Sunday, November 24, 2019

Common Household Items I Do Not Own | MINIMALIST LIVING


Every once in a while, a person may go through their belongings and realize they have items in their home that they never, or rarely use, and come to the conclusion they can live without it. Usually its little things like maybe a book, some clothes, or perhaps it’s getting rid of a few extra spoons or forks in the kitchen drawers.
Then there’s people like minimalists, who get rid of simple, everyday items that you think you “have to have” or “can’t live without”, and couldn’t imagine getting rid of just because everyone has them and that’s what a house is “supposed to have”. I was once one of those people, but after becoming a minimalist myself, I recently got rid of a lot of things in my home that I realized I didn’t really need after all. So today I am going to share with you the common household items that I do not own. I also have a video version on my YouTube channel here.

COFFEE TABLE
A coffee table is looked upon as such a necessity. I have never been in a home where there wasn’t one. Most people I have seen use them to hold books, flowers, a candy jar, or the remotes to the TV. We had a coffee table that we never used except to eat on as a table occasionally, so we realized if it isn’t being used, and isn’t a necessity, why keep it around? Our living room looks so much bigger than before and I love the new open space we have!

DISH DRYING RACK
This is something I realized I have never seen a home without, yet it is something I don’t really see the point in. I see the point in having to dry the dishes, but I find laying the dishes on a clean towel on the counter works just as fine.

VARIOUS KITCHEN APPLIANCES (such as a toaster, coffee maker or k cup machine, skillet or griddle, and waffle maker)
All of the above I found are very common because out of all my friends and family, I have never seen a house without them - yet we do not own them because: we found the oven works as a toaster just fine, we don’t drink coffee and never have enough people over to keep the coffee maker around for guests, we use the stovetop instead of a countertop skillet and griddle, and a waffle maker because we just don’t make waffles.

LANDLINE
With everyone into cell phones now, landlines are something you do not hear about anymore, yet it is something everyone still seems to have. Every single one of my friends and everyone in my family has a landline. I feel like I am the only person who doesn’t. Funny thing is I always see it in people’s homes, yet it is never used, and they even agree to not using it. Why have something you don’t use?

HAIR HEATING/HAIR FRYING PRODUCTS (such as a hair dryer, curling iron, and straightener)
As I am a woman, it surprises people that I do not own a blow dryer, straightener, and curler. The main reason is I do not like to apply heat to my hair as it is unhealthy for it, but I also simply have no use for all three. I let my hair air dry, my hair is already straight, and my hair won’t hold a curl for more than 10 minutes no matter how much hair spray I put in.


DINING ROOM TABLE

This one is probably the most shocking, and that is not having a dining room table. Who is savage enough to not own a dining room table and chairs? Me. We had one and never used it. It just sat there taking up half the kitchen not being used. Even guests wouldn’t use our table or chairs, so we finally got rid of them. We eat dinner on the couch either using TV trays or just simply putting our plates in our laps. Our daughter still uses a high chair, but when she gets older we’ll probably even eat on the floor, picnic style.

DUSTER
A duster I see every now and again, yet every time I see one it makes no sense to me and I wonder how often it even gets used. They don’t pick up dust, it just spreads it around.
  
IRON AND IRONING BOARD
I really don’t know what to say for this one other than I just have no reason to iron my clothes.


SOFTENER AND DRYER SHEETS

You probably couldn’t imagine doing the laundry without softener and dryer sheets, but trust me, the clothes turn out just fine without them. I don’t notice a difference in softness, color, or static, but I also wash my clothes in cold water, so maybe that also makes a difference? For me it also saves money not having to buy them periodically. 

Once I realized I could live without these things, and hardly used them in the first place, it felt so good to let them go. My home is becoming more spacious without becoming empty, there’s less to clean and keep up with, and everything in my home I love and is put to use on a regular basis. It’s such a wonderful feeling and I encourage you reading this to take a look at the things that are in your home, evaluate how much you actually need those items, and get rid of them if need be. Thank you for reading this post and I’ll chat to you in another one!


Sunday, October 13, 2019

Lazy Vegan Nachos Recipe



One of my favorite things to snack on before going vegan was nachos. My siblings and I would come home from school, grab a bag of chips, grab some shredded cheese, bake them together until the cheese was fully melted on top, and BOOM – afternoon snack! As much as I love nachos, I have not made them since going vegan. I’ve had them at vegan restaurants, but never made them at home. So last night I decided to give it a try and instead of looking up a recipe online, I created a recipe myself, which is what I am sharing with you today. My favorite of this dish is the fresh chips. My step-mother introduced me to this 2 ingredient recipe years ago and it has been a favorite since. SO much better than store bought. The guacamole is also a family favorite. You can add tomatoes to the guacamole if you would like, I just don’t much care for tomatoes. And the meat crumbles and cheese sauce taste so real, you wouldn't know they were vegan! I hope you give this recipe a try and let me know how you enjoyed it!


GUACAMOLE
4 avocadoes
1 lime
¼ cup cilantro (chopped)
¼ medium onion (diced)
1/4 teaspoon salt

MEAT CRUMBLES
Oil for sautéing
¼ medium onion (diced)
1 8 oz package of vegan meat (I used 1 package of beyond meat burgers)
1 tablespoon taco seasoning (homemade or store bought)
1 tablespoon water

CHEESE SAUCE
½ cup water
1 package Chao Cheese Slices (or 7 oz of other vegan cheese of choice)
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
¼ teaspoon modified corn starch
½ teaspoon hot sauce (I used The Original Louisiana Perfect Hot Sauce)

HOMEMADE CHIPS
1 package corn tortillas
Oil for frying
Salt to taste

ADDITIONAL/OPTIONAL TOPPINGS
Sliced jalapenos
Diced tomatoes
Chopped cilantro
Vegan sour cream
Black olives

Step 1 - Add oil to a fryer, or frying pan if you don’t have a fryer, and turn it on medium-high heat. I put my fryer to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. You are not frying the chips yet. Just getting the oil prepared and hot for later.

Step 2 - Prepare the guacamole.  Start by mashing the avocadoes, then add in the lime, cilantro, onions, and salt. Mix and you are finished! Set aside for later.

Step 3 - Start the meat. Add oil to a pan. Once hot, add onions and sauté for a few minutes. Add in the Beyond Burgers, or other vegan meat of choice. If your meat is in patty/burger form like mine, break down with a spoon into crumbles and cook until browned, about another 5 minutes. Add in taco seasoning and water and cook for another 3 minutes. Turn heat to low while you prepare the cheese sauce, stirring occasionally so it doesn’t stick to the bottom.

Step 4 - Start the cheese. Add water to a pan and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add in cheese, nutritional yeast, corn starch, and hot sauce. Stir continuously until fully combined and melted.

Step 5 - Turn the heat off for the meat and cheese and set aside.

Step 6 - Prepare the chips. Take the whole package of corn tortillas and cut into fourths, making triangle chips. Add to the hot oil a little at a time and fry for about 30 seconds to a minute. They may not look done yet, but they will continue to cook once out of the fryer. If you let them turn brown in the fryer, they will end up being overcooked. Repeat this until all the tortillas are fried. Salt the chips if desired.

Step 7 – Assembly. Put half of the chips on a plate. Pour half the cheese sauce on top. Add half of the meat crumbles. Add the last half of chips. Add the last half of the cheese. Add the last half of the meat crumbles. Add a few dollops of guacamole on top, along with the additional, but optional, toppings of choice as listed above.

Step 8 – Eat up and enjoy!
If you would like to see this recipe in action, check out my YouTube video HERE!

Monday, October 7, 2019

Homemade Taco Seasoning Recipe | Zero Waste Cooking


Since starting my zero waste lifestyle, I have become more conscious of the things I buy, like food for example. A lot of the foods we buy are packaged, like soups, sauces, tv dinners, flours, you get the idea. I now try and make most of my food from scratch and buy minimal to zero packaging. This also goes for spices and seasonings. I used to always get those little square packets of spice mixes for tacos but over a year ago started making my own, which is what I am going to be sharing with you today. Making your own food also allows you to be in charge of what goes in it. A lot of taco seasonings I would buy had extra flavorings, sugar, and caking agents, but my homemade version is just strictly spices. This recipe is also a bit large so it will need to be stored into a little glass container for later use. This is my favorite, and go-to taco seasoning recipe and I hope you like it as much as I do. Lets all try and reduce plastic and unnecessary packaging where we can!

Recipe:
6 tbsp chili powder
3 tbsp ground cumin
5 teaspoon sea salt
5 teaspoon black pepper
2 ½ teaspoon paprika
1 ½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 ½ teaspoon onion powder
1 ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 ½ teaspoon dried oregano

Step 1 – Add all measured out spices into a container.

Step 2 – Mix until fully combined and that’s it! Quick and easy!

Friday, April 19, 2019

Baby Must Haves | 6-12 Months



Just as it was the first six months of your baby’s life, these next six months will include many more new experiences, challenges, and milestones. These changes will require adding new gear and accessories to the mix to make yours and your baby’s life easier. Some mothers and fathers may have a different idea of what “essentials” they will and will not need for their baby, but below are some of the items that my family used to make life a little easier and less stressful.

ESSENTIALS
                                                                                                            Toys
The first six months of a baby’s life they don’t play with many toys, if any at all. At least mine didn’t. But sometime between the 6-12 month stage is a good time to get things like blocks, books, balls, and other small toys. To be honest, my daughter is 13 months old and she still isn’t a fan of toys, but there are some that she likes to play with on occasion. My favorites are her wooden toys like her activity cube, blocks, and musical puzzle. One of her favorites is her walker that she got for Christmas, which is something that I would recommend getting for your child. It exercises your child, helps with the walking process, and increases their balance and stability.

Baby Proofing Items
This is probably the most important of everything I will be discussing. Baby proofing items could include outlet covers, door handle covers, baby gates, cabinet and drawer locks, or something along those lines. This may also mean reorganizing the house or buying new furniture, like a TV stand with doors so the baby can’t drag things out of it. Whichever way you decide to baby proof your home, this is a must because once they are able to crawl, climb, and walk, they can and will get into everything they see and could potentially harm themselves if your house is not “baby friendly”.

                    Pack n’ Play
If you follow my blog or watch any of my YouTube videos, you may be tired of me talking about our pack n’ play, but I always include it because it has been an essential her entire life thus far. We use is as a bed mainly. It was her bed the first 3 months of her life, we’ve used it for babysitters so they have something to put Amelia down for a nap in, used it outside if we’re doing something like working on the car so she can be beside us but contained so she wouldn’t go anywhere, and used it as a bed in the countless hotels we’ve stayed at.

Teething Supplies
Another really important one is the need for teething supplies. Your child may already have had teeth coming in before, like ours did, but after the seven month mark they may start to come in at a faster rate, a few coming in at the same time even. This will cause a lot of pain for your child so it is important to have teething supplies to help them through this natural, yet painful, process. Some natural remedies for teething we use are putting frozen fruit, or even ice, in a pacifier/food feeder and letting her chew on it. The counter pressure along with the cold helps sooth sore and throbbing gums. We sometimes use gripe water to help with fussiness. During the teething process, your child to be will be cranky and some babies end up getting a fever, In this case, the best thing to do is make sure your child is staying hydrated and getting plenty of rest. You may use natural remedies or you may use medication, but whatever teething pain treatment you use, have some ideas or supplies on hand because this is something every parent will have to go through and being prepared is best.

Shoes
Shoes are pretty standard, but your baby never needed them before as they could not walk yet. Most likely your baby will be walking sometime between their 6 and 12th month, so when that happens, shoes will be a necessity.

Dishwashing Basket
Even though our dishwashing basket was gifted to us, I probably would have ended up getting one anyway after realizing how hard it would be to get all my daughter’s tiny bottle pieces clean. Before using the dishwashing basket, bottle pieces would fall off the top shelf of the dishwasher to the bottom and melt, and washing everything by hand would get time consuming, so having a dishwashing basket helped make the cleaning process smoother.

                                                                                High Chair
Another pretty common and standard item once your baby begins solid foods is a high chair. This was an essential for us because having a high chair meant the mess stayed in one spot of the house rather than letting our child run around the house free with food, leaving crumbs and puree behind. It’s also nice to have a place to set your baby to eat so that way you can eat beside them peacefully.

Eating Utensils
The six month mark is when it is recommended to feed our babies solids, so along with needing a high chair, feeding utensils, such as sippy cups and baby spoons, will be needed. Make sure to hand the baby the spoon. It will be messy but good fun for your child!

Toothbrush and Paste
At the start of your baby’s sixth month they may not have many teeth, if any at all, but by the end of the year they will have a mouthful! Keep your baby’s teeth and gums healthy by brushing them. Flossing them at this point is a little bit harder, though my daughter’s dentist recommends it. Make sure to use a soft-bristled toothbrush and safe-to-swallow toothpaste.

NICE-TO-HAVES
                                            Baby Carrier
Although the next two items were not “essentials” for us, meaning we could live without them, they were nice to have. I love baby wearing but my daughter was always too small for her baby carrier and I couldn’t use it the first eight months of her life. After she could fit into it, though, I used it a lot. I would mainly use it to take her out on walks, but I also would use it around the house when she wanted to be held but I was in the middle of something that required two hands, like cooking and doing the dishes.

Shopping Cart Cover
The last I will mention is a shopping cart cover. We didn’t use this every shopping trip, but we always kept it in the car “just in case”. However, this was especially good during flu season as shopping carts are a very germy device. So many babies sit in the cart and chew on the seat buckles and everyone’s hands touch the bar handles to push the cart. You never know if someone is sick or how often they wash their hands, so putting a cart cover on the shopping cart helps minimize the risk of catching something.





I hope this list helped someone out and gave some helpful tips on what you might and will be needing for your baby during this time. I also have a video version discussing this same topic, among many others, on my YouTube channel. Thank you for reading this post and leave down in the comments what your baby’s 6-12 month essentials are!

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Planning a Disney World Vacation on a Budget



Disney…the Happiest Place on Earth. It’s where everyone dreams of visiting and wishes to go back, but anyone who has ever visited a Disney Park knows how expensive and unaffordable it can be. This post is for anyone who wants to make the big trip to Disney World, or any Disney park for that matter, but is hesitant because of the cost, and even the person who isn’t too concerned about the cost, but is still hoping to spend less overall. Over the many years that I have religiously gone to Disneyland, I have acquired some money saving advice I would like to share with you to make your Disney experience magical while still keeping in within the budget and to make your trip possible to begin with. So let’s get started!

#1 GET YOUR TICKETS IN ADVANCE
Almost always, you can buy amusement park tickets at a lower cost. Disney World is no different. Before buying your Disney tickets, shop around online. Go on the Disney website to see Disney’s ticket prices, then look on other websites to see if you can get them at a price cheaper than that. You may not save much, maybe only $10 per ticket, but it is still worth it especially if you are a budget traveler and trying to lower the overall cost of the trip. Even if you do decide to buy your tickets at Disney’s full price, do not wait to get them at the gate. Still buy them online that way you can avoid extra wait times to get into the parks. You’d have to wait in line to get your tickets, then wait in another line to check your bags, then another line to get inside the parks. By getting tickets in advance you can eliminate one of those lines. We purchased our Disney tickets at the parks when I was growing up and this added 1-2 hours to get inside the parks once we got there. Now that we always buy our tickets in advance, it only takes us 20 minutes max to get inside.

#2 SKIP PEAK TIMES
Peak times are the most expensive time to travel to Disney. The tickets, Disney restaurant and park food, hotels, and sometimes even flights, will all raise prices. Check out this website on the best and worst times to visit Disney World to plan your trip accordingly and make it budget-friendly for you. Even if you can afford the extra cost, keep in mind how much longer lines will be during peak times, which is never fun.

#3 DON’T GET THE PARK HOPPER PASS
One last tip on buying your Disney tickets is do not get the park hopper pass. Hopping between parks at Disney World is time-consuming and expensive, as the park hopper pass adds $55 per ticket. You will save money by visiting one park per day and in turn will also experience more by not rushing around from park to park.

#4 STAY AT AN OFFSITE HOTEL
While there are many advantages to staying on property, including quick and free transportation to the parks, extended park hours not available to regular Disney guests, and complimentary airport shuttles, the extra cost isn’t worth it if you’re going to spend most of your waking hours at the park. Disney resorts and properties start around $200 a night, so staying off-site will certainly save money. We stayed at the Enclave Hotel and Suites which was about 15-20 minutes away from the Disney parks and around $80 per night, and we loved it. We stayed in a two bedroom room on the top floor with a balcony overlooking a lake, equipped with a kitchenette and utensils, and accommodations included free breakfast, a gym, restaurants, a pool, and more. This hotel is also down the street from the world’s largest McDonald’s, so that was kind of an interesting attraction all in itself. Staying at an off-site hotel also means you will be in the center of more attractions, if you’re planning on travelling to Orlando for more than just a Disney vacation. Even if you do decide to stay at a Disney resort, do not reserve it from the Disney website. Use booking.com, expedia.com, or another website for discounted prices. Also use Ebates to get cashback on your hotel reservation.

#5 DRIVE INSTEAD OF FLY
Although you can find cheap flights online, it is still hard to beat the cost of driving. For my family of 3, it was worth 9 hours of driving from Tennessee to Orlando to save the cost of 3 plane tickets and a rental car. We only spent about $80-90 on gas roundtrip, which saved us hundreds compared to flying. Of course you shouldn’t do this if you live all the way on the other side of the USA. It would still be cheaper to drive but it would also take about two days there and two days back, taking up half the trip just in travelling. If you live relatively close to Orlando however, or even a few states over, then driving is the way to go.


                       #6 BRING YOUR OWN FOOD
A big money saving tip is to bring your own food as Disney food prices are high. Just a vegan hot dog and small fries was about $15 and I was still hungry afterwards. A drink from another place was about $6. Small fruit cups and pineapple spears can be $5. All this really adds up over the course of the day and for each family member, so bringing your own food could save you a lot of money. My family and I bring reusable water bottles so we can fill up at the parks for free, as opposed to soda and juices which aren’t free, and we bring our own snack bars and fruit to eat during the day. I’m not saying to deprive yourself and to not try Disney food, because Disney food is amazing and you need to experience it if you haven’t! We will eat one to two meals at the park ourselves, but we’ve saved a lot at Disney parks by eating food we’ve brought ourselves for most of the day. This is better for our family anyway with mine and my daughter’s food allergies and with all of us being vegan.


#7 AVOID THE SOUVENIR SHOPS
My last tip is to avoid the souvenir shops because you or your kids will end up wanting something and end up spending more than if you just stayed out of them in the first place. We ended up walking into some of the shops “just to see what they had” since we had never been to Disney World before, and wanted to compare the shops between Disney World and Disneyland, and I ended up buying a sweatshirt and a picture frame, and just those two together were over $100. Another money saving tip is to bring your own sunscreen, strollers, and any essentials you might need so that way you don’t need to buy or rent anything last minute. Ask Disney workers to use your camera to take your picture with characters instead of having to buy them. Bring jackets for everyone for later in the night, even if it was hot during the day, so that way you’ll have one if you need it and won’t have to buy one last minute, like my $80 one.

The Disney parks are such a magical place, but are also money-suckers and can break the bank if you’re not careful. Although this was my first time to Disney World, I grew up with Disneyland and went almost every single day for years. So having some Disney experience, these tips not only apply to Disney World, but other Disney Parks as well. I hope you enjoyed this post and be sure to check out my YouTube channel for a video on this topic as well as some of my other Disney videos that I will link below. Be safe, have fun, and save lots on your upcoming trip to Disney!

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Tips for Planning Baby's First Birthday


I’m not much of a party person, but when it came to my daughter’s first birthday party, I was all in. Children grow so much and reach so many important milestones their first year of life. How can you not celebrate it? This was my first time ever hosting a birthday party, so after having done one, I’ve gained some experience as well as some planning advice and tips to share to hopefully make your party planning easier and your baby’s big day run smoother.

PLANNING
                                                                                                                        Party Theme
The theme is the first thing to decide when planning a baby’s first birthday. I chose Peter Rabbit as my daughter’s theme since she loves the books, the movie, and sleeps with a Peter Rabbit rattle every night. When choosing the theme, you could base it off your child's favorite character, their favorite book or tv show, or keep it neutral. Choose what you think your baby will like and be sure to check out Pinterest for some great ideas.

Invite List
Next is creating your invite list. How big or small your invite list will be should be determined by your child. If your child is social and gets excited by large groups of people, then by all means, throw a big party. But if they cannot handle large crowds, it’s best to not invite a large group of people. If unfamiliar people scare your child, it’s best to not invite them to the party either. The last thing you want to do is overwhelm your child and make them feel uncomfortable on their special day.

Place
This should be determined after the invite list is made since you won't know until then how big or small of a place you'll need. If you have a larger group of people, it would be best to hold the party outside at a park or at a venue. If your guest list will be short, holding the party at a house will be fine. Our apartment was too small to hold all 12 of our guests, so we held the party at my mom’s house.

Date and Time
Choose your baby’s party either before or at least a week after their 12 month vaccines. If you do it too close, you run the risk of either having a cranky and sick baby at the party, or having to cancel the party altogether because your baby doesn’t feel good. A second tip is to make the party after your child’s first nap, or whenever your child is at their best attitude. My daughter’s party was from 3-5pm, supposed to be in-between her first and second nap, except she decided not to take her nap. So she was fussy her entire party and all she wanted to do was bury her head into my chest. So do whatever it takes to get your child to sleep. You will regret it if not. Lastly, if your baby’s birthday is near a holiday, keep in mind people may already have other plans and parties to attend. If that’s the case, you might want to plan your baby’s party either before their actual birthday or a week or two after.

                                     Decorations

When buying your baby’s decorations and party supplies, I feel advance is always best so that way you’re not trying to buy everything last minute and you’ve had enough time to go out and buy the things you actually want. I did all my shopping online to get Peter Rabbit themed supplies, so I definitely had to plan and buy in advance so that way all our stuff arrived on time. Some things took almost 2 months to arrive, to put things into perspective. Some things to buy are invitations, thank you cards, streamers, banners, plates, napkins, cups, forks, spoons, etc.

Baby’s Outfit
Choose what you want your baby to wear on their special day. Keeping in Peter Rabbit theme, I ordered a Peter Rabbit dress for my daughter. I ordered it from Etsy, so it was handmade especially for her, which made it extra special.

Food
Food is one of the most important factors of any celebration. Keep the food selection in theme with your party. With ours being Peter Rabbit themed, we served lots of garden and “rabbit” type food. We served fruit tray, veggie platter, chips and guacamole, Chickpea Salad Sandwiches, and Fruit Infused Water.

                                                                                             Smash Cake

The smash cake is probably the highlight of every first birthday party, so this is not to be missed. Normally what people do is they buy a sheet cake at a store like Stater Bros., Walmart, Krogers, and the like, because when you do, you get a smash cake for free. However with us being vegan, and my daughter having food allergies and intolerances, we decided to go the homemade route. I’m also not too big on junk food and processed sugars, so I made her this baby-friendly Vanilla Apple Birthday Cake with shredded carrots folded into the mix to make it a “carrot” cake, and wanted to make this Tofu Vanilla Frosting to go with it, but I was pressed for time and ended up using a pre-made cream cheese frosting from the store. As for everyone else’s cake, I made carrot cupcakes topped with the same cream cheese frosting.

EXTRA TIPS
Keep the weather in mind. If it will be cold, snowy, or rainy, it’s best to not have an outdoor party like at a park.
Do whatever it takes to get your baby to sleep before the party. Nothing is worse than a cranky guest of honor.
Have the party last about two hours. You don’t want less than that or everything will be rushed, and no longer than that or things can get pretty boring for your baby and you run the risk of your child getting cranky and sleepy all over again.
Have the house decorated the night before and all your food pre-chopped, for things like your fruit and veggie platter, so that way you have little to do the day of and things are less stressful and run smoother.
Do not plan games. You will most likely not play them. We had three games planned with prizes for the winners and we did not play any of them except for family who stayed long after the party was over. It was just a waste of time and money planning and preparing for them.
Have a designated picture-taker/videographer so that way you get to be in the present moment and to be in pictures with your child and not experiencing everything from behind the screen.
Have a designated gift tracker who writes down who got your child what. It will make writing thank you cards so much easier.

That is it for my first birthday planning advice and tips! I hope it was helpful and be sure to check out my YouTube video where I also discuss this topic. And give yourself a pat on the back. You've just completed your first year of parenthood!

Monday, January 21, 2019

Baby Travel Essentials | What's in My Baby's Travel Bag



Whether it’s by plane, train, or car, traveling with a baby can be stressful with all the extra baggage to make space for and lug around. My partner and I have traveled with our baby quite a bit in just her first year and have learned along the way what is practical and what isn’t to make for an easier and stress-less trip, so here I will be making a list of the sort of things we pack for our baby when traveling to give other parents an idea of what to bring for theirs. Keep in mind what’s practical for some parents may not be for others as different kids may have different needs. This is just a guide and what works for us, so when you’re making your packing list, have your own baby in mind and pick and choose items as you see fit.

Wyatt the Whale
We bring our daughter’s sound and light soother with us to make her feel more at home. This would not be an essential for most people, however our baby falls asleep quicker with Wyatt.

Pack n’ Play

We always bring our Graco Pack n’Play for any overnight trip. Our baby does not sleep with us so having a pack n’ play to act as a crib while we’re away is a must.

Epipen
This is something a lot of parents will not need, but if your child has any kind of serious allergies, whether food or environmental, an epipen is something to not forget and to keep with you at all times.

Diaper Bag
The diaper bag is an essential as it is the main thing that every parent lugs around during the day for their child to keep all their little things in. I even quit using my own purse so our diaper bag is not only my baby’s bag, but mine too. I use the Skip Hop Chelsea Diaper Bag in Black.

Diapers and Wipes
Whether you’re cloth diapering or using disposables, diapers and wipes are a must for all babies and toddlers still in diapers. We choose to use disposables and how many diapers we bring depends on the duration of the trip.

Formula, Bottles, Bottle Soap, and Bottle Scrub

Our baby is not breastfed, so bringing formula with us is a must at this stage as it is still the bulk of her nutrition, and how much we bring depends on the length of the trip we are taking. Of course we need bottles to put the formula in, and if our trip is longer than three days, we always bring soap and a bottle scrub to clean her bottles with.

Diaper Rash Cream
Diaper rash cream is something I like to carry with me on trips “just in case”. I have never needed to use it on a trip before, but I like to keep some on hand in case I do need it. Nothing would be worse than to need diaper rash cream, not have it, and then have to go out and buy some. My favorite diaper rash cream is the Earth’s Best Organic Diaper Relief Ointment.

Baby Spoons and Pureed Foods
Once our baby was old enough to eat solid foods, we started bringing a baby spoon and jarred purees with us along with the formula.

Snacks (Crackers, Fruits, etc.)

Also after my baby started eating solid foods, I would pack lots of extra food besides formula. Dry things like crackers, gummies, and freeze dried fruits are great for snacks on the go like at an amusement park, plane ride, car ride, etc. I like to save the juicy snacks like berries, mangoes, and other fresh fruits for the beach or for breakfast at the hotel where I can wash my baby off more easily.

Bibs and Burp Cloths
This is another thing we would pack more so when our baby was younger and messier with food, but it is still something we pack even at a year old. We always bring one of each and use them as we need them, which is hardly ever anymore.

Gripe Water
When your baby is screaming and fussy and all else fails to calm them down, that’s where gripe water comes in. We have had to use our Mommy’sBliss Gripe Water on a few different trips, so I always pack it with me. I mix it in with her bottle rather than giving it to her by syringe.

Toys

I always bring a few small toys with us on trips for my daughter. We have a pink cell phone for her to watch videos on for long car rides, and a mixture of little stuffed animals, crinkly toys, and rattles to play with in the stroller, in the car, while we’re at a restaurant, or to have her sleep with at the hotel.

Blanket
Now that my baby is older I started putting a blanket in her crib with a few small stuffed animals to keep her company while she sleeps, so we do the same for travel as well. A blanket is also good to drape over their car seat to keep them warm, especially if you have no heater in the car. This is also more for winter travel.

Sun Hat and Sunglasses
A sun hat is good to bring to keep your baby’s head from getting burned in sunny locations and baby sunglasses are good to bring to keep the sun out of their eyes, especially during road trips when your baby is still rear facing. Nothing hurts your ears more than listening to the effects of the bright sun shining in your baby’s face for hours.

Swimsuit, Swim Diapers, Beach Towel, and Sunscreen

Also in sunny weather, families usually like to take a beach trip or have a relaxing day at the hotel’s pool. A swimsuit and sunscreen are to protect their skin, swim diapers are if your baby is still in diapers, and a beach towel for drying them off with.

Body Wash
Body wash is obviously needed to give your baby a bath with. I don’t like using the hotel options as they always leave my skin dry and the shampoos leave my hair brittle and greasy. The ingredients in them are terrible too so I always bring travel sized versions of what we use and will bring a 2-in-1 body wash and shampoo combo for my baby.

Few Changes of Clothes (socks, jackets, pants, shirt, shorts, pjs, etc,)
How many outfits I pack depends on how long we will be traveling, but bring how many you think you will need plus a few extra. Some outfits might get ruined by poop explosions, pee spillovers, or get really stained from food. Always keep an extra change of clothes with you in the diaper bag when you’re out an about. We did not do this at Disneyworld and my daughters pants were soaked with pee and we had no extra change of clothes so half the day she was sitting in soiled clothes. Another time we were at a restaurant and had a poop explosion and had no backup clothes so out daughter had to be pant-less at the restaurant and everyone was staring. Don’t be unprepared. Also check the weather right before you go so you know what sort of outfits to pack.

Stroller
A stroller is a must if your baby is not able to walk yet. Your arms would not make it if you tried to carry your baby around all day while exploring a town or city.

Baby Carrier

Even though we have a stroller with us to push our baby around in, I always like to bring the baby carrier with us too. Since strollers are not allowed in lines at amusement parks, a baby carrier is easy to hold your baby in since your arms won’t get tired. And at a festival once, we ended up having to put our daughter in a baby carrier since the stroller started getting too full of merchandise and handouts and we were running out of arms. Also it just feels nice to keep your baby close to you.

Bottle Cooler Bag and Icepacks
Our bottle cooler bag was a gift from the hospital we gave birth at and I love it because it keeps our baby’s leftovers cold while we’re out and about so they won’t go bad. We forgot we had it so before we started using this we were throwing out a lot of milk. And of course for the bag you will need some ice packs. We bring our own from home and freeze them in our hotel freezer overnight.

Baby Thermometer and Lubricating Jelly
This was more for when my baby was much younger when she got colds and fevers more frequently, but I liked to bring a flexible tip thermometer with lubricating jelly (for checking the temperature rectally) on trips with us. Again, I’ve never felt the need to use it on a trip, but for some reason it’s something I just like to keep on hand to use if we feel like she’s about to come down with something.

Thank you so much for reading! Let me know in the comments what your travel essentials are for your baby. You can also watch how I packed my baby's travel bag for our latest trip here.


Monday, December 31, 2018

Tips for a Vegan Holiday with Non-Vegan Family Members



Though I feel the holidays are the most wonderful time of the year, it can be daunting celebrating your first holiday as a vegan. I went vegan the beginning of December 2014, so Christmas was my first holiday as a vegan. Since then, I have had many more years experiencing vegan holiday’s with the family, not only Christmas, but Fourth of July and Thanksgiving as well. Of course there are more holidays to be celebrated, but these are the three our family gets together for the most involving food. In this post, I will be giving you some tips on how to celebrate the holidays with non-vegan family members and sharing some recipes that I really enjoy and think you might too.

But first, everyone knows what basic non-vegan ingredients are like meat, dairy, and eggs, but there are some not-so obvious ingredients to look out for. Here are two helpful links for vegans to check out: 

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, here are my tips to celebrating the holidays with non-vegan family members!

TIP #1: LET YOUR FAMILY KNOW YOU’RE VEGAN
My first tip is letting your family, friends, or whoever you’re celebrating the holidays with, know that you’re a vegan. We always celebrate with family, and if your family is like mine, it is always one person (the host) preparing the feast for the whole family. This is so important for everyone to know, especially the host, because the host probably woke up that morning at an ungodly hour to prepare the feast for everyone, and maybe even started prepping things the night before getting everything ready, only to have you show up and not eat anything. Yes, other people will be there to partake in the feast, but it may cause hurt feelings between you and the host because they may feel insulted, attacked, unappreciated, that they’re cooking isn’t good enough for you, and so on. It’s just better to establish that you’re vegan ahead of time to avoid conflict. I went vegan in December 2014, weeks before Christmas, so it was important for the family to know. My older sister, the host, said I need to figure out food for myself because she’s not going to make a big feast for everyone, then an entire separate vegan meal for me, which is totally understandable and I wasn’t expecting her to think or do that at all. So this brings me to my next tip.

TIP #2: PREPARE AND BRING YOUR OWN FOOD
The last thing your host needs is the stress to figure out how to make a vegan feast, so hop in the kitchen and make the vegan version of what everyone else is going to be eating. This is also a great time to show others that veganism isn’t such a weird thing and that you can eat the same dishes that taste the same, just no cruelty to animals involved. I wake up early myself, prepare a vegan feast for me and my boyfriend, then pack it into paper bags and bring to the hosts’ house. My youngest sister is a former vegan, now a vegetarian, so she eats both what I make and what my older sister makes and sometimes my mom will try the vegan versions of what I had made, so I think that’s really cool. As I mentioned before, the three holidays my family celebrates involving a big feast are Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the Fourth of July. Below is a general meal plan of what I would make on these occasions:

Thanksgiving and Christmas: 
Tofurky 
Cranberry sauce: Make your own or from a can
Mashed potatoes: Mash potatoes with unsweetend almond milk and earth balance butter, salt, and pepper
Green Bean Cassseroles: One, Two, and Three
Dinner rolls: We use Kroger brand frozen dinner rolls
Sweet Potato Casseroles: One, Two, and Three
Or make how you usually would but instead use earth balance butter and Dandies vegan marshmallows

Fourth of July:
Burgers: Use Beyond Meat burgers, vegan buns of choice, onions, lettuce, tomato, vegan mayonnaise, and daiya or chao cheese to make cheeseburger. 
Corn with vegan butter
Potato Salad: Make how you usually would but without eggs and use vegan mayonnaise like Vegenaise or Just Mayo 

These are recipes I like, but of course you can look up your own recipes on Google or Pinterest to find what appeals to you and create your own meal plan.

TIP #3: BE PREPARED TO ANSWER QUESTIONS
My last tip in having a vegan holiday with non-vegan family members is be prepared to answer some questions that anyone may have. Because let’s face it, if situations arise that need to be discussed or there’s questions to be answered, a family gathering is usually the place people are going to do it. As mentioned earlier, I had gone vegan weeks before Christmas, so me being vegan and veganism in general was a new concept to everyone and something no one really could understand. Be prepared to be questioned the standard “why are you vegan” and “where do you get your B12, protein, calcium, etc”. These questions may have gotten old by now, but it’s important to be able to answer kindly and respectfully and in a way that doesn’t make the other person feel attacked by your responses. Talking about veganism can be as heated as discussing politics.

With all that in mind, I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday and that these tips helped any vegan out there on how to celebrate with non-vegan family. I also made a video version discussing this topic on my YouTube channel here.