Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter, Love the Valdez's

Friday, March 22, 2013

Women, Beautiful & Insecure

It was happening again. As Ezra stared at his reflection happily, blissfully unaware that the baby in front of himself was, indeed himself, I, on the other hand, was too painstakingly aware that the reflection was me.

I don't think I am ugly. I workout hard & eat a decent diet so I can maintain a size four. And I grew up with a mom who told me every day how beautiful I was & a husband who continues to do so.

But, it doesn't matter.  I still have moments when I look in the mirror & find fault with the image staring back at me.

from 31 Women in Art
I could tell you that the reason I sometimes am unhappy with myself is all society's fault- they toss around airbrushed images of flawless beauty queens on every magazine page & television screen & I try to measure up to that.

However, I refuse to blame insecurity on society, because I have a feeling that women have been feeling insecure long before airbrushing became the norm.

Women, you are beautiful.

 But, you are also insecure.

 Your greatest flaw is not the bump in your nose, or the cellulite on your thighs, your fault is that you find fault in the flaws that make you an individual.

I have met some of the most physically eye-pleasing women, only to find out, they are sometimes the most painfully insecure, and I think to myself, "if you're that good-looking & still insecure, what hope is there for everyone else?!"

photo by Nagi Sakai

It's almost like they know they got so close to perfection that they obsess with the one or two things that keep them from it.

Of late, I realized how sexy confidence is. When a confident woman walks into a room, no matter how quiet or subtle her demeanor, watch everyone notice her. Watch women flock to her.

Because she embraces who God designed her to be, she makes no excuses for her quirks, but laughs at them with ease, and other women feel comfortable in her presence. It makes them feel better about their own flaws to see a woman embracing hers.

I believe God created women as the EPITOME of BEAUTIFUL.  It's in her subtle movements, the way she swings her hips, the way she always knows best. It's in the way she is honest with herself, & selfless in her nurturing. It's in the way she is fierce or meek, or both. It's in the curve of her smile, the light in her eyes. It's in her willingness to love & be loved. 

You see, a woman who is confident in her God given body, mind & spirit, that is beautiful.

 Women, you are beautiful, I only pray you know it too.

In the next week, I will introduce you to women that have decided to share with you why they are beautiful, whether it be a picture, words, or both. This is a campaign to instill confidence where it may have been lost. 


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Baby Led Weaning vs. The Puree & Tips for Starting Solids

Ezra is edging ever closer to that infamous six month mark. You know, the mark when he will start reaching for food off of MY fork and sticking it into HIS mouth. I still can't believe he'll be capable of that so soon!

I can't believe my peanut is almost 5 months!
But, I am hesitant to start him on food. We've got a good thing going right now. I eat & he gets it secondhand- one meal, two full bellies. Do I really want to go through all the extra effort of making his meals on top of mine?

That's when I started researching. Turns out, you can actually go a few different routes.

But first, here are good pointers from Best Foods for Your Baby & Toddler on when to start solids.

1). When baby reaches for food with that "I want that!" attitude. Babies will also try for silverware too because it's shiny so don't let that fool you.

2). If baby still seems hungry after a feeding, wants to eat quicker than normal after feedings, and/or starts waking up for more night feedings, first try increasing nursing/bottles, but know this may be a sign of readiness.

3). If baby uses the extrusion reflux to push food out, wait a few more weeks before introducing. Baby isn't ready yet...

Ok, and now on to the different routes of introducing solids!

Route 1: Down with the mush! Would you want to eat mush? Yuck. Baby Led Weaning, as it's called, is a term related to introducing your child to table foods you eat, but in smaller bite size pieces. As the advocates of BLW say, "No purees, no ice cube trays, no food processor, no potato masher, no baby rice, no weird fruit and veg combos… just you and your child, eating food that you enjoy with you and your family."

One of the main reasons I like this approach is that it teaches a child to chew first, then swallow. It also allows baby to experience different textures early on, and forces you to eat healthier.  And, come on, could it get ANY easier?

If you find this is a suitable route for you, I would follow the guidelines outlined on (beware of the British terminology). Those guideines are as follows:
  1. Have a good trawl on the internet for blogs, info and in particular video clips of BLW babies. Seeing little tiny 6-month-old babies demolishing their food and hearing the gasps of admiration from the proud parent behind the camera (and by parent I mean Dad. It’s always the Dad), will do your confidence the power of good.
  2. Next, forget ‘baby food’. Food’s food, as long as you’re not adding salt. To start off with, think chip-sized because it’s an easy shape for little 6-month-olds to grip, but you’ll soon move on to smaller pieces as it’s more interesting for a child developing a pincer grip.
  3. As a first food most people steam carrots (to about the degree that they can be smushed ‘twixt your thumb and finger), cut up cucumbers, make toast fingers or crinkle cut bits of mango, that sort of thing, but remember if there’s no reason whatsoever why your baby can’t have a pile of Spaghetti Bolognese or mashed potato to dig into if that’s what the rest of the family is having.
  4. No bowls, they’re just asking to be flung heavenwards. Put the food on the highchair tray or table and remember, it’s all a learning experience for the baby at this point. They really don’t care whether the experience is ‘oooooh, mango is in my mouth’ or ‘ooooooh, a bowl is flying across the room’.
  5. As an experienced eater yourself, you already have all the ‘equipment’ you’ll need to feed your child, but there are some things to consider. An easy-to-clean highchair is a must, so head to Ikea for a fifteen quid Antilop, which will even fit in the shower for a hose-down on a bad broccoli day.
  6. There will be mess, oh yes there will, so if you are weaning in summer don’t be afraid to eat outside or semi-naked (and the baby too, if you like, hem hem) and for winter Ikea and Tommee Tippee make great cover-all and pelican bibs.
  7. Putting a wipe-clean tablecloth under the highchair is a good idea if you have carpets and some people find that a crinkle cutter is handy to make food extra-grippable.
  8. (Slightly bitter) experience suggests that the more effort you put into making something special for the baby, the less likely they are to eat it. Give them what you’re having. If they hate it, fine, they’re getting their calories from milk anyway.
  9. Of course it would be perfect if we ate every meal as a family, just like the Waltons but this isn’t always possible. Try to keep your ‘social activity’ head on, though, even if it’s just you and your baby sharing a sandwich at lunch. Keep smiling, keep enjoying, keep paying attention. It’s just good manners at the end of the day, something it’s never too early for a child to learn.
  10. Don’t get too hung up on three meals a day, it may take a while to work up to that. Whatever’s convenient and enjoyable for you is best.
  11. And don’t put too much on the highchair tray at the one time, just a couple of pieces of food will stop them feeling overwhelmed.
  12. Actual hunger can be frustrating for the babies when they’re still getting to grips (quite literally) with things. Timing ‘meals’ to between milk feeds seems to be best, and because it’s just finger food you aren’t limited to staying in. There’s no reason why you can’t pack a wee Tupperware with some carrot or cucumber, buy a banana when you’re out or just pull some bits out of an undressed salad.
  13. Never put food into a child’s mouth, let them put it in by themselves so that they can control it as it moves backwards. If the baby gags, remember that it’s their way of moving food around in the mouth and don’t panic. Some parents have found that making exaggerated chewing faces and noises reminds the child to get back on track.
  14. Nappies and their contents will soon fascinate you in ways you never thought possible. Raisins rehydrate, little pieces of still-green broccoli sneak through the digestive system and bananas produce poo with strange black threads. Look and learn, ladies.
  15. Have a camera ready to capture those first gummy, carroty smiles because as daunting as it may seem, weaning is a very short time in your child’s life. So remember to enjoy it…
I recently met a dietician, Megan McNamee, who says that "iron-fortified rice cereal has been traditionally recommended as the first solid food because it's usually more easily digestible and is a good source of iron (which is a key nutrient at that age, especially in breastfed infants)." However, with her own daughter, since Megan doesn't "want to introduce a lot of highly refined carbohydrates right off the bat" but does want her daughter to get the iron, she "will probably do organic, pasture-raised meats along with veggies..."  

Megan also told me about how some research is leaning towards introducing dairy &gluten instead of avoiding it so baby is less likely to develop an allergy. Click here for more information on that topic.

I found that quite interesting & I'm sure BLW advocates would be thrilled with her decision.

 P.S. Click here for a whole list of recipes for BLW.

 Route 2: Puree it up! I bought a book awhile back called Best Food for Your Baby & Toddler. With a name like that, you know they get a momma's attention. The book has plenty of insight, including waiting for baby to show feeding readiness before introducing foods. They do, however, support introducing rice first, and here's why:

it's sweet, gluten-free & easy to digest.

They also believe purees, like sweet potatoes, applesauce, banana & avocado, are best for baby in the beginning because they are easier to digest in their little tummy's. Unlike BLW, the authors believe you feed baby his/her first bites from your finger & continue to offer baby the same foods 3-4 days in a row to see if they have any allergies.

Route 3: Combining both BLW & Purees. I plan on skipping the rice cereal. For us, I feel like it's not a good starting point. I plan to make my own purees here & there, and also allow Ezra to experience our food too, so long as no salt was added. I just want to avoid having a child addicted to sweets & soda pops!

What about you?

TIPS for introducing foods.

1).  Make sure baby is sitting upright & away from his other food source (bottle or breast) so he doesn't get confused.

2). Try a half feed first with nursing or bottle feeding before introducing a few bites. Then, finish out with nursing. Remember, this doesn't replace a feed at first, you are just introducing solids!

3).  Try to introduce foods one at a time so you can pinpoint any allergen causing foods.

4). Expect baby to still nurse every four hours between 6-9 months of age.

5). Avoid juice and cow's milk until one year of age. Juice has too much sugar & cow's milk is hard on their early digestive system. If you breastfeed beyond a year, which is highly recommended because of the vitamins & reduced illness/allergy reactions, there is no need to introduce cow's milk.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

A Change From The Chain: 40 of Phoenix's Best Dining Spots

I've had the privilege to live in the urban gem of Arizona, Central Phoenix (yes, I am biased), for the past 2.5 years.

Central/Downtown Phoenix and Arcadia are
teeming with local restaurants of all price ranges & styles for the hipster, the classy, and the plain average folk.

Tuck Shop's chicken and waffles

I've comprised a list of my favorite restaurants in my area. If you're from these parts, you probably already know at least 3/4 of the places on this list, if not all, so this is dedicated to the more ignorant eaters. 

But be warned...once you go local, you never go back!

Very Casual

Two Hippies Taco Hut on Camelback- relatively healthy and nicely sized portions. Bring cash!

That's a Wrap! - also relatively healthy. I love their hibiscus tea & salad bowls in a taco shell. My husband thinks it is too girly.

Luci's Marketplace- best atmosphere, healthy gourmet food, half off 32 oz iced and blended drinks after 5 pm (that's a steal!!!), and overall best hang out. I craved this place every day of my pregnancy. The entire menu is divine. I like the Moe for breakfast and the hamburgers for dinner on a gluten free bun, of course ;) Luci's got me through some tough times... We even took our son here first thing on the way home from the hospital. I know, that's customer loyalty at its' finest.

Hob Nobs- a cottage feel coffee shop with delicious sandwiches, like the pork. 

Pane Bianco- cute little shop with good food for lunch, brought to you by the owners of Pizzeria Banco.

Pinos Pizzeria- my friend Estella works downtown & says this place serves slices the size of your face. 
Carolina's Mexican Food- authentic, mouth watering good. Anything is delicious here.

The Sack- creative sandwiches & Wanda's cookie dough is a must for take home.

ZK Healthy Grill- this one isn't really Central Phoenix (Greenway & Tatum) but I recently discovered it. Best gyro ever! And you get a lot of meat for $5.99

America's Taco Shop- don't let the casual atmosphere fool you- still expensive but definitely quality. The horchata and tacos are delicious but it'll cost you... but it's worth it all the same.

Casual Date Night

Heavenly, heart attack-sized burgers from The Grind

The Grind- this bar in Arcadia serves coal-fired, grass-fed beef. Uh, wow.

The Garage- try the spicy chili here. It's a great place to watch sports or listen to live music Saturday night.

Gallo Blanco- who knew hipsters could make a mean Carne Asade, says my Hispanic husband. 

Otro- this one is new, with the same owners as Gallo Blanco but more expensive, family style.

Windsor- eat their Windsor burger or die incomplete. So delicious. Great drink menu too.

Postino Central- wine at lunch is no crime here, as the motto goes. I love the 9 Iron sandwich or bruschetta.

Mazi's- sweet potato fries... MMM!!!!! Really nice owners too ;)

Fez's- same thing. Whoever is teaching these people the art of fries is succeeding.

The Parlor- pizza here is top notch. Drink menu is pretty stacked too.

La Grande Orange, or as the cool kids say, LGO- you don't live in Arcadia until you've been here. I secretly didn't care for the pizza but the strawberry sangria I sampled was to my liking. ;)

Humble Pie- pizza flavors I'd never invent but I am a fan of. You can get pazookie here too, same as Oregano's.

Portland's- amazing tiramisu!

Greenhouse- nice variety of food- try the Asian dumplings.

Pizzeria Bianco- Oprah once gave a shout out to this gourmet pizza shop. Yep.

Rice Paper- I love this little restaurant. The food is heavenly, especially the pho.

A Wee Bit Pricier Date Nights

Tuck Shop- charming and cozy upscale dining. I love the atmosphere but think the food portions are skimpy. Chicken and waffles are pictured above. It supposedly feeds two if you get an appetizer. It didn't.

St. Francis- the architecture blows my mind. It's very upscale hipster, so beware. I love the place itself- food is second to just sitting in a well- designed space.

True Food- a fun, healthier option for date night that isn't too upscale but will make you dig just a little more into your pocketbook. The grass-fed beef hamburger is so good.

Chelsea's Kitchen- what a fabulous environment this Arcadian favorite makes!

Going Out

Hulu- fruity tropical drinks & decent food

Culinary Dropout- I love the warm pretzel bites from here!

The Vig Uptown- fun place to be on a Saturday night

Aunt Chilada's- this casual restaurant has quite a fun night life, complete with beers and boce ball 

Beckett's Table- 1/2 off AZ wines on Sundays & the kale salad is divine.

Crescent Ballroom- concerts AND a great menu equals a good time had by all!


Dick's Hideaway- my husband loves their chorizo but I can't resist the French toast and fresh squeezed oj.

Scramble- I CRAVED this place too when I was pregnant. So delicious!!!

Ohso- run the canal & then head here for breakfast. Great happy hour & outdoor bar too.

US Egg- technically in Scottsdale but I LOVE their protein pancakes. 


Churn- homemade ice cream parlor. adorable.

Mary Coyle's- 1950's vintage sit-down ice cream parlor with homemade ice cream.

Urban Cookies Bake Shop- this bakery will get you into trouble but it's worth it.

Urban Bean- good coffee selection but you really go here for the coffee shop atmosphere

Lux Coffee Shop- same thing as Urban Bean. Coffee is second to the atmosphere.

And there really are so many more. What's your favorite, not on this list?