A few months back, we had a pediatrician visit where we were warned that Vivi was entering the stage of her life when she would start to show signs of finicky eating.

We’ve been very fortunate in this respect for most of Vivi’s life. The kid loves to eat. And, up until recently, she seemed to enjoy just about everything we put on her plate and would gobble it down without much resistance.

And then the toddler years hit.

It’s not that Vivi became exceptionally picky, but I did notice a new resistance to trying new foods or textures. Bread reigned supreme, while zucchini got the cold shoulder. Even foods that I knew she actually liked, like avocado or ground turkey, would sometimes be met with rejection upon first presentation. Rather than succumb to the temptation to simply fill up her belly with pasta and marinara sauce every night (always an acceptable option in Vivi’s book), I focused on trying new foods in familiar ways, adding tasty sauces that would dress up less appealing items, and capitalizing on flavors I know she always likes — all whilst keeping nutritious veggies in the forefront of her menu items.

It doesn’t always work (I am dealing with a toddler, after all), but these five recipes are pretty consistent ways I’ve found to get the little stinker to consume more produce. (And, bonus, they’re also totally delicious for adults.) Two of them I created myself, but the three others I’ve linked below. Enjoy!

Peanut Butter and Jelly Oatmeal

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Ok, this isn’t technically a veggie recipe, but it does get a hefty serving of fruit into your toddler (and it can barely even be called “cooking” because it’s so dang simple).

Ingredients:
1 packet instant oatmeal (I prefer this version from Trader Joe’s)
handful of frozen organic berries
1 T natural peanut or almond butter
1 T chia seeds
1 tsp ground cinnamon

Start boiling a kettle of water. Pour the instant oatmeal into a small bowl, and then top with frozen berries, peanut butter, chia seeds, and cinnamon. Once water has boiled, pour desired amount over oatmeal and stir to combine. Once the berries have softened, you can give ’em a little squish to get all those delicious juices to naturally flavor and sweeten the rest of the oatmeal. Tip: Pour the water directly onto the berries to thaw them quicker.

Spinach Pesto Spaghetti Squash with Turkey Meatballs

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I love, love, love this recipe, and not just because it provides multiple servings of veggies in every bowl. The first time I made it, I had serious doubts about whether or not Vivi would even try it, and she wolfs it down every time. Total mom win. (FYI, the picture above is when I made it with chicken sausage, which you can totally do if you’re strapped for time, but I think Viv actually prefers the turkey meatballs and that’s how I usually make this one.)

Ingredients:
1 spaghetti squash
1-2 T olive oil

Pesto:
1 bag organic baby spinach
1 avocado
1/4 c apple cider vinegar
2-6 cloves garlic (I use a TON of garlic, but you do you)
1/4 c olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Meatballs:
1 T olive oil
1 package ground turkey
1/3 c bread crumbs (sub GF if you don’t do the gluten thing)
1 egg
2-4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 t oregano
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Clean your spaghetti squash and cut in half length-wise. Drizzle with olive oil, and place cut side-down on a baking sheet. Bake for 35-45 minutes. Once it’s done baking, remove and allow to cool. Once the squash is cool enough to handle, use a fork to scrape out the inside. It should come apart easily into noodle-like strings.

While the squash is baking, put all of the pesto ingredients into a food processor and pulse until smooth. (Note: This makes a lot of sauce, so you will probably have enough left over to smear onto sandwiches or drizzle onto tacos. Do your thang.)

Next, put the T of olive in in a large skillet set to medium-high. Combine all of the other meatball ingredients in a medium bowl and mix with your hands until just combined. Form into 1-inch balls. Once the oil is shimmering, add the meatballs and cook, slowly turning until all sides are browned and the meatballs are cooked through (about 5-7 minutes).

Assemble your plate spaghetti squash>meatballs>pesto. Tip: I always serve the squash with a bit of sauce to Vivi first, then meatballs. She tends to give veggies more of a chance when she’s at her hungriest.

Sweet Potato and Chicken Sausage Hash

sweet potato and chicken sausage hash

For this one, my only tip would be to make sure the peppers are thoroughly cooked and soft. Vivi likes the taste of cooked peppers, but if I leave the skin on, they’re difficult for her to chew unless I cook them down for at least 10 minutes.

Slow Cooker Honey Garlic Chicken and Veggies

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Again, I really recommend starting your toddler with the veggies here. We tend to serve Vivi’s meals in “courses,” and it typically goes green veggies (broccoli, green beans, spinach), then sweeter veggies (carrots, sweet potatoes), then protein, then bread or carb. And because Vivi isn’t a huge fan of white or red potatoes, I put potatoes and carrot in each forkful and she ate happily.

Greek Turkey Burgers

greek turkey burgers

Pictured is the adult way to eat these. (So delicious.) For Viv, I served a cucumber course with yogurt dipping sauce, then a burger with a bit more yogurt, then a piece of bread, and she ate all without any fussing at all.

 

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Vivi has never been a great napper.

While overnight sleeping has been fairly simple since she was about three months old, daytime sleeping is ALWAYS a struggle. And, like most parenting struggles, it probably stressed me out more than it should.

But just imagine:

Vivi would GENERALLY nap around 10:30 a.m. and then again around 3 p.m. When she was around ten months old, we started cutting back to one nap, which could happen anywhere from 1:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. As you can probably tell, that’s a pretty big range. As a work-at-home-mom, a big nap range means it was difficult to schedule (and count on) work calls, interviews, or even just work time.

For those of you playing along at home, that added even more stress to my life.

Before I carry on with my story, I have a little anecdote for you: Some of you may remember when I was putting together Vivi’s nursery. I made a big fuss about trying to ensure that the room was as dark as possible when Vivi would be sleeping. But when I actually put everything to the test with infant Viv, the black-out shades were not…well, blacking out. Anything.

And you know what I did? I let it go. Yup, me. Of Grand Sux Cafe fame. I shrugged it off and let go and let God.

So time went on. And, as you know, Vivi continued to nap terribly.

AND I NEVER MADE THE CONNECTION BECAUSE I’M A MORON.

Which brings us to a few weeks ago when Viv and I spent a week at my parents’ house. Their guest bedrooms are all in the basement, giving them all a cave-like darkness incredibly conducive to sleeping in. Which I realized when Vivi slept about 14 hours straight her first night there. And again when all of her naps were over an hour and a half.

Perhaps this whole “darkness” thing was really onto something.

When I got home, I immediately went out and purchased an actual black-out curtain. And you know what happened?

Suddenly, my 12-hours-every-night-without-fail started sleeping an additional half-hour-to45-minutes every night. And napping? A few days ago, she slept THREE HOURS. That turned out to be a (magical) fluke, but she hasn’t napped for less than half an hour since updating the curtain.

Basically what I’m saying is that I’m never going to let anything go ever again. (Kidding.)(Kind of.)

As a parent, I’m sure there are going to be a lot of those “if I knew then what I know now” moments. But right now, insist on the black-out curtains is topping my list.

 

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One of my favorite things about being Vivi’s mom is watching her develop a sense of humor. It has always been fairly easy to coax a giggle out of her, but lately she has started to realize that she is funny.

Sometimes I watch her do something just to get a laugh out of me or whatever adoring audience has gathered around, and I have to marvel at that instinct. Sure, making someone laugh always makes me feel good, but what an amazing thing that babies feel that high too.

As a result, Vivi is just so silly. She’s constantly babbling, waving her arms, running around, and putting on a show. She fake sneezes, shrieks with joy, and blows raspberries on my tummy (giggling like a fiend all the way).

Her silliness is a reminder to me, too. My days are so full, and it’s easy to get caught up in my to-do lists. It’s easy to get frustrated or distracted. But when I see that huge grin spread across her face, the one that puts all five of her teeth on display, I can’t help but put down what I’m doing for a tickle fest or another round of “If You’re Happy and You Know It.”

I want to be a good, responsible mom, but I also want Vivi to remember that we had so much fun. We danced and sang and talked in silly voices and laughed and laughed and laughed.

Let’s get one thing straight: I am not a lipstick person. It has always been the one cosmetic that I’ve shied away from, and even in recent years (when I’ve become admittedly more into makeup), it has been a struggle to find anything that a) I like, b) is comfortable to wear, and c) actually stays on my mouth.

So, when I tell you that I like these four lipsticks, you should know that years of searching have gone into finding them. Respect.

I don’t wear lipstick every day, or even every week, but here are the shades I find myself reaching for whenever I do want to look a little more put-together.

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My nude lip….Beautycounter Lip Sheer in Twig.

Remember when I said I don’t wear lipstick every day? This is the one exception. I haven’t tried Beautycounter’s other lip sheers, but if the Twig shade is any indication, they are perfection. Creamy, moisturizing, and with build-able color that looks as great as it feels.

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My pink lip…Marc Jacobs Le Marc Creme Lipsticks in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

I got this lipstick as a free gift from Sephora, and I was immediately in love with it. The texture is really nice and not drying at all, and the color is bright but still pretty universally flattering. I wear it a lot more in warmer weather, but it’s a good semi-neutral pop to have in my back pocket. (LITERALLY.)(Not literally, it would probably melt.)

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My mauve lip…Buxom Big & Sexy Bold Gel Lipstick in Sultry Mauve.

Despite what the name implies, you do not immediately turn into a sexpot when you put this lipstick on. I actually find it to be really subtle, almost like a brighter version of my natural lip color. Great for almost every season, this is the anti-lipstick girl’s answer to bolder purple-y hues.

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My red lip…Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick in Fiery Red.

True life: I have always been deeply intimidated by red lipstick. It always looks so great on other people, but on me, I always felt like it to too loud, too pink, too orange, too…something. So I resigned myself to a life of neutrals (and secret lipstick envy of my braver friends). And then I got this version (again, in a trial set from Sephora). You guys. It is actually a true red, not too anything, and it somehow looks exactly right with my super pale skin. My favorite thing about it is that I barely have to wear any other makeup and my whole face looks brighter and more pulled together. Efficiency!

Of course, there’s one thing that helps every one of these looks (and really, any lipstick) look even better: white teeth. I’m fortunate that my teeth are naturally pretty white, but as a coffee addict drinker, I had definitely noticed that my chompers were looking a little worse for the wear. My dentist confirmed that my teeth were healthy, but that didn’t mean they couldn’t use a little boost.

So I was pretty excited when Smile Brilliant reached out to me about doing a blog partnership. Their teeth whitening kit is different from other strips and pastes I had tried in the past because they create custom whitening trays exactly fitted to your smile. Here’s how it works:

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First, Smile Brilliant sends you a kit to create your custom trays. It seems a little intimidating, but all you have to do is mix two putties together, put them in the blue trays, and then bite down for a minute.

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Next, after letting the trays dry overnight, you mail them in a pre-paid envelope back to Smile Brilliant for them to create your teeth whitening trays. The custom whitening trays will arrive about a week later.

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Then you’re ready to start whitening! The process has two steps, whitening and desensitizing. The length of time you spend whitening will depend on your own sensitivity, but I typically left my teeth whitening gel on for 50 minutes to an hour (AKA, the length of a TV show on Netflix). Then, the desensitizing gel goes on for 15-20 minutes, and I found that it really helped with tooth sensitivity. You can view a really simple how-to video by another blogger here, and here are some things to know before you whiten.

It will take 7-10 treatments to see full results, but I noticed my teeth started looking significantly whiter after the third treatment. I really liked how the trays were custom fit to my teeth, so there was no sliding and the treatment gel stayed right on the surface of my teeth. They were very comfortable, so I didn’t even mind wearing them for an hour. It was a little hard to capture the change in a photo, but my teeth are at least a shade or two whiter (before on the left):

beforeandafter

PLUS, Smile Brilliant is hosting a giveaway where you can win your own whitening tray creation kit and whitening/desensitizing gels! Click here to enter. But if you just can’t wait, you can also use the code stopmeifyouveheardthisone to get 5% off a kit at Smile Brilliant’s website — easy-peasy. Happy whitening!

Whitening kit provided as part of a partnership with Smile Brilliant. Opinions my own.


Professional Teeth Whitening

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I’m not typically that into “mom” jewelry. There’s this weird phenomenon that happens when you tack the adjective “mom” onto fashion. Typically, it gets, well, less fashionable. It’s as if it’s not enough that you’ve given up your body, your time, and your life in general — now you need to sacrifice your sense of style, wearing your new title as a badge of honor, as if to say NOTHING IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN MY KIDS, NOT EVEN LOOKING CHIC.

Of course, every good mom does think her kids are wildly more important than looking chic. It’s just…the two things aren’t mutually exclusive? At all? You can very easily have both?

…Bueller?

The point is, I like style and I love anything that makes me think of Vivi, so I’m pretty excited when I find something that technically qualifies as mom jewelry that I would also want to buy even if I didn’t have kids.

Which is also why I became immediately obsessed with the company Pixley Pressed when I discovered them through a friend’s Instagram.

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Pixley Pressed was started by a woman named Shawnie in Orange County, California after she became a mom. I was fairly delighted to discover that she started the shop after having a baby in an effort to remember who she was and do something for herself. Because, girl, that is exactly what your jewelry says to me. Shawnie’s collection includes bracelets, necklaces, rings, and more, but I’m a big fan of the customized necklaces.

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I wear my Vertical Bar Necklace pretty much every day. It’s sleek, simple, and goes with literally every outfit. But my favorite part is (ironically) what makes it my “mom” jewelry: The necklace is hand-stamped with Vivi’s birthday. Shawnie can customize her pieces with any (short) important message, whether that be a wedding date, a name, or even a latitude/longitude coordinate. I love the idea of adding on to my necklace with a bar for my wedding date, and even the birth dates of any future kiddos. (Still not pregnant, sorry, just thinking ahead!)

Basically, I think this might be the perfect gift for all the new mommas in your life. Because, yes, you’re a mom now. And that changes everything…except the fact that you still think your jewelry should be totally gorgeous.

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*Necklace provided for review. Opinions my own.

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Last weekend, Vivi had her first ever sleepover away from home without me.

It was at her grandparents’ in Long Island, so she wasn’t terribly far, but I’m sure you can still appreciate the momentousness of the milestone.

From the moment Vivi existed, she has been with me. Of course, she has had babysitters and even spent a full day with her grandparents before, but it was a strange experience to be truly separate for more than 24 hours.

Honestly, I was fine. I don’t beat myself up about the fact that sometimes it’s nice to get a break from parenting. Parenting is the world’s most constant job when you’re on, and I don’t know anyone who doesn’t need a moment to not be “on” now and then. To be fair, I kept myself very busy cleaning the apartment and even having a night out with friends (without worrying about the babysitter at home! So novel!). But I do think I could have been okay even if I had spent the entire time watching reality television at home.

It’s such a funny thing how so many people in the world are more than happy to jump down your throat if you even imply that you might enjoy doing something other than doting on your child all day. I think this perception is getting better (or maybe I just surround myself with people who are more compassionate and, let’s be real, honest), but I still feel it engrained in my own thinking sometimes. I actually had moments of guilt for not wishing Vivi was with me every second she was away. Like I should feel bad about enjoying being the person I was before a baby, even if only for a few hours. I’m going to try not to be so hard on myself about those feelings anymore.

That being said, I was SO. HAPPY. when Vivi came home. I swear that little stinker got even more gorgeous while she was away. And it was nice to see that she had missed me just as much.

I’m pretty proud of both of us.