Friday, March 27, 2015

Our Newborn Must-Haves aka Survival Items for the First Two Months

I honestly can’t believe that Baby Mason Modesto is going to be 2 months old on tomorrow!

It’s weird – part of me feels like Mason was just born and another part of me feels like he has been here forever!

I’ve received a few emails from readers asking about our baby carrier or which stroller we use, so I thought it would be fun to share our Newborn must-haves. Below are the items that we’ve absolutely loved and a few realizations of things we just didn’t need.

Boppy Newborn Lounger, Geo

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Basically a giant pillow for a baby!

It seemed silly at first, but as first-time parents it has been nice to have a spot that I know I can safely sit Mason while I get ready for nursing on the couch. We also love to sit him in the lounger and sing him songs or tell him stories. Newborns are so wiggly; this lounger is perfect for giving Mason a snug and safe spot to hang out.

Solly Baby Wrap

While I was pregnant, I became obsessed with baby wearing. Who wouldn’t want a snuggly baby hanging out with them hands-free?! After doing tons of research, I decided that I definitely wanted a light-weight, stretchy, breathable wrap for Mason’s newborn stage. I went with the Solly wrap and I have to say that I have absolutely loved it!

Learning how to wrap was simple, and I definitely get better every time I do it. The fabric is light and breathable so I don’t get super sweaty when he’s on my chest. He can keep his head tucked out when he’s awake:

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or I can tuck his little noggin in when he’s sleeping:

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*Note: In a hold like the one above, Mason’s head should be facing the side so that his nose isn’t squished and his airways are clear. I always turn his head – the boy loves to smoosh – and it’s hard to tell in this photo but his head is turned.

I especially loved the Solly wrap in those first few weeks when I really just needed to get out of the house but I didn’t want strangers to try and touch him. Cold and flu season + People with poor social boundaries = no bueno.

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Even Parrish has gotten in on the baby wearing fun!

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BumGenius 4.0 Pocket Diapers and All-in-One Diapers

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I’m going to write a separate post about Cloth Diapering because we are loving it! In my opinion, the BumGenius diapers make it SUPER easy. We used pre-folds for a short time, and then switched over to pocket diapers and AIO diapers once Mason hit 8 pounds (which didn’t take long!).

Video - Getting to Know Your Baby: Sleep

The amazing lactation consultant I worked with locally sent me the video above and it was a lifesaver! As first time parents, Parrish and I had no idea what Mason’s baby cues were. We knew to check his diaper if he was crying and then feed him, but that was about it. Once we started looking for his cues, particularly those that let us know he was getting tired and those that meant he was over stimulated, we saw a drastic change in his sleep and overall disposition.

Basically, we were letting him get over tired because we kept “playing” with him when he wasn’t interested. All he wanted to do was decompress and go to sleep!

Sleep Machine App

Babies love white noise. As it turns out, Mason loves the sound of the vacuum cleaner! This idea actually came from our pediatrician. He told us that lots of newborns can be calmed down by the sound of a vacuum. Later that week Mason had a melt down in the car seat – he was hungry and didn’t understand that he had wait 10 minutes until he could eat (he is a baby afterall!) Then I remembered the vacuum setting on my Sleep Machine App on my iPhone.

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Now I can use my phone to help calm him down when he’s tired in public and fussy. I turn on the app and he’s out like a light – magic!

Baby Connect App

I basically live and die by this app. You can time breastfeeding by side, count sleep, track diapers, and even store medical information. At the least, this app helps me remember which side I last used for breastfeeding. But for me, at the most, it helps me feel more in control of uncontrollable situations.

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Newborns are too young to schedule, but I can follow his rhythm. This app helps me anticipate what could come next in our eat, play, sleep rhythm and makes me feel more prepared. Or as prepared as you can feel with a newborn! Plus, the geek in me loves the charts option – It’s fascinating!

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AND in those early weeks when I was SUPER sleep deprived, Baby Connect helped me remember what I had done in the middle of the night!

Teddy Bear Suit

I feel like this is self-explanatory. If you don’t understand why you should dress your newborn up like a teddy bear….then we can’t be friends.

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I picked this brown bear suit up at H&M for 20 bucks and it was worth every penny! I was so sad when he outgrew it, but I can’t wait to dress him up in a larger suit this coming winter.

Gripe Water

Magical, magical baby juice. Parrish and I are so thankful that our friends gifted us a bottle of Gripe Water. While Mason isn’t a super gassy baby (knock on wood), he does get some gas “stuck” that keeps him awake. The first time we ever used it, Mason had been having a fussy day. He hadn’t really napped but I didn’t notice because we had family visiting. That afternoon you could tell he was super tired but he just couldn’t fall asleep. I bicycled his legs, massaged his tummy, and burped him forever. Nada. Then we gave him the gripe water and LITERALLY 30 seconds later he passed out. (And slept for 3 hours poor guy)

Now we always have a bottle in the fridge and a bottle in the pantry for back up!

Items we didn’t need:

Baby Nail Clippers – Attempting to clip his nails was so stressful, you would have thought I was performing open heart surgery. I’m sticking to biting them myself for now – possibly TMI for some of you but it is way easier! And surprisingly doesn’t gross me out.

Tons and Tons of Clothes - As a super fresh newborn, Mason went through about 6-8 outfits a day. And by outfits, I mean zip-up PJs because Parrish and I quickly learned that neither of us had time for full on outfits. We were doing laundry nearly every day, and we would always end up putting Mason in the same PJs everyday. So no, we didn’t need a ton of NB clothes or 0-3 month clothing. At just 2 months old, Mason is already wearing mostly 6 month outfits. A few of his 3 month outfits still fit but just barely!

What about you Moms? What items got you through those first months?

What did you end up not needing?

AND what will we need in the coming months?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Mason’s Birth Story aka How Pure Barre Birthed My Baby

Mason’s birth wasn’t exactly what I was expecting.

When I started having contractions at 1:45 in the morning on his due date, I couldn’t believe my luck! What a thoughtful baby! How could he be so polite and start his labor on time?

As it turned out, while he is a very special baby, he’s not a labor genius. He had no idea that it was his due date and he had no intentions of being rushed out of his cozy womb. I don’t begrudge him for my long labor – he’s just a baby after all. But it has taken some time for me to reflect on his labor and delivery to be able to talk about it here on the blog.

For weeks, I couldn’t even think about it. It didn’t happen the way I wanted it to. I wasn’t surrounded by those I love the most. There was no music. No laughing. No sunshine. There was no recording of the play by play. I didn’t get to make notes of my emotions as we anticipated his arrival.

Instead I found myself in a state of internal delirium for nearly 51 hours, clutching on to Parrish as a touchstone, and questioning my ability to deliver my son.

I spent most of the day on Thursday, his due date, at home. The contractions were loose and irregular. Parrish and I were bursting with excitement, but by the afternoon things became more serious. My contractions gained strength, and by 5pm I found myself in the bathtub talking to my mid-wife. My contractions were coming every 3 1/2 minutes and were lasting for an average of 75 seconds. The warm water did nothing to slow them down, so Parrish and I packed our hospital bag and headed to the hospital.

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My final bump shot before we left for the hospital. 40 weeks exactly.

Once we were admitted in to the hospital (not a short process) the contractions had slowed down but I was exhausted. We slept for a few hours and checked back in with our doctor the next morning. (*Note: The group of mid-wives at our practice also works with doctors. When we checked in at the hospital, the mid-wife on call was not someone I liked. I had had a terrible experience with her and did not want to be seen by her. Luckily I was able to switch over to the doctor on call)

The contractions were still slow, but during the check we discovered that Mason was super low. I mean, his little sweet noggin was right there. So we decided to walk the halls in hopes of speeding up contractions and helping him along.

By 11am on Friday, now 32 hours from the beginning, the contractions had gained some strength but still weren’t close enough together. The mid-wife on call was still the one from the night before and I didn’t want to work with her. So I continued on course with the doctor, and she suggested trying pitocin to increase the contractions. I agreed to try pitocin, and 30 minutes later the Pitocin Contractions began. (*Note: This is where I regret not having a mid-wife! There are a few other natural methods we could have tried first to try and speed contractions, but in the moment I didn’t even think about it)

30 minutes in to Pitocin Contractions I was begging for an epidural. I hadn’t planned on doing a natural birth. I had researched every method of childbirth and had decided to see what happened in the moment. I knew that every baby is different and that every birth is different, so I wanted Mason to come in to the world the way he wanted.

However, Pitocin Contractions are TERRIBLE. Honestly, unless you’ve experienced them, you just can’t understand. So take my word for it, they’re awful and relentless. So – back to the epidural.

The nurse drew my blood and 30 minutes later – now an hour in to Pitocin Contractions – my doctor came in with some bad news.

I could not have an epidural.

I was shocked. What the heck?! What do you mean I can’t have an epidural? 

As it turned out, the platelets in my blood were too low, and the anesthesiologist would not give me an epidural due to my high risk of bleeding out. Your platelets need to be at 100 or more, and mine were….93. 93!

So there I was. Right in the middle of terrible contractions that I couldn’t endure, and facing the realization that my entire birth was going to be natural. In the moment it wasn’t what I wanted, and there was nothing I could do to change it.

I didn’t cry. I wanted to. Believe me – I wanted to.  But I couldn’t. I knew that if I let myself cry then I wouldn’t stop. I would sob and exhaust myself….and possibly have a full-on melt down, so I sucked it up.

Well…..I thought about packing my bag and walking out of the hospital first – birth off, it’s not happening, sorry baby Mason you’re just going to stay in there – and then I sucked it up.

I prayed. I prayed hard. God granted me strength and hope through my husband. And then a miracle: my absolute FAVORITE mid-wife came on duty. I switched off of my doctor and on to the mid-wife at 3pm on Friday, and I am SO SO SO thankful for that change.

I don’t really want to go in to the play by play from there on. It was long. It was hard. In fact, it is the hardest thing I have ever been through in my entire life.

I was all over the place: the tub, the wall, the bed, the side of the bed, the floor. The contractions were terrible but my mid-wife was great at keeping me moving and trying tons of different positions to help. I learned that the positions don’t actually lessen the pain, but they do keep your mind busy and help you focus on it less.

And this is where Pure Barre, Bootcamp, and my strength training really helped me.

For most of the day and night Friday, I kept my eyes closed, my breath clean, and my mind focused.

In Pure Barre, you hold yourself in different positions and breathe through the pain. Your instructor helps you through the pain, and even if your muscle cramps, you hold it. There is something in Pure Barre called “The Final 10”, meaning that towards the end of the exercise, the last 10 seconds, you’re going to want to quit. But instead of quitting, you push yourself OVER THE EDGE. You strive for your best form no matter the pain, and you discover that you have a new breaking point that’s further than you originally thought. 

I had gained so much mental grit through my months at Pure Barre. In addition to gaining muscle strength in Bootcamp, I had also gained mental strength. I was strong.

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Stronger than I even thought. Honestly, I think I even surprised Parrish by how strong I was.

My mid-wife reflected after Mason’s birth that I was the most serene laborer. She couldn’t believe how I could just close my eyes and breathe calmly through the pain. I had to laugh because while I may have seemed calm on the outside, I was DYING on the inside. I was ripping apart; I was tearing to pieces. I was questioning and yelling and cursing. I was literally ALL THE EMOTIONS. 

But when each contraction ended, I took a deep breath and reminded myself that with every contraction I was one step closer to Mason…and to never contracting again! (Much like my thought process when I’m facing 100 Burpees!) Just keep going so that you can finish.

So after 48 hours of contractions and 3 hours of pushing, it was over.

Or I guess I should say, it began.

He was here.

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This tiny little person that set my heart on fire and made every single choice I had ever made make sense. Everything in my life had been working towards that moment, had been working towards him.

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The fog of labor and delivery lifted. I opened my eyes for the first time in hours, and looked at my son curled up on my chest. I looked at Parrish and laughed – I couldn’t believe he was finally here!

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So no, it didn’t happen the way I planned. It wasn’t what I thought I wanted. But now, two months later, I know the truth.

It doesn’t matter. The labor and delivery don’t matter. Epidural or no epidural, it doesn’t matter. Your perceived wants don’t matter.

Because what you actually want is your baby.

And your baby will come. It could take a few hours or a few days. You could push for 10 minutes or 3 hours. You could have a vaginal birth or a C-section. Heck, you could even adopt or use a surrogate. It doesn’t matter.

Because that baby is all that really matters. He is all that really matters.

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And no matter what it took to get him, he is here.  

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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A Killer Sandwich and Tasty Pasta aka All the Carbs

Yesterday was a great day!

It ended up being sunny instead of cloudy, Mason slept for 8 hours the night before, and I was able to get in some kitchen time – all ingredients for a great day!

All morning I was craving a cheeseburger. I guess that’s what happens when you look at Pinterest first thing, you end up craving cheeseburgers….and cupcakes! Unfortunately I didn’t have either on hand, but I was able to throw together a delicious sandwich instead:

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Canyon Bakehouse 7 Grain Bread topped with Wholly Guacamole, Bacon, Green Leaf Lettuce, Free Bird Chicken Patty, and Homemade Herbed Mayo.

Delicious! And definitely kicked up a notch with the mayo.

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Homemade mayo is SUPER EASY to make too! I actually don’t even like traditional jarred mayo, but there is something about freshly made – I love it.

I followed my recipe HERE for 1 minute Mayo: 1 cup light tasting olive oil, 1 egg, 1/2 lemon squeezed, and one squirt mustard. Salt and Pepper to taste. Once blended, I added in 1 tbsp. Spice Hunter Organic Ranch Seasoning – so good!

It was such a satisfying lunch, that I would have been okay with waiting until Parrish got home from work to eat a late supper. But as luck would have it, Mason napped in his wrap long enough for me to make pasta!

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Fast and easy thrown together pasta, but hey – it was tasty. 6pm has become a bit of a fussy time for him. I still feel like we have it pretty lucky because he doesn’t cry (knock on wood) but he doesn’t want to be put down and usually just wants to nurse. And honestly, I’ll take all the snuggles I can get, so I don’t mind.

If he’s just over-stimulated and over-tired (it’s hard being a baby!) then I can usually get him to cat nap in his Solly Baby Wrap. Since I was on a clock, I decided to caramelize mushrooms and shallot with bacon, and then add butter and garlic at the end.

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I tossed the mixture with Schar Gluten Free Spaghetti and added salt and pepper to taste.

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So simple and super yummy.

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Schar is by far my favorite GF pasta. I buy it at my local Harris Teeter whenever it’s on sale, and always keep a few boxes in the pantry. It’s the only noodle that I have tried that really stands firm after cooking, AND you can reheat it in the microwave the next day without it falling apart.

I ended up eating before Parrish came home, while nursing Mason. Most nights I try to wait for Parrish to eat, but I was starving! These days I go from hungry to starving pretty quickly.

After supper I enjoyed a dessert bowl of Chocolate Chex. I swear, I can’t keep a box in the house longer than a few days! Crunchy Chocolate Chex with ice cold Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk…mmmmmmmmmmmm…so good. And making me hungry as I type this.

Dessert was followed up with more snuggles because babies grow too fast! I can’t believe Mason turns 2 months old this Saturday. Ugh. I never knew that your baby growing could make you so happy and so sad at the same time!

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Monday, March 23, 2015

Gluten Free Funfetti and Other Exciting Finds

Lately, it seems like every time I go to the grocery store, there is a new Gluten Free product on the shelves! I love finding new offerings, and while I may not always purchase them right away, I get excited to see my local retailers embracing Gluten Free labeling.

Just yesterday at my local Harris Teeter, I found two new items:

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I snagged the Funfetti right away since my birthday is coming up. The muffin mix was also hard to resist – those mixes are such a childhood memory for me!!

But I will say that the ingredient list is complete garbage. I knew it wouldn’t be good – hello it’s processed food – but I was shocked by the list. I still might indulge in a batch but I’m not sure that I would buy them again. No judgment to those who do though! I definitely don’t eat 100% organic or even 100% unprocessed, but there are some ingredients that just aren’t food you know!

Alright, end rant. Back to the food!

Another exciting find:

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Angie’s Frosted Cupcake Kettlecorn!!

I LOVE all the Boom Chicka Pop holiday flavors, and I can’t wait to try this new bag! I found these at Earth Fare in Raleigh, NC. Unfortunately I’m currently abstaining from dairy for a month to see if it helps Baby Mason’s diaper rash, so I can’t try this popcorn yet. But I know it will be good – the chocolate peanut butter drizzle is my fave!

PS. I am dying to try their Sea Salt and Vinegar Popcorn. If you find it let me know!

Alright, Mason is calling me. If you find new products let me know!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Two Gluten Free Freezer Favorites

I’ve always been a sucker for convenience foods.

Even before I had a baby…heck, even before I was gluten free, I always kept a few easy to throw together staples on hand.

Back when I had time to do food prep on Sundays, I would turn mounds of fresh veggies into grab and go snacks and meals. I hope to start doing that again soon. And honestly it’s not about finding the time; it’s more about creating the space in my brain to think ahead!

Wonder what I’m thinking about all the time….

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Oh yeah! Adorable chubby cheeks and milky smiles.

So until I find the brain space to plan ahead, I have found a few freezer favorites that have really worked in a pinch!

Simple Truth Organic Red Quinoa & Brown Rice from Kroger

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I LOVE this easy to prepare baggie of quinoa and rice from Simple Truth. You microwave it in the bag for less than 5 minutes and it’s ready to serve!

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I felt that the portion was enough for two people, maybe three if you’re not using it as the base for the meal. Even Parrish, a quinoa skeptic, loved it! I used it the other night to create a “burrito bowl” of sorts. I topped the mix with steamed broccoli and cauliflower (also from the freezer) and fresh cherry tomatoes:

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Then I added breaded gluten free chicken and a creamy avocado sauce:

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The creamy avocado sauce came together by adding Wholly Guacamole to Greek Yogurt. It was actually really tasty!

In fact, for a meal that was literally thrown together from the back of the freezer and dregs of the fridge, it was delicious!

The breaded gluten free chicken is my other current freezer favorite:

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Free Bird Gluten Free Chicken Patties from Target

I have written about these patties before – I love them so much. The chicken is moist, juicy, and tender – no bad bits! I was sad when my Whole Foods stopped carrying them and squealed with delight when I found them at Target.

Other meal ideas with Free Bird GF Chicken Patties:

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Stacked Chicken Sandwich

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Bacon Horseradish Chicken Sandwich

I mean when is the last time you had a breaded chicken sandwich!? It’s the little things in life!

What are your go-to staples to have on hand?

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

When Snacks Attack

Happy St. Patrick’s Day friends!

I’m sure it comes as no surprise to any of you that I had no idea St. Patty’s was today until I watched the Today Show this morning. What used to be one of my favorite holidays – who doesn’t love Irish food and the excuse to party with friends while wearing green?! – is now just another Tuesday I get to spend with Mason. Gosh I love maternity leave!

Yesterday was a great day overall. Mason has a nagging diaper rash, so we hung out around the house to give him as much diaper free time as possible. For those who aren’t parents that won’t make much sense, but if you have kids then you’re nodding your head. Fresh air on the butt is the best medicine! (That’s definitely something I never thought I would say!)

I was a bit tired yesterday around lunch, so I treated myself to a current favorite:

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Equal parts salad and french fries….because it’s all about balance.

Breastfeeding leaves me pretty hungry, so not even an hour later I had a snack:

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Oldie but a goodie. You can’t beat bananas and nut butter. Unless of course it’s chocolate nut butter – that would be amazing!

And another hour later I felt a snack attack again!

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Obsessed.

For supper Parrish and I had make your own subs. They were tasty and did the job, but the real star of the show:

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Oven Roasted Cauliflower tossed in olive oil and Bone Suckin’ Seasoning

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My bottles almost empty!!!

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and toss your raw cauliflower florets with enough olive oil to coat but not drench and a liberal amount of the seasoning of your choice. Line your baking sheet with parchment paper and bake for 30 minutes, turning the florets over after 20.

We literally ate the entire batch in less than 5 minutes standing over the pan…with our fingers. So yummy!

It’s another SUNNY day here in Durham, so I’m off to enjoy it! Mason has some new friends coming over to meet him AND guess what I’m doing tonight…..

ZUMBA!!! My first class in WAY too long – I can’t wait!

Monday, March 16, 2015

A Weekend Revisited and Italian Garlic Chicken

And we’re back! Finally.

Nearly two weeks ago my beloved laptop died – just up and quit, kaput, nada, nothing, broke as a joke, etc. It was terrible. My laptop wasn’t fancy or anything, in fact it was pretty old BUT it was mine and I loved it. Sigh.

Luckily Parrish found a refurbished laptop quickly – love that man – so the blog is back! At least I left you guys with my current favorite recipe; seriously, those carnitas are good and a pretty cute baby.

I can’t even begin to recap the past two weeks, so let’s start with this past Friday and another recipe that is certain to be a favorite….

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especially when enjoyed with a side of Gilmore Girls!

A friend share this recipe for Italian Garlic Chicken Skillet on Facebook and I am so glad she did! It’s easy to make, flavorful, and it only dirties one pan! Perfection.

This Italian Garlic Chicken Skillet with olives, rosemary, onions, and mushrooms is the perfect dinner for the entire family. 30 minutes is all you need.

Photo and Recipe from The Wicked Noodle

I highly recommend trying this recipe y’all. It’s so easy to make gluten free; just make sure the Chicken Broth is safe. OR just use wine – which is what I did! I also used chicken breast instead of chicken thighs because it’s what I had on hand. Yum!

Saturday morning started bright and early for the Ravelli family, in fact it was a big day – Baby Mason had some very important family members to meet:

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Bestie! No surprise, Mason loves bestie – she is a magical baby whisperer for sure. How do you know a newborn loves you? Well, if he spends over three hours completely sacked out snuggly sleeping on you -

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then you have made a best friend for life!

Speaking of best friends, Mason also met his cousin Ella aka Lil’ Gluten Loves Me!

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This was a pretty special moment for me actually. Ella is the first baby that completely stole my heart. I love that little one fiercely and see so much of myself in her, so seeing her excitement and glee when she held Mason was amazing.

Sunday we woke up to AWESOME weather in Durham. I’m really starting to believe that winter may actually end. We spent the afternoon outside -

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enjoying the sunshine! Spring is the best!!

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We even busted out the grill!

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That’s how you really forget about winter, grilling! Parrish cooked steaks and veggies, simple and perfect. He also made a “snack” for while we waited for the steaks:

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Grilled Crab Legs! Parrish and I first ate grilled crab legs on our honeymoon – they are so good. Served with a giant bowl of melted butter of course.

I am definitely looking forward to many more weekends just like this past one, filled with family, friends, sunshine, and good food!

Happy Monday friends!