Aug 30, 2012

august cookie of the month : raw ice "cream"

My "cookie" this month is a tasty, sweet dessert ... but ok, it's not actually a cookie. Who really wants to be baking or eating lots of cookies in the August heat? Instead, I've been whipping up a modified - almost healthy - version of ice cream when that sweet tooth kicks in. I've think I've told everyone I know about this recipe, because it's so darn delicious without the guilt of ice cream. It's about time I shared it!

I'll post the recipe below for the sake of having it in my own records, but the credit goes to a different Jennifer over at her blog, I make it exactly as written, which is unusual for me!

Frozen bananas replace the cream portion of ice "cream." Because of this recipe, I now always make sure to have a few on hand. I wait until they are really ripe - usually brown, because that's when they have the best flavor; then I peel them, break them into pieces and store each one in a separate freezer bag. This makes it sooo fast and easy to toss one into the blender when I need it.

This banana "ice cream" is really rich with a bittersweet chocolate flavor. It really doesn't taste like bananas, so don't let the ingredients throw you! You can always add extra maple syrup if you prefer yours sweeter, but I'm good with the deep, dark, sinful chocolatey taste :) Fresh out of the food processor, it has a smooth, mousse-like texture. If you have the patience to freeze it for an hour or two (which I usually don't!), it hardens and serves up exactly like ice cream. Scoops and all.

And finally, the (very simple) recipe...

Banana Chocolate Ice "Cream"
(makes two servings)

2 frozen bananas
1/4 cup cocoa powder
drizzle of maple syrup
splash of vanilla extract
pinch of cinnamon

Blend together in the food processor and enjoy!! Let me know if you get creative with this! I imagine you could experiment with all kinds of flavors with delicious results.

Aug 29, 2012

There's a New Tab in Town

You may have noticed (or the more likely scenario is that you didn't notice, because you have better things to do than keep track of my blog layout) ... that I added a little tab called "food love." This was a special request from my mom, so really, how can you turn that down? She said there were recipes she wanted to try, but then could never find again by the time she had the chance to make them.

And since, selfishly, this blog is meant as a way for me to keep a journal of my life and a record of my favorite things, I decided that collecting food-related posts into one place would sure be convenient for me, too!

So from now on, every recipe or inspirational food idea will land here, under my friendly little "food love" tab. Hope it helps!

Aug 28, 2012

eat: Watermelon Candy Smoothie

Lately, we've been getting beautiful, delicious heirloom watermelons in our CSA (more on the CSA here or here or here). Nothing says summer, or Americana, like watermelons. Problem is, even though I can appreciate the wonderful flavor of these local watermelons (especially compared to the gigantic, flavorless, seedless grocery store version), I just am not a watermelon lover. Sometimes Max will eat fresh watermelon cubes, but he's fickle about it too.

Not wanting to waste these lovely melons (ok, that sentence didn't sound quite right) ... I started googling around for watermelon smoothie ideas. I've tried a few variations so far - all were yummy, but I wanted to share the recipe with you that I finally landed on. It's a keeper. I think it tastes like a tropical flavored Starburst candy! Except that this is a really healthy treat, with lots of vitamins from the watermelon and banana, plus a little protein and calcium from the yogurt.

Watermelon is umm... watery. So this smoothie has a much thinner consistency than others, but it's still delicious and incredibly refreshing on a Tennessee August afternoon. It's also surprisingly satisfying. Oh, and did I mention that when watermelons are in season, it's also cheap? Score!

Here's my recipe (measurements are all approximate - taste as you go to get your ideal flavor):

Watermelon Candy Smoothie
(makes 2 large or 3 small servings)

3 to 4 cups chopped and seeded watermelon
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 banana
1 cup ice
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
drizzle of honey

I throw everything in the blender until it's good and mixed, pour a cup for everybody who's lucky enough to be around the house, and watch in awe as Max gulps his down in about two minutes flat. I'm pretty sure the big secret in this recipe is the almond extract. It adds that extra something that really makes the watermelon flavor pop. The ginger is very subtle, but you can use more or totally skip it, depending on your preference. I happen to love ginger, so I think it adds a perfect little kick.

Aug 24, 2012

what a fri{day} for a daydream: Dream Homes

Confession time ... for fun last weekend, Ben and I dragged Max along with us to fancy model homes in Franklin, Tennessee. No, we don't plan to move anytime soon, but we were curious about this lovely looking area near charming downtown Franklin, and it was fun to get ideas for our own house (albeit, very expensive, top-of-the-line ideas!) We went to a subdivision called Westhaven, and though subdivisions are not our usual style, this is the first one we've ever seen that we thought was really charming and beautiful. A huge variety of plants and trees, and each house on the sidewalk-lined streets was done in a different style. Max got really into the house touring, screaming "more housie" each time we left one of the model homes!

One of our favorites was this absurdly expensive (as in, $799k expensive) home that was a few blocks away from the neighborhood elementary school. If I'd only seen the photos online, I don't think I'd have looked twice, but in person it was pretty spectacular! Not at all my usual style, but for some reason I just felt ready to move in here :) And so did Ben! Wish I'd snapped some photos of my own, but since I didn't, here are a few from the listing to drool over:

Open family room and breakfast room, but still super cozy
Gorgeous gourmet kitchen
We loved this butler's pantry and wine cooler leading from the kitchen to the formal dining room.
Amazing cozy porch that overlooks a small grassy area in the back - just enough space to run around with Max and Bosco with low maintenance! This community has tons of green space and a pool, so you don't need a big yard of your own!

Check out the full listing here if you're curious for more!

Aug 23, 2012

Let's Color!

Last summer while visiting Ben's sweet parents in Chattanooga, Tennessee (one of Tennessee's most beautiful areas, by the way!), we hit an estate sale. We came across the coolest vintage school table and two chairs, and Ben's mom decided to get it as a gift for Max. It's really lovely - solid oak with nice lines, so I knew it would fit in seamlessly with our home decor. I'm all about being kid-friendly without looking like Toys'R'Us threw up all over our house :) Sorry if that comment was a little too graphic. And that's not to say that our house doesn't end up looking like a technicolor mess most of the time, anyway!

Anyway, this fabulous table sat in our finished basement area for a while, since Max was too little for it. I couldn't wait for him to be able to use it, and probably once I month I would put Max in one of the chairs to see if he could reach the table yet. Well now he fits, and he can even climb up and get to work coloring all on his own. Yippee!

So I moved the table into our living room (which I officially turned into a play room a few weeks back - read more here), and set Max up with construction paper, crayons and stickers. He had a blast and likes to climb up every morning to color with me for a few minutes. Just look at the adorable drawer! There is one on both sides, so for playdates we can pull this out and let two kiddos color together. The second chair is still downstairs for repairs (it's a little wobbly).

I have thought about refinishing or painting it - or maybe painting chalk paint on the top - but for now I think it looks great in its simplicity. Plus it looks like it could have come as a set with our oak Hans Wegner furniture shown below! 

The little scuffs and splotches add character, and if Max accidentally colors on it, it won't be the end of the world. All in all, loving this new addition to the living/play room, and Max says thanks to his Bama and Pa! {On a side note, I should point out that contrary to many of my photos, Max does sometimes wear shorts!}

Aug 21, 2012

A Tablecloth of Many Colors

So I subscribe to a variety of discount shopping websites. Home products, clothes, kids gear, you name it! At first I found them pretty addictive, and checked in all the time to see what was new, but lately I only peruse them if I'm feeling indulgent with my time, or if something really stands out.

Well a few weeks ago tablecloths, of all things, from had me clicking to see more. They were some seriously cute tablecloths by April Cornell for Danica!

I ended up with this festive striped number for around $30. It features all of my favorite colors for our home: blue, turquoise, green - heck, I'd even use pink if I wasn't the only girl in the house :)

The little tassels are such a fun touch.

And no sooner had I laid this on the table to get a look, than Max had discovered how entertaining it was. So we played a nice long round of "Where's Max!"

Then I had the idea to use the tablecloth to create Max's first ever tent. He pretty much loved it - he insisted I come "uner" (under), and then he spent the following 30 minutes jumping and spinning and giggling inside his tent (I'd be lying if I said I wasn't also doing those things right along with him).

Max's tent was pretty exclusive - poor doggy was turned away immediately, and there were no cameras allowed. I managed to sneak this one photo before I was beckoned back under the tent :) This is why I love toddlers - I never would have guessed that a simple striped tablecloth would provide an afternoon's worth of entertainment!

Aug 16, 2012

Waxing Poetic about Naptime

Well after two days in a row of Max skipping his nap (and then being exhausted and cranky), he finally took an afternoon snooze yesterday, yippee!! This anti-nap sentiment has been in addition to him fighting bedtime, putting-on-clothes time and getting-in-the-carseat time ... we must be getting close to two years old!

Here's Max one day last week ... after he refused his nap, I drove around town until he finally fell asleep!

Anyway, I was so relieved that Max consented to a nap yesterday that I felt inspired to write a little poetry. I was inspired by Dr. Seuss and the book we read before his nap, The Cat in the Hat!


Could it be, could it be
On day three, could it be

That Max is finally napping for me?

We played with his train
And we played lots of games.

We ran around the park
And read books in the dark.

Max ate all his lunch
And his crackers with a crunch.

He drove a big car
And made his dinos say RAWR!

We had lots of fun
Lots of fun and now we’re done,
Because Max is asleep...

And he’s not the only one!

Aug 14, 2012

Local Love: Pinkerton Park in Franklin

Pinkerton Park... the name reminds me of an old-timey park where kids in the 60s would have played baseball and swapped neighborhood gossip over a soda. But actually this park, situated right outside of quaint downtown Franklin, Tennessee, exists in the modern world and boasts some state-of-the-art playgrounds. Playgrounds have come a long way from the friction-inducing, heat-conducting metal playgrounds of my childhood!! And it also offers up tons of green space and walking paths, and was the perfect spot for our Sunday morning picnic this weekend. {Apparently the park's pathway even connects to downtown Franklin - I'd love to make a day of enjoying the park and then walking - or even biking - into downtown. Hmm... I'm filing this idea away for another pretty day.}

We discovered that if you head toward the back of the park (beyond the bridge and onto a gravel pathway), there's a wonderful little trail, followed by lots of stairs, that takes you to a secluded hilltop. The hill is actually a Civil War site (Fort Granger) - around its perimeter are trenches dug by the troops, so you get a bit of history here along with the beauty. If you're interested in this sort of thing, don't leave your cell phones in the car like we did - there is a guided phone tour that I really wanted to do! Oh, and the views up here aren't bad either - you get a nice look at those lovely rolling hills that middle Tennessee is known for!

In an effort to make this a free outing and avoid a trip to the grocery store, I determined to create something picnic-worthy using whatever was in our house. Here's what I came up with:

Edamame & chickpea salad, balsamic roasted tofu, crackers, hummus and grapes. It was a nice, light meal for a warm August day. I was beyond excited that the weather was finally cool enough to feel pleasant outside. And yes, by cool, I mean that it was in the mid to high 80s! All in all, this park is yet another reason I love living in Nashville ... there is always someplace new to explore.

Aug 10, 2012

what a (fri)day for a daydream: autumn

This week has given us some of the least sweat and misery inducing weather Nashville has seen in a while. Dare I say that this morning was even pleasant outside?

And now suddenly I am salivating at the thought of autumn weather. Last fall we spent so much time romping around our backyard, hiking, and soaking up all the stunning orange and red and yellow leaves. Plus, lots of awesome things happen in the fall: my wedding anniversary, Max's birthday and my own birthday, to name a few! Anybody else ready for those crisp fall days?

Here are some photos from last fall to help get you in that autumnal mood :)

Max chose some great pumpkins at the pumpkin patch!

My boys hanging in the backyard. I love that autumn sunlight!

Ben and I had an amazing view of the leaves changing colors when we celebrated our 5th anniversary at Arrington Vineyards (just outside of Nashville) last October.

Aug 9, 2012

on laundry, teeth and other randomness

I'm sure that including the word laundry in my title had everyone rushing to read this post. It's all part of my intricate marketing strategy.

But what can I say, it's been a pretty quiet week around here! Max has been ever helpful with household chores like laundry, in spite of the enormous work he's doing on growing molars (see how the whole top of his shirt is wet? that's all drool) ...

Although he's home now, Ben had to go out of town on business for a few days - between flying solo and helping poor Max cope with his teething situation (they woke him up at 4:30 this morning, and have had us up by 5:45 every other day this week), I'm spent! That is my only excuse for the sparse blogging of late!

In spite of the 4:30 wake up call today, I dragged my tired booty to the park to meet some friends for an early morning run while Ben stayed home with Max. Gotta say, I was proud of myself! This was my first run in a looong time. We did a 2.5 mile trail run and only walked a minimal portion of it. I know I'll be feeling the pain soon enough, but right now I'm basking in that post-workout glow :) And Max gave me a wonderful gift ... he sat in the bathroom and played happily with a toothbrush for 20 minutes, while I luxuriated in the longest shower I've had in a while. It's the small things!

Don't worry, I have not forgotten that Ben owes us a beer of the month post ... he may have a little surprise in store for you guys, so stay tuned!

Oh, and this little baby arrived in the mail a few days ago:

If you're a Costco member, there is a special on their website for $10 off, bringing the total cost to just $79.99. I don't know much about sewing machines just yet, but the price was great and I have faith in Costco! Now I have no excuse not to whip up some curtains for Max's room.

Aug 8, 2012

A Living Room Switcheroo

So I showed you not too long ago what our living room looked like ... and then I went and changed it. Scooting furniture around the house at a moment's notice (even if it's midnight, or early in the morning with the help of a toddler and dog) is sort of a family thing. My mom does it, my sister does it, and I'm sure my mother's mother did it before her!

Before the birthday dinner I hosted for Ben last weekend, I decided to move our big graphic navy rug into the living room. The living room gets the nicest natural light in the house, and it connects to the dining room, making it the ideal place to chill out with guests after dinner. Until now, our pretty living room has been sadly abandoned and neglected, and I wanted to change that!

I loved the rug in there, so yesterday I decided I would also move Max's toy shelf into the living room, effectively making it our daily hang-out spot.


Moving the location of Max's toys must have made it seem like everything was brand new - he was super excited and playing with everything more than he has in months!

I'm pretty happy with the new look - we are already spending way more time in this room. I left the TV in the den on top of the hutch that used to be in here, so that will sort of be the TV room now. It's really nice to separate the television from Max's play area!

You may notice that there are still paint swatches ... this room needs to be painted a fresh, bright white still! I even did a little Photoshop mock-up of what lighter walls will look like in here. I think it will help to modernize the space!

Aug 6, 2012

Mamas in Toyland, part 2: Around the House

Hi guys! I'm back with part two of my write-up on my very favorite baby and kid products. I should add that these are all just things that I've personally tried and loved. There are lots of great products out there, and every baby and mama has different preferences :)

If you missed part one of my Mamas in Toyland series, check it out here:
Mamas in Toyland, Part 1: Out & About

{There will be one final installment coming, all about our favorite toys and books!}

Today I'm going to look at the things that have made life around the house so much happier for everyone involved. So let's get started! (These are in no particular order.)

(1) Fisher Price Rock'n'Play

Props to my best bud Amy for recommending this little miracle-worker. Max was so fussy as a newborn, and for the first few months of his life, his only naps (aside from in the car) were in this rocker (I tried and tried to get him cozy in a sling or other baby carrier for naps, but without much success). The Rock'n'Play is totally portable, so I often folded it right up and took it to dinner parties or on road trips. I loved that we could push it up next to the dinner table, too, so Max could be in his happy place and still be part of the action. We never bothered with a swing or bouncer, because this little rocker did it all!

(2) Classic Moses Basket

We considered co-sleeping, but ultimately decided it would be best for me and Ben's sanity to have our future baby sleep right next to me in our bedroom. (We did try some nights of bringing Max into our bed; although it works great for lots of families, I don't think any of us slept on those nights - just wasn't the best choice for us!) Our room wasn't big enough to fit a pack'n'play next to the bed, so I found one of these classic bassinets with a rocking base on Craigslist. It was petite enough for our space and just the right height for me to reach Max from our platform bed. I loved hearing him breathing next to me and being able to reach over and soothe him or nurse him or rock him a little. But I still had my own space to sprawl out in bed! As an added bonus, the bassinet fits into any decor, AND it can easily slide around the house, so if Max fell asleep in it, I could scoot him to wherever I was. Max fit in this until he was about three months old (he was big, though - I'm sure some babies would last longer), and then we cleared out a corner of our room and moved his crib in with us.

(3) Angelcare Baby Sound Monitor

In our Calgary condo where Max was born, we never needed a monitor because (1) Max slept in our room until he was almost six months old, and (2) Our condo was tiny and we could hear everything from every room.

When we moved back to Nashville, we wanted the freedom to wander around our new backyard or a far room of the house while Max was napping, so I did lots of review-reading and finally settled on this Angelcare monitor. I'd heard from friends with the motion-sensor monitors that the sensors' false alarms were pretty heart-attack inducing (and since Max was six months old by the time we bought this, he was past the riskiest sleep phase for babies). We didn't feel we needed a video monitor either, so this straightforward choice has worked like a charm for us. It always gets good reception throughout our house and yard, and my all-time favorite feature? It's rechargeable! You just have to sit the receiver in the base to charge it up, so no fumbling around with or worrying about spare batteries. This monitor has been going strong for a little more than a year now.

(4) Stokke Tripp Trapp High Chair

You may have noticed this fun green colored chair on our kitchen tour back in June:

Granted, Stokke's Tripp Trapp chair is more expensive than a typical high chair. But it's a great investment (especially if you can find it on Craigslist like I did, for half the original price!). The infant attachment makes it something that will last from Max's first meals until he's five or six (or even older) without the need for a booster seat. It's originally a Danish design, and every Dane seems to have one for their kiddos. My relatives raved about theirs and I actually remember visiting my cousins in Denmark as a kid, and all of us wanted to sit in the Tripp Trapp! Here's Little Wild Man last summer, enjoying his infant seat attachment (at my parents' house):

And here he is now that he's bigger and can sit without the attachment:

The seat and footrest are fully adjustable, so we simply lower them as Max gets bigger. He really likes having a footrest, and now that he's bigger, he loves being able to climb into the chair by himself. From the time Max first started eating, we didn't use a tray (although Stokke has started making a rather overpriced tray attachment). I had read that pulling baby right up to the table would help him feel more like a part of the family and encourage eating skills, so we just wipe off our table every night instead of a tray ;) Admittedly, we also have a cheap booster seat (with a tray) that fastens onto a kitchen chair. We use that for travel, eating outside or for the occasional extra messy meal!

(5) Luca and Company FunPod

When Max was a year old and started walking on his own, I was thrilled! And then I realized that he was no longer content to sit around while I worked in the kitchen. He wanted to be part of the action. So I did some asking around and discovered that a few moms I knew had a kitchen stand for their little ones and loved it. I opted for the FunPod because it's the most compact version I could find, and it stows neatly in the corner of my dining room. I also liked that the sides were solid, unlike some models that were meant for kids to be able to climb in and out of. I began using the FunPod when Max was only a year old, so he was still wobbly, and I didn't want him slipping out of an open side. Also, the base is height-adjustable, so he'll be able to use it for years.

Here's Max in his FunPod, helping me make granola!

This little pod has been a lifesaver because not only does it keep Max entertained (a wooden spoon and a bowl buys me at least five minutes to empty the dishwasher ... or I can push him up to the sink with the water turned to a low drizzle, and he's happy "washing" his hands for a while), but it also keeps him contained in a safe spot when I've got hot pots and pans on the stove. Nothing gives me a panic attack faster than having him running around underfoot while I'm boiling water! I'm sure somebody who knows their way around a saw and some planks of wood could assemble this cheaply. I was initially skeptical of the price tag, but we have used this almost daily since purchasing it, so for me it was money well spent! Plus it's fun to have a buddy to help with my cooking, and I like to tell myself that it's fostering an interest in cooking and eating well :)

(6) Ikea Gulliver Crib

Here's the Ikea Gulliver crib in Max's very first nursery, back in Calgary!

I decided a crib was not where I wanted to blow my budget, mostly because we were in a temporary home when I purchased it, and I didn't know if it would stay with us for the long haul. Well our Gulliver crib from Ikea HAS come with us from Canada back to Nashville, and it's held up perfectly. I'd buy it all over again. The price (currently $99) can't be beat for the style and durability. I also did tons of research into the safety, and this crib holds its own in that department as well, in addition to being more eco-friendly and non-toxic than some options. The Gulliver seems to match pretty much any decor, and it converts from a baby to toddler bed (which we'll be doing soon, ack!).

(7) Runners-Up

There were a few runners-up for this list - things I love, but that aren't necessarily as universal or must-have items, so I won't elaborate (just send me a note or leave a comment if you want to know more about any of them!) They all are linked up if you're looking for more info!

Baby Buddy Nursing Pillow
Natura Classic Crib Mattress
Wean Green Food Storage Cubes

What are your favorites? Leave a comment and let me know!!

Aug 1, 2012

Mamas in Toyland, Part 1: Out & About

If you are a young parent, expecting parent, grandparent or just a friend looking for kiddo and baby-related gift ideas, then you've come to the right place! If not, then you may find the following terribly boring and want to check back later this week. Because this is a post dedicated to my favorite and most-used baby goodies :) In fact, there are so many that I'm going to split it into two posts. The first one will focus on gear for getting out and about with Little Wild Man.

When I was pregnant with Max, I had so much fun researching (and researching, and researching) and shopping for him (we didn't find out the sex, which was probably good, as now I have lots of gear that will work whether our next child is a boy or girl!). I tried hard to invest wisely (quality over quantity) and not go crazy. I think I did a decent job, but it's hard to resist all the awesome baby products that are on the market these days!

To compile this list, I asked myself a few things:

1) Did I use it regularly for three months or more?
2) Was the value good for the money?
3) Has it held up well enough to use for another baby?
4) Would I recommend it to a friend?

If I could say 'yes' to all three questions, and if I still felt lots of love for the items, then they made it to my list. So here's part one (in no particular order), featuring gear that helps me get out into the world and function like a normal person with my little dude in tow!

(1) Beco Butterfly Baby Carrier

Max enjoying a sunrise beach walk last summer ... in our Beco!

Max was slow to warm to baby carriers. As a really little guy, he sometimes tolerated wraps or slings (like this fabulous CuddlyWrap that was gifted to me), but usually protested any sort of constricting device. By five or six months, though, he was content in the Beco Butterfly and ever since, it's gone everywhere with us. Mostly I use it for hiking (I can hike for upwards of two hours in total comfort), but it's also handy for shopping trips, air travel, festivals and outdoor events where a stroller is cumbersome. I love zipping through a crowd with Max safe, close and cozy on my back!

Yep, Ben is man enough to wear the leaf patterned baby carrier!
My only complaint about this carrier is that there's an inside panel that goes between Max and myself. For little babies, it's an added layer of security, but as Max has gotten bigger, it's gotten harder to situate him inside the panel and scootch him onto my back. And Max likes to go up and down and up and down, making it a little more complicated to whip the Beco out lately. I just bought myself a Boba carrier, which is almost identical but without the panel, so it will be a quick solution for travel and those times when I need a speedy up and down. I'm still practicing with it, but so far prefer the fit of the Beco. I've also tried out the beloved Ergo carrier, ring slings and wraps, but out of everything, nothing has even come close to the comfort level of my Beco! And it's stylish to boot! Considering how much I've used it (and how well it's held up), it has definitely earned its $140 price tag; I'd buy it all over again if given the chance.

(2) Britax Marathon 70 Convertible Carseat

I am still a believer in getting an infant car seat for newborns, although I don't think I'd buy the same one we have again (it was the safest thing in the world, but it was really a pain to use). When Max graduated to a convertible seat, I did tons of research. I wanted one that would be safe as a tank and that would let me keep Max rear-facing for as long as possible. But after my struggles with our infant car seat, I also wanted it to be super user-friendly. The Britax Marathon is all of those things. I managed to keep Max rear-facing until he was 19 months old. He still fits just fine, but was throwing a fit every time we got in the car, so I caved and turned him forward. This seat is a breeze to use and adjust, and I feel like Max is totally secure in it. It's been six months, and I still couldn't be happier with this purchase.

3) Bebe au Lait Nursing Cover, Momzelle and Bravado Nursing Tops

My breastfeeding-advocate friends probably won't love that I included a nursing cover on my list ;) After 20 months, I have more confidence now about nursing in public, but I have to admit that I was pretty darn shy and self-conscious at first. I didn't know what I was doing for months, and Max and I shared some awkward moments while getting the hang of breastfeeding! I'm not gonna lie, I partly wanted a Bebe au Lait nursing cover because it comes in beautiful patterns and I'm a sucker for pretty things. But it was a real lifesaver for those awkward nursing moments (next to a stranger in a cramped airplane? a little privacy, please!). With this cover, I felt at ease nursing literally anywhere - restaurants, malls, intimate cafes, parties, family gatherings - and could still be part of the action while Max was quietly (or sometimes not so quietly) gulping down the world's best health food. This nursing cover was always folded up in my diaper bag until Max's nursing became infrequent enough that we only did it at home.

Nursing Max on the beach in Denmark. This cover's great because there's a stiff upper part that makes it possible to keep eye contact with your little one.

Other essential nursing gear for me? My two high-quality nursing tops from Momzelle (shout out to the fact that this is a Canadian company!), and two more of Bravado's (another Canadian company!) essential nursing tanks. Neither is inexpensive, but those four tops I invested in have stood up to some intense use over the past 20 months! Both work well for layering or on their own, and both make me feel great when I wear them - both brands are pregnancy-friendly (although I didn't use mine while pregnant), and are ultra figure flattering post-pregnancy and beyond. And nothing beats quick and easy boob access. For Max. Sheesh, get your minds out of the gutter!

The Momzelle tops are so discreet that it's almost impossible to tell your baby is nursing, so it was always my choice for traveling or long excursions when I knew Max would be doing lots of public breastfeeding. My favorite is their long scoop neck tank top - I can pop it over leggings or skinny jeans and feel perfectly pulled together for a day of baby-tending. Or add some cute wedges and jewelry or a scarf to feel more dressed up!

This is the only photo I could find of me my fave Momzelle top. That's me on the left, out for lunch with my pal Amy and her sweet girl! Max was six months old here, so was still nursing somewhat frequently.

So there you have it, my top gear for getting out into the world with Max!
You may wonder why this list is missing a stroller ... it's because I think a stroller is such an individual decision. We purchased a fabulous one (a Bugaboo Cameleon) that worked great in Calgary's urban setting, where we spent Max's first six months (paved walkways at parks, city sidewalks, malls, etc.). It was also great since Max didn't like being worn for so many months. But I've found less use for our fancy stroller in Nashville, where I usually drive everywhere and then pop Max into his carrier. If I use a stroller, it's usually to go off-roading on one of Nashville's many dirt or mulched park trails, and the Bugaboo is just not equipped to easily navigate dirt paths. And walking around our neighborhood involves pushing the stroller up lots of hills, which I find easier with max in his carrier.
So long story short, our stroller was awesome for a flat, urban setting, but I'd have gotten a different one (like a Bob jogging stroller) to use in Nashville. And I also know moms who wear their babies everywhere and are fine with nothing but a small umbrella stroller. My biggest recommendation would be to wait as long as possible before spending lots of money on a stroller. Spend some time with your little one figuring out how you'll use the stroller (just for shopping excursions? or do you want to go off roading, or jogging with it? or does your baby love being worn all the time, making a stroller a moot point?)
Stay tuned, I'll have more posts coming on my favorite baby gear!