Hi, I'm Rachel.

A few years ago I could barely boil water.

True story.

Determined to be a kick ass wife, I developed a love for football and learned to cook in my tiny Jersey City kitchen. I spend my days working in Manhattan, my nights and weekends chasing after a rambunctious toddler, and the hours in between cooking with my husband and feeding my TV habit...oh, and I blog about it all! 

Welcome to my world!

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Wednesday
Sep242014

Yesterday Sucked.

Yesterday I had a day.

A day when I just couldn’t do it all. I usually pride myself to a fault of doing it all. I work long days. Our weekends are filled with traveling here, there and everywhere to see family and friends. My husband and I do our very best to take care of our sweet baby girl and she seems happy and healthy. I think I look semi-put together (most of the time).

There are some mornings – most mornings – that run smoothly. I’m able to plan and pack and keep it all together well enough.

But there are days when I just feel like I can't handle it all - like I can barely keep my head on straight, let alone deal with all that's being thrown at me.

Yesterday was one of those days.

The day started well enough. A quick shower, I put on a dress and put on make-up (which I hardly ever do!). Penelope fought me on her morning diaper change and clothing change. Her diaper rash, which has been escalating for the last week was blazing and I finally realized that perhaps it's time to have her checked out.

Right before we left for the day, she spilled milk all over her outfit and there was a false poop alarm. I had to start over and change her whole outfit. We were already on the cusp of late, and this just clinched that lateness would for sure be happening today.

I received a text message from Shaun that the 33rd St Path wasn’t running this morning, for the second day in a row. I already felt flustered for the busy day ahead, and this just put me further on edge.

By the time I dropped of P and got her settled, I was definitely late. I arrived at the Path station in Jersey City to massive crowds on the platform since now all of the people who usually take the 33rd St train were clamoring to get to World Trade, the only running line.

I considered just packing it all in right then, turning around and heading home. But I stayed the course. I finally arrived at World Trade about 30 min later (on a train that usually takes no more than 10 minutes). It's about a 15 minute walk to the office from there on a good day, plus I had to factor in the 10 minutes it took to fight through this crowd to simply get out of the station.

In short, I was really, really late for work.

Since I was already so late, I figured a latte couldn't hurt the situation. So I got one.

I arrived late and called P's pediatrician, asking for a nurse or doctor to please call me about the rash. You have to bring her in, he said. We will need to see it to diagnose. How about 3pm?
Me: Is that the latest appointment you have today?
Him: Yes.
Me: Ok because I work, so 3pm isn't really feasible.
Him (now annoyed): Um yes, that's it. Do you want it?

My mom suggested taking her to an urgent care center which are usually open later in the evening. I found one in Hoboken and after a lot of coordinating with Shaun, we planned to meet up there right after work.

The day just got crazy from there. I had a luncheon commitment that I didn't want to miss and my work calendar was really filling up for the day. I felt a weight of stress settling in on my shoulders and that panicked feeling like I just couldn't do it all.

By the evening, I was just spent but determined for our medi center plan to work. We arrived at 6:50 and though they were open until 7:30 with one patient ahead of us, they wouldn't see us.

It took all of my energy and restraint not to knock the bottles of mouthwash and toothpaste behind me right off the shelves in a rage.

There was another center down the street, so we walked over. They took our info, made us wait for 10 minutes...then said they won't see patients under 24 months.

So after all that, we threw in the towel and went home. We bought some different OTC cream and gave it a whirl.

Penelope was up and screaming twice last night.

When I recounted the events of the day, Shaun even said...it wasn't that bad. And it wasn't. Nothing about this day was earth shatteringly bad. But it was just a day that really sucked. I felt like I couldn't win at any turn. I felt like a failing mom who can't even get her kid to the doctor. I felt like a bad employee since I was late, spent the morning dealing with scheduling doctor's appointments and was in an overall daze for most of the day. I felt miserable. I felt like I just couldn't do this life. Couldn't handle what it was throwing me on this particular day. I wanted to just throw up, then throw a tantrum, then throw a blanket over my head and lay in bed for the rest of the day watching Scandal.

I debated writing this post for fear of sounding whiny and like I have real problems (when I know I really don't). But I wanted to write it for all the moms out there who feel like this every now and then (or maybe more than that). I knew I'd get through the day. I knew I'd get back in my swing of handling it all. But yesterday I just couldn't. And that's ok, right? It's ok to cry in CVS and debate throwing tubes of toothpaste around, isn't it?

(Side note: I really take issue with the fact that the healthcare industry clearly doesn't care about working parents. Offices that are open from 8 - 5, and clinics that won't see children, even for a rash...how about an office that's open from 7 - 10AM and 5 - 8PM?)

The thing about blogging is that you only see what I want you to see. I'm generally an optimistic person (to a fault, sometimes) and so I try to and like to focus on all of the good things that go on, and all the things that I love in life, be it food, TV, nail polish, boots and more - in this space and in my own mentality.

But sometimes, Mama just needs to let loose and show you that it's not all great stuff all the time. Sometimes, days get really, really hard and I feel like I just can't handle it. And that's ok. I don't have to handle it all, all the time. I just have to work on accepting that.

I also try to remember that for every crummy day when nothing seems to go my way, there's always another day right behind it. And this new day means breaking in a cute outfit, some make-up, a functioning Path train, a refrigerator stocked with food, a {hopefully} rash-free Penelope by tonight, and a DVR filled with last night's Sons of Anarchy. So, how bad can that be?

 

Tuesday
Sep232014

35 Tips for Toddler Airplane Travel

 

 

This past summer, we spent a lot of time traveling. We flew to Aruba for a week. We flew to Siesta Key for 5 days. That's a lot of time on a plane with a rambunctious, mobile toddler. In some ways, it was easier than traveling with an infant...and in some ways, more difficult. When P was 9 months old and we flew to Aruba, she cried a bit, but wasn't really antsy to go anywhere. As a toddler, she just wants to move all the time and so sitting for a nice 5 hour flight wasn't quite the ideal situation. There were times while we were traveling that I thought...why did we do this? Why didn't we just stay home? It wasn't always easy, but as I've said before, I vowed to not stop living just because I had a child, and so...airplane rides for everyone!

Because I like to keep it real, and because I feel like I've learned a thing or two, having taken 6 plane rides thus far with Penelope, for today's Baby Talk Tuesday, I'm sharing my tips for airplane travel with a toddler. 

 

Plan Your Trip with a Toddler in Mind:

1. Plan ahead. Where are you going? How long is the flight? How old will your child be at the time of travel?

2. Find out about seating arrangements. If your child is under 2, he or she can still be in your lap for a small fee, so take advantage of that savings. It's not the most comfortable situation, but it's a small price to pay.

3. Try to get extra leg room, or even better, bulk head seating.

4. If traveling with your spouse, book an aisle & a middle seat so that you can get up to use the bathroom or just to walk your screaming tot around at your leisure.

5. Ensure you have proper paperwork. Make sure your child is on your itinerary and has a boarding pass, even if they are sitting in your lap. If you are travelling internationally, she will need a passport! Even as an infant! Leave enough time to get photo taken and send away for the passport.

 

Getting to the Airport:

6. Decide whether to drive & park, take a taxi or have a family member drive you.

7. If you are driving, do your research on parking in advance. Consider having your spouse drop you and your child off at the terminal to begin checking in while he parks the car.

8. If you are taking a taxi, ensure that you are comfortable installing your car seat, quickly and efficiently. Practice beforehand.

9. Plan for transportation on the other side. Will you be renting a car? Taking a taxi? Again, make sure you know how to install your car seat. In Aruba, the taxis don't have LATCH systems, and so I had to do seatbelt installation.

 

Getting Through the Airport:

10. Check your carseat when you arrive at the airport.

11. Use curbside check-in if available, it rocks. For a $5 tip, there's usually no lines, friendly sky caps, and an overall pleasant experience.

12. Keep the stroller. Plan to use it through the airport, while in line at security and to wrangle your tot in the crowd.

13. At security, keep your cool. I always have anxiety about not holding up the line behind me, but with P in tow, I just try to move as quickly as I can without stressing myself out. I can only do what I can do, and usually people and TSA agents are friendly and understanding.

 

Packing: The Big Stuff

14. Decide if you will bring your car seat, or rent one upon arrival. We brought ours in this sturdy car seat bag, which we checked. Car seats are typically free to check.

15. Plan to gate check your stroller. We used our compact umbrella stroller and got an inexpensive gate check bag so that the stroller wouldn't get crapped up in transit (worth every penny!). We simply kept it folded in our bag, then opened it once we were boarding the plane and wrapped up the stroller.

 

Before Boarding:

16. Let your child run like the wind. Get out all of that energy so they will be nice and tired once settled into your seats.

17. Purchase milk and/or water for the plane ride.

18. Pick up a yummy snack for Mom and Dad. Maybe something that your little nugget will also find exciting. P loved the Doritos in my Munchie Mix (note to self: next time, pick something without orange dust)

19. Do one last diaper change so that she's nice and dry and as comfy as can be.

 

Packing: What to Bring on the Plane

 

20. Be thorough, but don't overdo it.

21. Find a really great bag. I bought this beach bag from One Step Ahead which rocked for the beach, but was also a perfect carry-on. Sturdy, not too heavy, and carried it all.

22. Bring favorite snacks - more than you think your child could possibly eat. Then bring some more.

23. Pack an extra outfit; short sleeves & long sleeves, in case it's warm or chilly on the plane.

24. Bring a lightweight blanket (or 2), to use as both diaper mat and/or in case it's chilly on the plane.

25. Pack a few select and special toys. Something you know your child will love, or a surprise new toy for the plane. P loved her travel doodler from her grandma.

26. Download apps. Peek-a-boo Barn was a lifesaver on the way to Aruba.

27. Pack 2 empty bottles and/or sippy cups. Fill with purchased water and milk once through security.

28. If your child takes a pacifier, bring a bunch. I felt comfortable with 6.

29. Don't discount video entertainment. P refused to wear headphones, but she happily watched videos on the iPad and on Direct TV on one of the flights, without sound.

30. Pack enough diapers and wipes for the worst case scenario (e.g., a change every hour).

31. Add extra wipes for sticky hands

32. Wipe down your seat arms and tray tables as soon as you sit down.

 

On the Flight:


33. Let the third person in your row know that you'll do what you can to keep your kiddo under control.

34. If your kid needs a diaper change, get up and take care of it asap.

35. Try to relax...in the end, you can only do what you can do! You'll probably never see these people again, anyway.

 

What are your tips for traveling with a toddler or baby?

 

also! check out tips for traveling with an infant!

Monday
Sep222014

Crunchy Cookie Butter M&M Bars

Soft, gooey bars made with cookie butter and M&M's...if you like treats that are really sweet and indulgent, then this is for you!

 

You guys. I'm really excited. Not because it's Monday {obviously}. 

I'm really excited because today is Lauren's virtual baby shower!

 

 

Lauren was my first real blog friend, another northern NJ resident, maker of all things sweet and wonderful. When Lauren announced that she was pregnant, I couldn't wait to participate in her virtual baby shower. Lauren hosted a virtual baby shower for me when I was pregnant, and I was really touched by this. She is so thoughtful. I love blogging for many reasons, but one big reason is the relationships that I've built and at the top of that list is Lauren!

So.

When I started brainstorming something to make for Lauren's shower, I knew that something sweet was priority numero uno. I also know that she loves cookie butter. Oh and chocolate. Must.Have.Chocolate. So I devised these awesomely sweet, cookie buttery, M&M-filled, cake mix-crusted bars. They were pretty simple and it was a gamble to see if it would all come together. I'm happy to say that they did...in a soft, gooey, speculoosy yumness. But I must warn you...if you are the type of person who thinks certain desserts are too sweet, too rich, or just too much...well then these bars probably aren't for you. If you are into that kind of thing though, well, then I'm sorry and you're welcome.

I want to thank Lauren for inspiring me to get back in the kitchen and bake something. It's been a really long time since I've enjoyed getting creative and baking something delicious in my kitchen, and this felt like rekindled love. I hope you like these bars. I added blue and green M&Ms for baby boy, but of course any M&Ms of your choosing will do. They add just a hint of chocolatey goodness, and some much needed pretty color, especially the way that they melt into the crust. I'm off to have one right now before my diet starts again tomorrow.

 

Crunchy Cookie Butter M&M Bars

1 box yellow cake mix

3/4 C butter, softened + divided

1 egg

1 C crunchy cookie butter (speculoos; creamy cookie butter will of course work too!)

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1 1/2 C M&Ms

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and liberally grease a 13x9" pan.

Mix together the cake mix, 1/2 C butter and egg until combined, about 30 seconds. Gently stir in M&Ms. Press 2/3 of the mixture into the bottom of the pan. Meanwhile, in a microwave-safe bowl, combine the cookie butter, sweetened condensed milk and 1/4 C butter. Microwave about 1 minute until melted and stir until all ingredients are combined and butter is fully melted. Pour over the cake mix 'crust' and spread with a rubber spatula.

Drop the rest of the cake mix batter on top in small blobs all over.

Bake for 30-35 minutes or until set. The top cake mix blobs will sink into the cookie butter mixture and get all swirled together in a truly awesome way.

Let cool, cut into bars and devour.

 

These are so good. A little too good, if you ask me.

Lauren, thanks for being a wonderful bloggy friend. You couldn't be sweeter and I wish you all the best for the coming months with your sweet baby boy. It's the best, yet hardest, thing in the world and just make sure to enjoy every moment! And if I could say just one thing to you I will tell you what my boss told me just before I went on maternity leave...you will sleep again! It might not seem like it at the time, but you will :)

 

Have you ever baked with cookie butter? This was my first foray!

What advice would you give to Lauren as a new mom?

 

Be sure to check out the rest of the party for Lauren from these truly amazing ladies:

Mini Pumpkin Layer Cakes from The Baker Chick

Mini Apple Spice Cupcakes from Dinners, Dishes, and Desserts

Mini Nutella Brownies from The Cooking Actress

Mini Iced Oatmeal Cookie Apple Pies from Girl Versus Dough

Pickles in a Blanket from The Lemon Bowl

Mini No-Bake Chocolate Cheesecakes from Bake or Break

Mini Cookie Cocktail (and Mocktail!) from We Are Not Martha

Mini Chocolate and Peanut Butter Fondant Cakes from London Bakes

Double Decker Birthday Cake Blondie Bites from Baker By Nature

Mini Brown Butter Pumpkin Cupcakes from Eats Well With Others

Roasted Caprese Stack with Peaches from Warm Vanilla Sugar

Crunchy Cookie Butter M&M Bars from The Avid Appetite

Mini Pumpkin Streusel Pies from Espresso and Cream

 

Also, for more baby goodies, here's my surprise baby shower, what I made and froze before baby, my baby to do list, what I packed in my hospital bag and the baby's hospital bag!