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March 29, 2016 · 1:11 pm

Top 5 Gifts for 1 Year Olds

I never know what to ask for when my only child has birthdays until well after the celebration and after her months are advancing. Since I didn’t know for what to ask, we received a lot of books, stuffed animals, and clothes. All of which is greatly loved and well used! But should you be looking for something “outside the box” for a 1-yr-old birthday, here are the top five items I wish I would have known to request when my daughter turned one.

Bizzy Buckle Toy  – Between $20-24

I follow many mommy yard sale groups on Facebook and this is an item I never see come available for free or for cheap. To purchase it brand new appears fairly expensive for what seems to be such a simple and relatively small toy, but it has been worth it. So it is my first recommendation as a gift for those turning one. The Bizzy is a perfect toy for families who love to be busy. We keep it in the car and take it on airplanes, and it captures her attention longer than another other toy we own. She enjoys the puzzle of matching the colors, figuring out how to open and close the latches, and making animal sounds (the reverse side has animals on it). She started playing with it between 16-17 months and now, at nearly two years old, is still enamored by it. It requires parental involvement for the first month or so while they learn to buckle the latches. At 21-months, I can now throw it in the back seat with her and she navigates it like a pro.


Craft box – $7-$40

I really underestimated my child when she turned one. I didn’t realize how early she could grasp coloring and crafting. I think I failed to acknowledge this because of her being an only child and most of the craft items labeled 2+ or 3+ years on the coloring box. Thanks to a talented lady who helps keep our daughter when we are working, I learned that children really are capable of so much more at such a young age. I recommend giving a craft box for a birthday gift for a one-year-old that includes the following:

Place mat – $8-10

Even though my nearly two-year-old is using spoons and plates, she still makes a mess. I find this makes “friends-with-out-kids” nervous when we are over at their homes sharing a meal. The Summer place mat has been perfect for all our needs. We keep it rolled up in the diaper bag, and we use it at restaurants, friends’ homes, and even at our own dinner table at times. Many of our friends use disposable mats that stick to the tables, but then you have to monitor your stock and some people may be concerned about the sticker leaving residue on their wood dining tables. The Summer place mat instead has suction cups on the bottom that are gentle on all surfaces and a lip that hangs off the edge of the table and catches food.


Push toys – $15-30

I never bought my daughter those push toys to help her learn how to walk. I was too frugal and thought that kids 100 years ago learned how to walk without them. Sure enough, she did learn how to walk without it, but once she was walking – even running – I discovered she still loved push toys. So I’ve listed other ideas that transcend the learning-to-walk phase and will entertain them throughout the entire mimicking phase of the one-year-old and beyond. (Plus these are quiet and don’t have buttons that make loud noises like those learn-to-walk toys… I think it’s just cruel to gift noisy toys unless the family is specifically asking for one.)

  • Toy Lawn Mower
  • Baby Doll Stroller (the kids like to push each other in it)
  • Little Tikes Grocery Cart (The nice thing about this one is that it is just tall enough that they can’t crawl into it and crush it, but if they were to figure out how to, it is sturdy enough to handle tough love!)


Wagon – $70-$200

I see moms posting ISO (in search of) requests on Facebook for wagons all the time. I never understood why until we went and bought one for my daughter. Why can’t kids just ride in a stroller for a walk? But I learned why. Once my daughter had a wagon, her attention span and interest for walks entered an entirely new level. I think it has something to do with being able to pile in baby dolls or milk and snacks in the wagon with her, and the sense of independence with getting to chose whether she faces forward or backward. This winter, she has even pulled the wagon out of the storage room and will play and sit in it for half an hour or more. I wish I had thought to ask for this when she had turned one, but I didn’t! We went with the cheap Step2 wagon and have thoroughly enjoyed it, but if you have someone who will splurge on your kids, I hear people raving about the Radio Flyer wagon (shown below).


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My Top 5 Go-To Baby Shower Gifts

I can’t believe I’m about to disclose my go-to baby shower gift list, but I’ve decided it’s time. After having a baby myself, these are the items I felt spoiled by and would have not thought to purchase myself. They are also items that I now don’t want to go without when we make future additions to our family (even if that means a future baby brother using big sister’s pink gear!).


This nursing poncho is the best nursing cover out there. The material breathes; it covers not only the front BUT the back side; and many times people never realized my baby love was even nursing while we were in public (that is until she hit about 4 months and she gained more control of her arms and intentionally tried to pull the material). I’ve ordered this item from the store Busy Spinning Thread too many times to count and highly recommend them. Their price of $36-38 is worth it.

Yellow and Gray Nursing Cover for New Moms // Nursing poncho-Full Coverage-Poncho-Modern-Privacy-Breastfeeding // Mother's Day Gift


My mom purchased my baby the Jane Necklace chew beads when she was 3 months old. Baby didn’t really understand what to do with it then, but now at 8 months, it’s been a life saver. I snap it to the car seat, high chairs, ergo, around my neck, you name it. It has kept her focused on chewing the necklace instead of the table, my arm, or other random places. It’s also very easy to clean. The necklaces are priced between $29.50 and $36.00.

Chewbeads Jane 100% Silicone Teething Necklace


At some point babies grow out of being swaddled. Mine did at 8 weeks, but I know others that were swaddled until they started rolling. When that time comes, it’s nice to know baby is warm and that the source of warmth will stay on their bodies all night long. If you are looking to spoil someone, purchase the Aden + Anais muslin sleep sack. The blanket breathes so beautifully. Prior to someone giving me the Aden + Anais muslin sleep sack, I’d find my baby sweating in whatever she was covered or swaddled in, but never once have I with muslin material! Price $45.

dream in grey cozy sleeping bags


I’m not a thirty-one consultant nor have I ever been to a Thirty-One party despite the many opportunities to attend one. Thanks to a church friend giving me this tote as a baby gift, I would not want to know life without it. Right now I use it as a hamper. It fits perfectly (and looks pretty) under the crib. I throw her dirty laundry in there and tote it to the laundry room when it’s full. I also work full-time and have found the tote extremely helpful when I need to take baby with me to the office. I fill the tote with her floor quilt, bumbo, toys, and other goods and forgo the diaper bag. I’m also picturing it being used some day for all her books. The price is $35 and you can pay an extra $7 for a monogram! (If you need a consultant to purchase from, I recommend typing in Shannon Cole!)


My brother and sister-in-laws purchased two of Miroslav Sasek books for us, “This is Texas” and “This is Washington, D.C.” We love them and have now given this book to others. What’s special about these books are the thoughts of collecting and reading to our child the locations where we have leaved as a family or where other members of our family currently live. We read it to our baby aloud now, but I recently gave this book to my cousin who is in first grade and he was thrilled about the history in the book. It makes this a gift that will easily grow with the child and or family!

And of course, I couldn’t go without my Bohnke quilt, but I’m not sure her services are for purchase. If she reads this and wants to sell, I’ll update my post. Her quilt has by far been my favorite. It is beautifully designed and stitched, packs up small but lays out large, and goes with us everywhere to give her a clean place to play on the floor.

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Working Mommy Meals

It’s been a LONG while since I posted on our blog, much less visited it. So much has changed that maybe I should retitle our blog? Unfortunately Trio in the District just doesn’t have the same ring.

Anyways! My main squeeze is off playing with the college students and our little babe is asleep. So to help keep myself awake until her last feeding for the night, I decided to dedicate a post to answer a question I received several times this week at work when seeing my leftovers: How in the world do you have time to cook?

Both Joel and I work full time. I now juggle life as a new, EBF, working mom. Factoring in my commute, I am away from my home and family almost 12 hours a day. As we are adapting to the new enjoyable hecticness, one value I refuse to compromise on is eating healthy and at home as often as we can manage. In turning the page on our new family chapter, I’ve had to confront the following challenges to maintain this value: 1) Less time to go grocery shopping meaning less opportunities to keep the frig stocked with fresh foods; 2) Less time to cook especially since the first thing I do when I get home from work is feed my babe; 3) Finding meals my husband whose best kitchen skill is cooking ramen noodles can assist with since he gets home an hour or more earlier than I do (and doesn’t have to feed the babe); 4) Quick – duh – because hey – I’m getting home a 7PM; and 5) Meals that reheat well because leftovers are KEY!

So ladies and gents, here are a few of my go-to recipes with notes on how I adapt to fit our tastes and limitations:

Texas Caviar Rice Bowls

I read this recipe in my Southern Living magazine and decided to turn it into a Chipotle-style rice bowl for dinner. I make the bean dish using cannellini beans instead of black eyed peas because it is typically what I have in the pantry. I keep my freezer stocked with Trader Joes frozen brown rice, which takes just 3 minutes in the microwave to cook to perfection.  Using this as my base, I pile all the fresh goods from the recipe on the rice and then either top it with an avocado or tilapia. If I do tilapia, I marinate it in the same juice as the beans. Marinating it for 20 minutes is plenty of time to get a nice kick to the fish. And the best part about fish is it cooks up in five minutes! Not only is this meal high fiber but it reheats EXTREMELY well for lunch left overs.


Black bean spinach enchiladas

This dish is relatively healthy, except for all the cheese… But I buy the low-fat shredded cheese from Trader Joes to make me feel a little better. I also double the amount of greens the recipe calls for by adding kale and use whole wheat tortillas. After I cook up the spinach, I stir around a cup or two of kale until it looks a little wet and then mix it into the enchilada stuffing. YUMMO! (My husband didn’t even notice that there was kale). I made this up on a Saturday, and then all Joel had to do during the work week was reheat the sauce, pour it on top of the enchiladas, and put it in the oven when he got home. This makes eight enchiladas, so I froze half of it for another time.


Sweet Mustard Salmon Salad

Every time I go to Trader Joes, I restock on my frozen fish stash. I love how they package their salmon in individual packages. I try to keep about four salmon down in our deep freeze. I also typically try to keep a bag of three romaine hearts in my frig for last-minute salads or toppings. For this salad, I put dried cranberries, pumpkin seeds, cucumber, tomatoes, and any other random veggie in my frig as well as some couscous or quinoa. I use a homemade honey mustard vinaigrette for the dressing on the salad.


ChickenMarinadeChicken, French green beans & mushrooms, with wild rice

I don’t have pictures or a recipe for this one because it’s so basic and easy. I keep chicken frozen with our favorite marinades. Our most recent marinade find that we are enjoying is Stubb’s Citrus and Onion Marinade. The flavors are subtle and perfect for summer. Stubb’s is also one of the few marinades I can find in the grocery store that doesn’t have high fructose corn syrup.

For the beans dish, I keep French String Green Beans from Trader Joes in my freezer. I use a little butter (or coconut oil if I’m feeling healthier) and saute some white onion and garlic then throw in a container of pre-sliced baby portobello mushrooms.  After it cooks to the texture I like, I then throw in half a bag of the beans (straight from the freezer). Stir it all around and put a lid on the skillet for a few minutes to finish the dish by steaming the beans. Then I add salt and pepper to taste. The best part is it reheats well either by throwing it in the microwave or back on the skillet. If you’d prefer to use a recipe, I’ve linked one here from the Food Network that uses bell peppers instead of mushrooms. I’ve made this one too and really enjoyed it.

Finally, I buy a box of organic wild rice with the 23 herb seasoning packet. It’s the first thing I put on the stove so that the rice is finished right when the chicken and veggies are ready to be eaten.

Turkey Burgers & Sweet Potato Friesimages

I also keep frozen turkey burger patties from Trader Joes in my deep freeze as well as a bag of sweet potato fries. What we put on our turkey burgers depends on what is in the refrigerator. This week, we put left over pepper jack cheese, tomatoes, and avocados on the burger, and for the bread we used whole wheat thin sliced sandwich buns. Because most of this is frozen and the toppings are dependent upon what’s leftover from the week, I save this meal for nights when we are just absolutely exhausted or have little time between work and getting to another event.

I have several go-to, health(ier), quick recipes that I can continue to post if people find this helpful. In the mean time, you just got a glimpse into our meals this week. We’re a family of three now, but since the little one doesn’t eat real food yet, I try to cook each meal with four people in mind. This gives us left overs for lunches or for another dinner the next night.

In closing, I credit the success of all my meals to salt. Yes, my salt. I cook with Celtic Mineral Sea Salt. It is more expensive, BUT the taste is SO good and it is healthy too. It also takes me about four months to get through a bag of ground Celtic salt. If you try it, you’ll never go back. Especially if you try it by popping kernels over the stove in coconut oil and sprinkling it with the Celtic salt. TO DIE FOR. And a great bedtime snack.


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Ellie and Shaun Going Away Invitation

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May 7, 2012 · 11:10 pm

A piece of advice I wish I learned sooner

Mika Brzezinski on MSNBC’s Morning Joe said the other day: “Women in the workplace need to stop saying they are ‘sorry’!”

As soon as those words left her lips, my mind flooded back to all my jobs and internships post-college. I recalled e-mails and conversations so rapidly you’d think I was dying and my life had flashed before my eyes.

“Oh, I’m so sorry to inconvenience you, but can you look at this?”

“Sorry it took so long! I’m just so swamped.”

Or how about: “Sorry if I edited more than you were hoping. It’s all just suggestions!”

Mika’s right. When do you ever hear men talk to each other like this? Or men talk to a women like this where they overly use the word “sorry” or express some sort of concern for inconvenience?

Mika was discussing her new book Knowing Your Value: Women, Money and Getting What You’re Worth. Minus interns, I’ve really only worked with men, which has had me convinced we are still living in a man’s world. (That’s until my husband went to work for a prominent non-profit where he was only one of three men in the office!) I’ve taken Mika’s suggestion to heart and stopped acting like my work and requests are an inconvenience. Removing the word ‘sorry’ has not only boosted my confidence in my contributions to the team, but I’ve also notice a new level of respect in return.

I think the Proverbs 31 woman speaks towards this value: “She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness.”

She was a working woman! Based on these two verses, she did not approach her work with timidity, insecurity, concern for inconvenience, or fear of perception. She was strong, confident, wise, and prudent with her words. So ladies, let’s save “sorry” for when our actions have negatively affected our or others work, not as a scapegoat of insecurity.

So cheers for reading my Writing Prompt #2: “something you now know that you wish you knew earlier in life.” I wish I had known this four years ago as I believe it would have benefited or improved interaction with previous coworkers. Now I pass this kernel on to you, ladies!

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