Thursday, February 17, 2011

Consumer Reports’ Newborn Necessities

With this little baby expected to make his appearance in a mere five weeks, we’re furiously tying up loose ends and putting finishing touches on the nursery. There are a ton of items left on our registry, and the sensible part of me knows that we won’t need most of them. I scoured the Internet to find a good checklist of what we really need to have on-hand when the little one arrives.
Consumer Reports put together this seemingly-fantastic checklist (we’ll find out how fantastic it really is once the baby gets here) intended to prevent new parents from buying-out Babies “R” Us and filling their house with a ton of unnecessary “stuff.”

I am the first to admit that I’m a list fanatic and compulsive planner, so this instantly provided me with a tremendous sense of calm. I also have a lot of faith in Consumer Reports, which we heavily relied on when car shopping a few years ago. They have a well-earned reputation for steering their readers in the right direction and have provided our family with some great advice.

If you’re a parent, take a look and leave a comment sharing your thoughts about their suggested inventory. Anything missing? Anything unnecessary?

Consumer Reports’ Newborn Necessities

Tooling around

_____Car seat.

_____Stroller.

Beds and linens

_____Crib.

_____Crib mattress.

_____Bassinet/cradle (if you don't want to put your baby in a crib right away).

_____Two to three fitted crib sheets.

_____Four or more waffle-weave cotton receiving blankets for swaddling baby

_____Two mattress pads.

_____One to two waterproof liners (for crib or bassinet).

Diaper duty

_____Diapers. Disposables: One 40-count package of newborn (birth weight under 8 pounds) or of size 1 (birth weight over 8 pounds). Cloth: Two to three dozen, plus six to 10 snap-on, waterproof outer pants, and two to three sets of diaper pins, eight to 10 all-in-ones or diaper system covers; two to three dozen diaper system inserts.

_____Diaper pail (with refills or bags as needed).

_____Diaper bag.

Dressing baby

_____Four sleeping outfits or one-piece sleepers with attached feet.

_____Six side-snap T-shirts.

_____Four to six one-piece undershirts that snap around the crotch.

_____A small baby cap (although the hospital will probably give you one).

_____Six pairs socks/booties.

_____Two to three soft, comfortable daytime outfits. Get only a few items in newborn size. Then, go for clothing in the 6-month size--your baby will grow into it quickly. But don't buy baby sleepwear that's too big--it's a safety hazard.

_____Cotton sweater or light jacket.

Summer babies

_____Brimmed hat.

Winter babies

_____Snowsuit with attached mittens or fold-over cuffs, or heavy bunting.

_____Heavy stroller blanket.

_____Warm knit hat.

Feeding time (Breastfeeding)

_____Three to five nursing bras.

_____A box of washable or disposable breast pads.

_____Breast pump if you expect to use one (manual or electric).

_____Four small baby bottles with newborn nipples for storing expressed breast milk.

_____Bottle-drying tree.

_____Bottle brush.

_____Insulated bottle holder for diaper bag (the hospital may give you one).

_____Three packs of cloth diapers or burp cloths.

Bathing/Grooming

_____Plastic infant bathtub.

_____Three soft hooded towels.

_____Two packs of baby washcloths.

_____Baby body wash that doubles as shampoo.

_____Pair of blunt-tip scissors or baby-sized nail clippers.

_____Zinc-oxide-based diaper rash ointment.

_____Soft brush and comb.

_____Mild laundry detergent.

Medicine chest essentials

_____A pain-and-fever reducer recommended by your baby's doctor, such as Infant's Tylenol.

_____Cotton pads/swabs.

_____Nasal aspirator.

_____Digital rectal thermometer.

_____Rubbing alcohol.

_____Petroleum jelly.

Keeping baby happy

_____Pacifiers.

Extras: Nice but optional

_____Baby monitor.

_____Changing table.

_____A rocker or glider.

_____Sling or strap-on soft carrier.

_____Boppy, a doughnut-shape pillow designed to make holding baby during breastfeeding or bottlefeeding easier.

_____Nursing coverup. Attaches at your neck and allows for private breastfeeding when you and your baby are in public.

_____Infant swing.

_____Bouncy seat.

_____Night-light.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

I found a picture kicking around on my camera from early autumn and can't believe I haven't yet shared this with you! My favorite cookbook these days is The New Best Recipe: All-New Edition, from the editors of Cook's Illustrated. I have yet to have a recipe turn out anything less than perfect. Seriously, the roasted chicken, pesto sauce, pork chops -- they all have become my go-to recipes for those dishes. But this one, my-oh-my, it takes the cake. Or the cookie, rather.  
The Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies are the best I've ever tasted. Their texture, density and chocolate-to-dough ratio (I don't like too many chips) are beyond compare. And this is even more amazing considering I am the one who made them.

Chocolate chip cookies and I have a long and tortured history. I have searched for a good recipe for years, and even when they come from my best-baker friends, they always fall flat, literally, in my kitchen. These cookies, though, are true to their name. Perfectly thick and chewy, and when topped with a light grind of sea salt à la my brilliant friend, Emily, strike the perfect balance of sweet-and-salty to satisfy any craving. I also followed my auntie Karen's advice and chilled the dough for a few hours before forming the cookies to help them hold their form. 

While you're at it, cruise on over to Sweet as Sugar Cookies, to check out some more fabulous goodies. They're having quite the cookie party right now! 
Cook's Illustrated Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

"These truly chewy chocolate chip cookies are delicious served warm from the oven or cooled. To ensure a chewy texture, leave the cookies on the cookie sheet to cool. You can substitute white, milk chocolate, or peanut butter chips for the semi- or bittersweet chips called for in the recipe. In addition to chips, you can flavor the dough with one cup of nuts, raisins, or shredded coconut."
-Cook's Illustrated


2 1/8 cups bleached all-purpose flour (about 10 1/2 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), melted and cooled slightly
1 cup brown sugar (light or dark), 7 ounces
1/2 cup granulated sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-2 cups chocolate chips or chunks (semi or bittersweet)
Plain sea salt or fleur de sel

1. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Adjust oven racks to upper- and lower-middle positions. Mix flour, salt, and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.

2. Either by hand or with electric mixer, mix butter and sugars until thoroughly blended. Mix in egg, yolk, and vanilla. Add dry ingredients; mix until just combined. Stir in chips.

3. Form scant 1/4 cup dough into ball. Holding dough ball using fingertips of both hands, pull into two equal halves. Rotate halves ninety degrees and, with jagged surfaces exposed, join halves together at their base, again forming a single cookie, being careful not to smooth dough’s uneven surface. Place formed dough onto one of two parchment paper-lined 20-by-14-inch lipless cookie sheets, about nine dough balls per sheet. Smaller cookie sheets can be used, but fewer cookies can be baked at one time and baking time may need to be adjusted. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt or fleur de sel. (Dough can be refrigerated up to 2 days or frozen up to 1 month—shaped or not.)

4. Bake, reversing cookie sheets’ positions halfway through baking, until cookies are light golden brown and outer edges start to harden yet centers are still soft and puffy, 15 to 18 minutes (start checking at 13 minutes). (Frozen dough requires an extra 1 to 2 minutes baking time.) Cool cookies on cookie sheets. Serve or store in airtight container.

Eagle Eye

For Christmas, Santa spoiled me with a new Canon EOS Rebel T2i. My package also came with a Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM telephoto zoom lens, which I finally took for a little test drive this afternoon.

Morgan asked me shortly after we got the camera what I would be using this particular lens for, and I said, "Oh, you know, eagles and spy assignments ..." Just so happens that one of those two things (in multiples) showed up right outside our house today.
Special thanks to Jane Maynard, who writes one of my very favorite blogs, This Week for Dinner, for the camera recommendation. Her photography is second to none and I knew she wouldn't steer her readers wrong.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Baby O Show ... Make a Guess Today!

With six weeks to go (my official due date is March 27), I thought it would be fun to start an online due date pool. The winner will receive a lifetime supply of bragging rights. Make a guess today by clicking on the banner below!  

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Hiccups, Heartburn, and Huge Bellies

My sweet little boy,

You are due to make your arrival in seven short weeks. I’m not quite sure where these past 33 weeks went, but I seem to have blinked and ended up very, very pregnant.
I only can dream that you will be as easy a baby on the outside as you have been on the inside. I am slowing down a little and feeling pretty tired these days, but it would be odd if I weren’t. Other than some intense heartburn, you have caused me absolutely no problems. I think you may be a “trick” first baby, though. You have convinced me that pregnancy is a cinch, but I suspect that when I go to have a brother or sister for you, I probably will be barfing up everything but the baby!

I took the “glucose challenge” a few weeks ago and only passed it by one point. The doctor said that I may be a little more sensitive to sugar than others during pregnancy, and that I should watch my carbs so you don’t get too chunky. So, for your benefit and mine, I have eliminated most sweets from our diet. I don’t think it will be very fun for either of us if you weigh 10 pounds when you’re born. Cutting down the carbs hasn’t been that bad, but you’ve kicked me extra hard a few times in what I’m pretty sure have been attempts to get some ice cream. As a special treat, I did let you have a cupcake at our baby shower, since it was such a special day. Oh, and a couple other random pieces of cake ... Hey, I said most sweets.

Our friend Kim. She loves you a lot!
Our friend, Kim, threw us an amazing party to celebrate your arrival. We were showered with fantastic gifts and surrounded by the love of our friends and family. It really was special and you’re certainly going to be one well-dressed kiddo!

We also received a huge surprise — an alphabet wall for your nursery. This was something I really, really wanted to do when I first found out you were going to join our family, but I got a little overwhelmed by the size of the project and decided to go another route with the decorating. Thankfully, we have the most amazing friends and family in the entire world and they surprised us with a set of letters for your wall. I was beyond touched and can't wait to get them all in place. Each letter is unique and was made with love, which makes them even more special.
Me and your grandmas.
What a surprise!
We also had an ultrasound last week to make sure you’re in “dive position” (good job — you’re all lined up to make a perfect entrance) and that you don’t look too big. They’re currently estimating your birth weight at 8.5 pounds and everything checked out just fine. We’re ticking along like clockwork. You were sucking your thumb while we looked at you and it just melted my heart. You also get hiccups several times a day, which feel so funny in my belly. They're remarkably similar to an eye twitch, but in my belly button. They almost tickle, and they always make me giggle a little. It makes me happy to know you’re working so hard on getting those lungs developed. Just please don’t use them too much for screaming once you get here. Pretty, pretty, please.

Daddy says the day you’re born is going to be like Christmas morning times 100, and I’m sure he’s right. We love you so much and can’t wait for you to get here!

Love,
Mommy