.

11.  Get over a fear of germs.  Since I stay at home, Aria doesn't get the typical dose of random germs from a daycare.  I was slightly worried about her getting some kind of crazy sickness while we were traveling but I had to get over it.  I did bring both Clorox wipes for the plane and antibacterial wipes for her hands, but I never actually used them on the planes.  And an added bonus: none of us got sick the whole time (and three days later are still not sick!).  I did, however, wash her puppy when we got to the hotel (ours had free washer and dryer services, be sure to check into that when booking).  She had drug him all over the terminals and dropped him a good number of times on the plane.  After a day of traveling, he was slightly moist and had some pink stuff on him.  I think it was some pouch food, but who knows.  I did wipe her hands down before we got on the plane, after crawling all over the airport.  She loves to feed herself Cheerios, and sometimes shares with Mommy and Daddy - I definitely don't want her eating everyone's foot germs too.

10.  A camera.  You have to capture the good, bad, and sleepy times on the airplane and at the airport terminal.

9. A charged iPod or other music device for yourself.  Once they go to sleep, it is loud on the airplane and if you want some rest, something to keep you occupied that doesn't involve using your hands (since you'll be holding a sleeping tot) is awesome.

8. A plan for a diaper change.  We luckily didn't have to change her on the actual airplane.  About 15-20 minutes before first boarding, one of us took her to the bathroom at the terminal to change her.  Our airplanes had changing areas in the lavatories, but not all planes do.  We had a lot of turbulence on our flights as well, which made them keep the seat belt sign on for most of the flight.  Changing a wiggly babies diaper on a changing table in an airplane bathroom during turbulence was not on my list of things to do.  Luckily we didn't have to check it off.

7. A plan for your luggage.  I was an awesome packer and packed the three of us into two carry-on rolling bags, a diaper bag* for her and a backpack for our change of clothes, my iPod, purse things, etc.  We were in one of the last boarding groups so we got to check our bags for free at the gate (different than gate check) -  they were sent to our final destination - on our flights going to and coming from.  This saved us 50$ each way!  If you can pack it into carry-on bags, don't pay to check it.  Wait and see if they can at the gate.  I also got this really nifty bag from Amazon that protected her carseat and base.  It isn't for checking, just gate checking where you pick it up at each stop.  It kept her carseat free from germs and rain, plus it was inexpensive.
*Her diaper bag was just a plain duffle bag, kind of like this one, but just grey and black,  that we packed all the stuff below into.  A regular diaper bag has too much padding and was too small for all the stuff we needed to put into it.  And since it was a diaper bag which only had her items in it, it was a "free" bag and didn't count as our two allowed carry-on bags.
All of our baggage for a week and a few days.  Luckily she is still small enough to fit into her infant seat.  Another good tip - run around the terminals with them so they are more inclined to sleep during the flight.

6. A change of clothes - for all travellers.  We are also lucky that we didn't have to use our backup clothes, but I had them in our easy access carry-on bag in case.  Since it was her first flight, I didn't know if she would get sick (I do on planes) or if she would spill all her food on us or if she would have an inoportune diaper blow-out.  Being prepared for most situations can put you at ease.  Also, dress casually to begin with.  Don't wear a new pair of shoes that aren't broken in.  Don't wear a ton of jewelry that Little One will want to yank on, unless it is intended for that.  I also didn't wear makeup so I didn't have to worry about it getting messed up all day.  I put her in dark colored pants in case she had a blow-out, so I wouldn't have to worry about staining.  Her top was just a play shirt that I didn't mind if it got stained, but colorful so I could find her if she happened to get loose in a terminal I would be able to spot her (she was in a baby carrier at the airports but planning for the worst made me calm down). Side note: this has been an awesome carrier for only 16$.

5. A favorite stuffed animal or toy.  Having a familiar doll (or puppy in Aria's case) to hug can put them at ease.  It probably seems crazy to her that there were so many people just sitting in this loud thing.  She also had some of her favorite books and some small toys that we wouldn't be too sad if they ended up missing.  I did bring some new toys that she hadn't seen before but she didn't want to play with them as much as the toys she already knew she liked.  That is not how she normally is, but like I said, it was a strange adventure and she probably just wanted to be comforted.  And when those don't work, letting her take everything out of the seatback pocket and tearing up the Skymall works too.  Be sure to thank your flight attendants!  Your seating area will most likely look like a tornado hit when you leave.

Aria hugging her Ladybug Girl book and Puppy.  (Sorry it is blurry)

4.  An arsenal of lullabies.  No one can hear you with the cabin air going, so singing them to sleep works awesomely.  She was so tired but isn't used to sleeping on us, in fact, she has never really fallen asleep on us.  This was the part I was most worried about.  But I just held her and sang and she hugged her puppy and eventually fell asleep.

On our way to Cali.

On the flight back home.  (Yes we both wore the same outfits.)

3.  Have a snack container with dry snack food.  We used Cheerios, which were probably too small for the opening and got all over the place.  But she had fun doing it, which kept her quiet, which is what any parent really wants on a plane.

Snack cup of Cheerios.

2. Have an abundance of pouch baby food.  She self-weened at almost 10 months, so I couldn't rely on nursing her to relieve any pressure.  I took 15 pouches on the flights to and from California.  She normally just gets these when we are out and about and can eat about 2 each time (in addition to other food), but I knew that with cabin pressure from take off and with boredom, she would want to eat more.  These pouch things were awesome.  Also, you are allowed to take them through security.  You just have to take them out and they will have to do the swab test on them.  So thankful I didn't have to try to scrounge something up at the airport for her to eat.  Just be sure to have them in a bag so it is easier to put into those grey bins.  I just had hers in a grocery bag in the diaper bag.  I also got some shelf stable organic milk for her to have on the airplane.

About 10 minutes before we boarded on the first flight.  I think she was unsure of what was going on.  She had like 3 hours of sleep the night before and it was about 7am.  She normally wakes up in the late afternoon.

I love my pouch food...and my parents.

1.  A relaxed attitude.  Your little one picks up cues off of you even when you don't realize it.  If you are antsy and worried about every little detail being perfect, they will get antsy and whiny too.  On the other hand, sometimes the best behaved baby can have a bad day and cry the most blood-curdling cry for 5 hours straight and stop the minute you get off the plane.  Things happen.  You can't make every passenger on the plane happy, especially the one smooshed up against you in your row.  Although I think some people weren't happy there were kids (there were actually a ton of kids on all three of our flights), they got over it.  No one gave us angry glares when she cried or when she wouldn't stop kicking the chair in front of us.  It is just for one plane ride and then you won't ever see them again.  Say sorry to the person in front of you and thank them for being understanding.  Just try to mentally prepare yourself for the possibilities and go with the flow.  Clothes can be washed, babies will eventually get too tired to cry anymore and fall asleep (even if it is when you get to your hotel), and it is an adventure and memories that you are giving to your child (and yourself). 
"Where in the world are we, Mom?"
In my next post I will talk about what gear to bring, what to leave at home and what I wish I had brought.


Busy Times and a Link to a Giveaway

Aria went to the park for the first time today!  It was a lot less exciting than I had imagined it in my head.  We would go and she would love swinging in the swing, with the wind in her little hair and she would squeal and kick her little legs.  Then we would go down the slide a few times and she would clap and point to go up it again.  Then we would run around (with me holding her hands cause that little girl still isn't walking!).  It would be magical.

Instead she sat in the mulch and picked at it (it was rubbery mulch stuff for kids to play on) and she would pick up a piece and pretend like she was going to hand it to me, I would reach for it, and then she quickly clutched it to her chest.  I kept trying to get her to play with the other kids her age.  Nope, she just sat there in the mulch babbling away to herself.  Or she would just sit and stare at the other kids, like a creeper.  She needs some more socializing.  I think we will go to the park again tomorrow.
She did not like the swing, but she liked staring at the kids on the other swings.

Clutching onto her dear mulch

I like the playground, Mom!

Staring at kids, being a baby creeper.

She was wiped out when we got home so I put her down for a nap and got the butternut squash all cut up and into a baking pan so I could make her some baby food.  I am getting pretty tired of making her the same squash meal, so I'm sure she is tired of eating it too.  So I went online and found this awesome website, Weelicoius.com, that has some pretty good recipes on it.  And, lucky me, Ergobaby Blog is giving away a cookbook!  Score!  So, you should check out Ergobaby Blog and Weelicoius and see how easy it is to make homemade baby food.  Plus, Catherine is a pretty awesome name, if I do say so myself.


Strawberry Lemonade Popsicles and big news!

For my birthday, well I guess really for Aria's birthday, but in my mind it was for my birthday, my parents gave her me a Hamilton Beach Fast Pop Maker.  Have you guys seen these or used a similar brand?  It is so flippin sweet! (pun unintended, but I'm keeping it).

I didn't exactly like the recipes that were in the booklet so I made up my own since I had a ton of lemons and a ton of strawberries on hand and wanted to use them.  Please excuse the iPhone pictures, I have been crazy busy cleaning getting the house ready for showings!  That's right!  The big news:  The house is officially up for SALE!!!  Let the offers commence!  (Well, at least in my head they are all vying for the house, even if that isn't true in real life).

Anyway, here is the recipe I made up.

Strawberry Lemonade Popsicle Starter

1.5 cups of fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 cup water
1 cup sugar (I know I could have used something else here, but I was in a rush and knew I had it on hand)
1 package fresh strawberries, washed and tops cut off
plus some extra cold water

In a saucepan heat the water and sugar and cook until dissolved all the way.  Once the mixture is dissolved, let the pan cool.  After it has cooled, add in the lemon juice.

While the sugar water is cooking, put the strawberries in a processor (I used Aria's baby bullet) and puree them up.

Add both solutions together in a pitcher and add cold water until the pitcher is full (not exact science for this one, the more water you add, the less tart it will be later though).

Let it chill in the fridge.  This works out because the pop maker needs to freeze for 24 hours before making the pops.
juicing an endless sea of lemons

we just made two...at first

waiting 9-11 minutes

Brad releasing the pops from the mold

action shot

Ta Da!  Delicious homemade popsicle!

So as far as the pops go, you just add the juice to the pop maker and let it sit for 9-11 minutes, use the gizmo to pop the popsicle out and voila, strawberry lemonade popsicle!

Brad liked them a lot and asked for some different flavors.  He thought it was a bit too tart, but I liked them the way they were.  The batch will most likely make a ton of popsicles since we have made 4 and it hasn't really made a dent in it.  I will most likely add some more water to the mixture so that Aria doesn't have a pucker face the whole time when we make some for her tomorrow.

One really cool feature with this one is that you can immediately freeze another batch, which of course we had to  try out.  They turned out as delicious as the first!

There are a ton of other maker gizmos out there and are actually quite affordable, especially when they are gifts!  Thanks Mommy and Daddy!


Link Love: Giveaway at Oops, I Craft My Pants Blog

So Kira over at Oops, I Craft My Pants is hosting an awesome giveaway of a Simple Crocheting book.  (BTW, how awesome is that blog name?).  She makes the original Wizard of Oz bookmarks and came up with this awesome idea for free chip-clips that you've probably seen on Pinterest.  She also makes a lot of really neat altered art from recycled materials and scraps from other projects.  I love all the inking she does with her projects, it really makes me want to get out my alcohol inks and create some awesomeness.  You should most definitely check out her blog.

Anyway, back to the giveaway... Crocheting is probably the last crafting type thing that I have yet to try.  I see all these great pins on Pinterest which makes me really want to try it, but then in real life, I never get the motivation to actually do it because it looks too hard and I have a million other great crafty things I really want to make too, and know how to do. 

Maybe I'll win it and make this awesome bracelet.  Maybe I won't but will still try it out...one day.  I really want to crochet Aria some awesome food for her kitchen, but don't have a lot of motivation to do it because my older sister is making her tons of awesome crocheted food already.  Hmm, crafting decisions...

Anyway, head on over here to enter her giveaway before September 10!  There are three ways to enter!