Happy 1st Birthday: Smash Cake and Reality Check

A baby’s first birthday is a HUGE milestone for both baby and parents (surviving your first 365 days of parenthood is a tremendous accomplishment). From the day I found out I was pregnant, I knew I wanted to do a “smash cake” photo session to celebrate Thea’s first birthday. I love babies’ reaction to their birthday cake and, no doubt, I wanted to photograph those memories, treasure them, and share them with our loved ones.

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If you are familiar with my blog or with my nutritional philosophy, you know I want to limit Thea’s intake of added sugars during her first 2 years of life.  This meant I had to make her cake completely from scratch… I love cooking but baking is a complete different story. Anyhow, I accepted the challenge and started recompiling several “sugar free” cake recipes as well as icing recipes. This cake also needed to be picture pretty because after the baby, the cake was the protagonist of the photo shoot 😂😂😂

At the end, I opted for a carrot cake sweetened with dates and home made “stabilized whipped cream” icing, which I sweetened with vanilla and blueberries. Baking the actual cake was not difficult. Personally, my biggest challenge was decorating the cake. Thankfully, my amazing brother in law was visiting at the time and after my failed attempt on making an icing rosette, he successfully took over!!!

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As for the actual photo shoot and Thea eating the cake… well, that didn’t really happened. She wasn’t feeling her best that weekend. We attempted the photo shoot twice, Saturday and Sunday, but still didn’t have much success.

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She was not interested on touching and getting messy with the cake until we added some puffs on it 🤦‍♀️. Then, we realized she actually didn’t like the white background paper she was sitting on top of because as soon as we sat her down, she would start crawling her way out of it. So we gave the high chair a try. Still wasn’t much improvement, but we were able to get a few more pics.

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I must confess I was a little disappointed and felt like I failure. I had spent several hours planning this photo session, making her tutu, getting all the decor, and of course, making the super healthy-no-sugar-added cake. But this is reality: motherhood is not perfect, things don’t always go as planned, and our kids don’t always want to cooperate with what we have in mind.

Somehow, we still managed to get some good gems and, to me, that made it all  worthy! At the end that was the whole purpose: to cherish and create OUR OWN memories!

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I’m sharing the recipes below because the cake was definitely delicious! My hubby, brother in law, and I devoured it after the photo session!

It is a great, healthy alternative for anyone looking for a naturally sweetened cake recipe and, it can also be modified into muffins for a healthy toddler snack (just top it with some PB or almond butter and you have all the macro-nutrients in one meal 🙂 )

Carrot Cake

Ingredients

  • 3 eggs
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 10 dates
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 6 tbsp coconut oil
  • 3 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder

Steps

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Prepare pan by adding parchment paper to the bottom of two 6” cake pans, and greasing the sides.
  3. Whisk eggs in a bowl.
  4. Blend bananas, dates, and coconut oil until it makes a cream. Then, add to the bowl with whisked eggs.
  5. Mix almond flour, cinnamon, and baking powder. Then, add to the cream and the whisked eggs, and stir it all together.
  6. Add the shredded carrots and stir until well incorporated.
  7. Pour into the greased pans and bake for 40-45 mins. They are done once they pass the toothpick test!
  8. Let it cool completely before icing. I actually baked this the night before and decorated it the next morning!

Whipped Cream Icing

Ingredients

  • 4 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin*
  • 3 tbsp cold water
  • 4-5 tbsp hot water
  • 1-2 tsp vanilla
  • cinnamon to taste
  • 1/2 cup blueberries (I used them because I wanted a purple hue, you could sub with any fruit depending on the color of your choice).

Steps

  1. Add water to unflavored gelatin and give a little whisk so that the granules absorb the water. It would look like a slushy.
  2. Add hot water to slushy mixture and stir until it dissolves.
  3. Mix heavy whipping cream at medium speed. Add vanilla, blueberries, and cinnamon.
  4. Once the mixture starts to thicken up, increase speed to medium high.
  5. Quickly add the stabilizer mixture. It should be at the consistency of your like soon after adding the stabilizer.

*I used unflavored gelatin as a stabilizer agent because I wanted to be able to make rosettes with it. If you just want it as a topping you can omit the gelatin.

 

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Top Essentials For Baby’s First Year

Completing your baby’s registry can be one of the most exciting yet stressful things from your pregnancy to-do list. There’s SOOOOOO MUCHHHHH stuff to choose from, it is easy to get overwhelmed.

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When I was pregnant, I knew from the get go that I wanted to be a “practical mom” and keep baby gear to a minimum. Now that I’ve been a mom for almost a year, I would like to share  my top 5 essential items during baby’s first year.

Rock and Play Chair

If I were to choose one item, this would be it! Thea used this bouncy chair on daily basis until she was about three months old. This chair is very basic. It rocks and vibrates, that’s it. But, it is very light and easy to move around. Throughout the day, I was able to move her around the house allowing me to cook, workout, and take a shower without interrupting her naps. At nighttime, I would place the chair by my bed. We kept her sleeping in the chair because the incline helped with newborn reflux. Eventually, once I went back to work and we started bottle feeding, she would only take her bottle while sitting in the rock and play chair so this chair seriously became a life saver!!!

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Taking a selfie with daddy. Thea was 2 weeks old.

 

Nursing Camisole

I’ve been breastfeeding Thea for almost a year and I have wear these nursing camis  every.single.day. I will probably burn them by the time I’m done breastfeeding lol. They are very soft and comfortable. The V-neck design gives very easy access, making night time feeds a breeze.  They don’t provide a significant amount of support, but since I don’t have large breasts, I’ve been able to wear them comfortably with no bra.

Abiie Beyond Junior Y Chair & Silicone Pocket Bibs

We started introducing solids during the middle of our relocation from Florida to Boston. During that time I noticed the high chair we had at the time was not gonna work for me. It wasn’t easy to clean and Thea’s posture was not the best.

 

You can see how the food tray was higher than her elbows making it more difficult for her to reach for food. We had to put a pillow behind her to assist her reaching for food. So I knew this chair although “practical” in the sense of space saver, was not practical for the BLISS solid introduction method we were doing (more about that here).

After doing some research, I came across the Abiie Chair  and I’m soooo glad I did. It is a little pricey but it’s designed to grow with the baby so you will definitely get your money’s worth. As a matter of fact, while we were waiting for our furniture to arrive, I sat on this chair for several weeks.

The Y shape chair has several access points to truly clean up all food crumbs and messes after baby eats. The cushion is water resistant and dries up immediately after you wipe it down. I honestly spend less than 2 minutes cleaning up after Thea’s meals, and trust me, her meals can get pretty messy.

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Similarly, after trial and error, I started using this silicone feeding bib. What I like the most about this bis is its adjustable neckband. It stays on even  when my baby is super active. I can also wash it as many times as I need to without the neckband getting damage (as oppose to velcro ones that after 3 washes they don’t stick anymore). These bibs are truly water proof, so her clothes stay cleaner throughout; and as a bonus point, it is hilarious to see her hiding food and then eating it from the pocket.

Nail Trimmer

Another favorite of mine has been the battery operated nail trimmer. To be honest, when I first got this I thought it was one of those “fancy” items I probably didn’t really need. However, it has become a favorite and a scratched face preventer (I might have made up that word hahaha). The trimmer has 5 adjustable settings to choose from and an LED light. It is “whisper quiet” and very easy to use. Most of the time, I trim Thea’s nails while nursing her or once she’s fallen asleep.  This thing works like a charm!

Medela Pump In Style Advanced

Last but not least, it’s my Medela breast pump. We definitely had a “love-hate relationship.”  Any mom who has had to pump would totally understand.  It was supplied by my health insurance with zero cost!!! The Medela pump has worked great for me. I used it daily, several times a day for about 5 months and had no issues. Even though I hated pumping, it was because of this machine that I was able to provide breastmilk for my daughter while I was away working 12 hours shifts at the hospital. So thank you Medela breastpump for helping me reach my breastfeeding goals!

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FYI for all expecting mommies planning on breastfeeding, your health insurance plan (from USA) MUST cover the cost of a breast pump.

Let’s keep in mind that none of these items are truly essential. Yes, they make our lives easier, but having any or none of them wont make us better moms. At the end of the day, what our babies need is food and lots of love and cuddles.

PS/ Little Bonus

As I was thinking about this topic, I remember another life saver… Fels-Naptha laundry bar. If you have a baby/toddler, this bar soap is a must!!! I’ve been able to remove ALL blowout stains (trust me, my daughter had some serious blowouts, I was tempted to share some pictures but don’t want to gross you guys out hahaha), and breastmilk and food stains. I usually spot treat it, then throw it in the laundry machine, and let the soap does its magic. Use it and let me know what you think!

Introducing solids like a BLISS

One of the most exciting moments in a baby’s first year of life is when they get to try food for the first time. For baby Thea, this happened when she was about six months old (as recommended by the American Pediatric Association).

I decided to follow what is  known as the Bliss method. The Bliss method is a combination between Baby Led Weaning (BLW) and the traditional puree method. I chose this approach because I was very interested in all the benefits from BLW. It helps babies practice hand-eye coordination, improve dexterity, practice pincer grasp, and encourage them to use facial muscles that later will be needed for talking. In addition, it is wayyyy easier. There’s minimum meal prep required and since baby feeds herself/himself everyone gets to eat at the same time!

Nonetheless, the control freak on me wanted to make sure Thea was actually swallowing and digesting her solids, specially during the first few weeks, while she was getting the hang of self feeding, so I included a few pureed meals like oatmeal and yogurt. Yet, it is important to keep in mind that infants’ primary source of nutrition is still breastmik/formula. Solids should complement breastmilk/formula, not replace it.

Anyhow, we started with two meals a day, breakfast and lunch, to give her lots of practice. Since I was exclusively breastfeeding, I always offered the breast before attempting solids so that my supply wouldn’t be affected. After her meals, we would offer her a sippy cup with water. Increasing  fluid intake might be necessary for many infants once they start eating solids in order to prevent constipation!

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Thea’s very first meal, malanga/ yautia.

After about 4 weeks, Thea started joining us for dinner as well. Most of the time she eats a “baby version” of whatever we are having. I just seasoned her food with a little bit of oregano, cumin, or thyme so that she can start getting used to the flavors we serve at our table. I’ve never added salt or sugar to her meals and I’m planning on limiting the intake of those until she’s about 2 years of age.  Research has shown that early exposure to sugar and salt are related to childhood obesity. Either case, their taste buds are so virgin that they don’t need any of those to be impressed by food flavors.

Zucchini was her favorite for a while
Devouring tomatoes

Thea is currently 11 months and I’m very happy with where we are with her nutrition. She’s tried most fruits and vegetables, as well as chicken, fish, meat, grains, and beans. I must say her favorites include zucchini, salmon, any berries, yogurt, and her obsession… green peas hahaha

My ultimate favorite bib! It’s super easy to clean and hilarious to see her grabbing food from the pocket.

This is what her meals look like in a day:

  • Breakfast: plain Greek yogurt mixed with papaya, peanut butter, and a little bit of cinnamon
  • Midday snack: home made apple banana cookie (recipe here)
  • Lunch: omelette, slice of sprouted bread sprinkle with olive oil, and tomatoes
  • Dinner: salmon, grilled zucchini, quinoa, and strawberries for dessert
  • I offer her water after every meal and breastfeeding on demand!

I don’t know if all the thought and dedication we’ve put into her nutrition will prevent having a “picky eater” but we can only do our best. We teach by example and we offer her the best nutrition options she can possibly have.

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Disclaimer: I’ve used ready-made baby food a few times but I keep those for emergencies!!! When choosing ready-made baby food, I always look at the ingredient list and make sure it only has natural ingredients and no preservatives.

Apple-Banana Cookies

After going apple picking a few weeks ago, more about our experience here! I became super creative with all the apples we had and decided to make some apple banana cookies for my baby girl. This is a very tasty and super healthy snack for babies.  Just make sure your baby already tried all the ingredients individually and had no allergic reactions to it.

Ingredients

  • 2 steamed apples or 1 cup applesauce
  • 1/2 cup oatmeal flour
  • 1/4 cup almond flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 small banana
  • 1 tsp yeast
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Instructions

  1. Puree steamed apples (skip this step if using applesauce).
  2. Blend together the apple puree/applesauce, oatmeal flour, and egg.
  3. Pour mixture into a bowl and add almond flour, yeast, and cinnamon. Mix with a fork.
  4. Mash with a fork the small banana and add it to the mixture.
  5. Make cookies about size of a spoon
  6. Bake at 360 F for 20-25 minutes.

I had a little extra batch so I made some for ourselves. I added walnuts as toppings!

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Traveling with Infants

Whether it is for pleasure or for business, the thought of traveling with babies tends to give people high blood pressure. When my baby girl was four months old we experienced our first flight with her. Needless to say, I was a little  lot anxious. Would she cry the entire time? am I going to be able to change her diaper? feed her? is she gonna get sick? I had a million questions. So I obviously did a little research and prepared for the worst, while hoping for the best!

We flew about 12 times in less than 3 months.  I’ll explain… we used to live in Gainesville, (go Gators!) a small town in Florida, that only had a regional airport, so we had to take connecting flights anywhere we were going. We flew to Chicago, Atlanta, Miami, and Boston. As you can imagine, I’ve learned a lot from all those trips and I want to share with all those mamas -and also dadas- my best tips for drag traveling with infants.

Time, time, time!!!

Give yourself plenty, PLENTY, of extra time, specially if it’s your first time flying with baby. You will be experiencing, just as your baby, lots of firsts and as you might have already noticed, everything that you do with a baby takes at least twice as long. In our very first flight, we kind of ignored that and we missed our plane for about 10 mins. Thankfully, since we were in Gainesville, it wasn’t a big deal. We were able to get in the next flight, which was leaving within the next  hour.

Stroller and Carseat

Baby’s stroller and carseat travel for free and don’t count as carry on! You can check them both at the gate. The stroller must weight 20 lbs or less and be collapsible, otherwise, it needs to be checked at the counter. If you travel a lot, you might consider buying a carseat travel bag to help protect and keep the carseat cleaned , otherwise, a big trash bag will do just fine! By the way, kudos to Delta Airlines, they bag your carseat for free!

Early Morning Flights

My baby tends to be happier and calmer in the mornings, so we always try to book our flights as early as possible. We usually fly out before 7:30 am. Meaning, we arrive to the airport around 4:30 am. Baby is usually sleeping at this time, allowing us to check-in and go through security while she sleeps. Speaking of sleep, I dress her on sleepers, preferably the ones with reverse zippers. It keeps her comfy and I can easily change her diaper.

This picture was taken around 5 am, we are all so happy.  I guess we are a “morning” family! This was our relocation flight, Miami to Boston.

Wear Your Baby

I found wearing my baby very convenient during the first part of the airport adventure. It gives me peace of mind because she’s on me while I’m still  able to use my hands to hold documents, bags, etc. Babies also need to go through TSA and they cannot do so while being on a stroller. So it is just easier to have her already on me. By the way, in case you were wondering, the metal detectors at the airports do not use X rays, instead, they use electromagnetic waves to produce the images.

About take off and landing

I read in several places that having baby nurse or suck at a pacifier during take off/landing prevents their ears from popping. In our first flight since babygirl was younger, four months old, and all she cared about was nursing, I was able to time feeding sessions perfectly with take off/landing. However, as she grew older, she was not always interested on nursing on my timing. So if she was happy playing and people watching, I did not force her to breastfeed. To this day, she has always done just fine!

This picture was from our very first flight. We flew from Gainesville to Atlanta to Boston.  Babygirl  was 4 months old.

Changing diapers

If you are anything like me, the thought of changing my baby on a airplane bathroom freaks me out -.- I always change her diaper within 30 minutes of boarding and then pray she doesn’t have an accident during the flight hahaha Our longest flight has been a little over 3 hours so I’ve been able to manage without changing her in the plane. But when that time comes, there are changing tables in those small airplane bathrooms -.-

To pay or not to pay for an extra seat?

Babies age 2 and under do not required a seat. However, parents always have the option to pay for a seat and baby could travel in the carseat. I have never paid for this, however, in one of my flights, I was offered a seat for my daughter for free. The flight was about 3 hours and 30 mins long and she used the carseat for no longer than one hour. During the time she was in her seat, I was definitely able to rest and stretch; but in my opinion, she did not use it long enough to make worth spending all that $$$$. There are many factors you need to keep in mind when making this decision though: age and activity level of baby, length of flight, and whether there would be more laps to carry that baby around hahaha.

Priority perk!

One perk of traveling with kids is that you are allowed to board priority. By doing so, I get plenty of time to settle in our seats and  wipe down the area baby will be touching. I find travel size disinfecting wipes super convenient.

During check in, don’t be afraid to ask if it is possible to keep the seat next to you opened. You will be surprised, attendants are usually very nice to moms, specially when moms are traveling by themselves.

Last Points

Some airports have playgrounds, including shoe-free area for infants and toddlers. They are definitely worth checking!

Bring a blanket you can put on the airport floor to allow your baby to play on the floor and stretch.

This one is brought to you by my hubby… he suggests on walking around with baby so  fellow passengers start sympathizing prior to boarding. This would hopefully make things easier in the event baby gets cranky during the flight.

Lastly, remember is all about your attitude. Stay positive and relax.

Bon Voyage!