"Friendship is born at the moment when one person says to another, 'What! You too? I thought I was the only one'."

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Joyeux Kitchen: Grandma's Applesauce

Happy birthday, Johnny Appleseed!  In honor of the apple-man here's one of my favorite fall recipes.

  • Have a big bowl of cold, salted water ready (to keep the fruit from discoloring).
  • Peel and core 8-10 apples (Grandma Nell swears by Gravenstein).
  • Cut into chunks, keep apples in the salted water while you're chopping.
  • Transfer apple chunks to a stockpot, add 3/4 cup water, a pinch of salt and 1/3 cup sugar.
  • Cook until mushy and dump into jars or any airtight container.
Doug's Grandma Nell makes this every time the family gets together for a meal.  It sounds like such a simple thing but it's really delicious, and she's right about the Gravenstein apples.  They have a lot of flavor that you just won't find in run-of-the-mill grocery store Red Delicious.

Orchards In Western Washington

Lindsay and I took the kids to an orchard, so we have apples-a-plenty.  Can't wait to make this with the girls!  I found some great apple activities online, too.  Here's a link to an apple coloring page, and I found Disney's old Johnny Appleseed movie on YouTube, Part 1 and Part 2

The kiddos at the orchard we visited in Olympia.  Never saw the apple trees but brought home some yummy apples to make sauce tonight!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Population 3,175: Vampires 8.5

Jealous much that we live in Washington and can roadtrip to FORKS whenever we need to be dazzled? I bet! Check out our silly little adventure (complete with our 'I (heart) sparkly vampires' shirts):

Such a fun day with Sarah and our friend, Krista!

The Twilight franchise has changed this little town so much! The Chamber of Commerce has a map and asks visitors to place a pin where they live. The only place in the world that they have not had a visitor from is Greenland. SERIOUSLY! When we were there, there were people visiting from Australia. Imagine planning a trip to Forks, WA from Australia.

Most of the landmarks in Forks are based on the 'book locations' as the movies were filmed mainly in Oregon and Vancouver BC. Anyhow, the town has embraced the fans and plays along with signs, maps, and Twilight merchandise everywhere.

On our way to La Push.
A local hotel sign.
Bella Italia in Port Angeles.
We visited the Forks welcome sign, Bella's house, Forks High School, Forks Community Hospital, The Sheriff's Office, Bella's truck, the Cullen house, the treaty line, First & Third Beach in La Push, took a beautiful (slightly unplanned) hike, looked for Edward in the trees, and headed to Bella Italia in Port Angeles for some mushroom ravioli!

Enjoying our 'Edward's Hugs & Kisses' ice cream.
In the Dazzled By Twilight store
The Swan House
The Cullen House complete with a note on the porch from Esme.
If you're a fan and can't physically make it to Forks, visit Dazzled by Twilight (the exclusive Twilight store in Forks and Port Angeles) or peruse the Forks Chamber of Commerce site here. If you want even more insight on this little town, watch the documentary Twilight in Forks.

Thanks for the memories, Forks. Won't soon be forgotten by any of us!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

"I'm controlling. Controlist isn't a word."

Coach Beiste: You're all coffee and no omelet.
Sue: That doesn't make any sense.
A little Glee-cap of tonight's season premiere: 
What's with the crack about folks not liking Mr. Shu rapping?  I thoroughly enjoy it--you should see me groove to Gold Digger or Bust A Move while I'm running.  New tough gal Coach Beiste makes her debut, stealing the spotlight and some much needed funding from other school programs, much to the chagrin of Shu and Sue, who briefly join forces to take her down.  Finn and Rachel are happy, but we're sure that won't last long.  WHERE'S EMMA??  Puck got a vasectomy, Quinn's back on the Cheerios, Santana got a boob job, Tina and Mike are dating, and tryouts prove to be a non-event.  The two song highlights of the evening for me were "Billionare" and "Empire State of Mind"... adding them to the Shuffle as we speak.  Full (and amusing) recap here.

Lindsay, Doug and I celebrated the return of our favorite show choir in style, with Slurpees from the 7-11 down the hill, soft pretzels with salsa cheese dip (recipe next week!) and a giant tray of Puppy Chow.  Crispix, peanut butter, chocolate, powdered sugar... it's win-win-win-win situation.

Puppy Chow
You'll need:
  • 6 cups Crispix cereal
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 12 oz. milk chocolate chips
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
This'll bring out the "Beiste" in anyone!  Melt butter, peanut butter, and chocolate chips together on low on the stove or in the microwave.  Watch carefully if you do it on the stove--the recipe won't work if it gets scorched.  Stir in the cereal GENTLY.  Put powdered sugar in a large paper grocery sack; pour the cereal mixture in and shake until well coated.  Spread out and cool on wax paper before storing (ha ha... like any of this will make it to storage!).  Get your "juicy, vine-ripened chest fruit" out there and start cookin'. :)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Fall TV Lineup...Our Picks!

Fall TV...Wahoo! (FINALLY)
And the award for 'MOST EXCITED ABOUT' goes to:
GLEE Tuesday @ 8 on FOX

Before we start, I think we'd both like to say:

Lindsay's Picks:
How I Met Your Mother Monday @ 8 on CBS
Neil Patrick Harris, need I say more? He is fabulous and hilarious and the rest of the cast is also great. Already in its sixth season, Follow Ted as he tells his kids how he met the love of his life through flashbacks.

Raising Hope Tuesday @ 9 on FOX
NEW: Hoping this comedy about a young, single father sticks. Looks promising. Love Martha Plimpton (you recognize her from Goonies & the movie Parenthood, for anyone my age)

Running Wilde Tuesday @ 9:30 on FOX
NEW: Happy to see Keri Russell back on TV. Will Arnett cracks me up. He was on the totally hilarious canceled-for-no-good-reason show some of you may remember called Arrested Development. Married to actress-comedian Amy Poehler. Can't imagine what it must be like living in their house!

Big Bang Theory Thursday @ 8 on CBS
If you are not watching this show, start immediately! Dan and I LOVE this one. It is fun & quirky!

Fringe Thursday @ 9 on FOX
Watch it...watch it...watch it! Joshua Jackson (Pacey, for Dawson's fans!), LOST producers, and a branch of the FBI that deals with mysterious deaths. Not for the squeamish, but a great drama with sci-fi elements (which is not my normal TV viewing choice). Starting the third season.

Who Do You Think You Are? Friday @ 8 on NBC
I have always had an interest in historical stories about family roots. This show is produced by Lisa Kudrow and follows celebrities as they find out where they came from...or 'who they are'. This show aired about 6 episodes last spring and is starting a new round this Fall. Completely interesting!

Sarah's Picks:
Chuck Monday @ 8 on NBC
Doug and I love Chuck!  Never seen it?  Brief overview: Chuck Bartowski is a man who wears many hats: a tech geek at the Buy More, video game enthusiast, and NSA agent/international man of mystery.  (A surprising number of criminals hatch their evil schemes in Chuck's hometown of Burbank, CA.) 

The Middle Wednesday @ 8 on ABC
Love to see a normal, messy, middle class family on primetime TV.  As far as I'm concerned, anything with Patricia Heaton is a winner. 

Cougar Town Wednesday @ 9:30 on ABC
YES!  I'm excited about this one.  Monica...oops, I mean Courteney Cox, is hilarious as Jules.  Her romance with Grayson is smokin' and the jokes are so funny, belly-laugh city.  Bonus: Rachel, oops, I mean Jennifer Aniston, is guest starring this season as Jules' shrink!  Friends reunion!!  (Too many exclamation points usually drive me crazy but in this case it's warranted.)  !!!

& of course NBC's entire Thursday night comedy lineup:

Community @ 8
Doug and I's pick for laugh-out-loud comedy.  There's nothing not to like about this show.  It's a great cast, Chevy Chase and Ken Jeong are awesomely inappropriate.  Joel McHale is the dark horse of sexy primetime leading men--his abs and penchant for finding excuses to remove articles of clothing, his dry sense of humor, his witty banter with his costars... it's all very, very good.  And Betty White guest stars this season!

30 Rock @ 8:30
Alec Baldwin is my older-man crush (well, him and Tom Selleck... it's a close tie).  Anyway, Baldwin and Tina Fey have great chemistry; last season's finale with Matt Damon, as Liz's love interest Carol, was top notch and he's back for Season 5!  Super funny, lots of pop-culture and industry references that some folks won't get (a little like Gilmore Girls) which makes it even more comical. 

The Office @ 9
The last season!  What are we going to do without Michael Scott?  (That's what she said.)  Can't wait to see how they wrap it up.  (Or maybe that's what she said.)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Joyeux Kitchen: Emeril's Root Vegetable Chowder

My one and only Emeril recipe!  He's amazing but his recipes are usually so fussy and time consuming; this one is fast and the ingredients are totally accessible.  It's Doug's favorite dinner, he lovingly refers to it as 'that bacon soup'.  Some notes:  1) I can't stress enough how important really good, smoky bacon is.  I used cheap bacon the second time I made it and we were SO disappointed.  It was edible, but with good bacon it's divine.  2) Emeril recommends garnishing this with fried beet chips.  I've never seen fried beet chips for sale anywhere; I suppose Emeril made his own but I just served it with the dinner rolls from last week's recipe.

You'll Need:
  • 3/4 lb. GOOD bacon, julienned
  • 2 cups chopped onions
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup small diced carrot
  • 1 cup small diced (I actually shred these) parsnips
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 8 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup diced sweet potatoes (I omit these, Doug won't eat 'em)
  • 1/4 lb. new potatoes, quartered (I double this to make up for the left-out sweet potatoes)
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 1/4 tsp hot pepper sauce (Tabasco)
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

In a hot stockpot, render the bacon for 5 minutes.  Add the onions, celery, carrots, and parsnips.  Saute for 10 minutes or until the veggies are soft and wilted.  Season with salt and cayenne.  Add the bay leaves.  Stir in the flour and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally (really watch it, it's no good if it burns on the bottom).  Stir in the chicken stock.  Add all the potatoes.  Bring the liquid up to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes.  Stir in half-and-half, parsley, hot pepper sauce (more if you like it spicy), and Worcestershire sauce.  At this point I usually cover and continue to let it simmer until we're ready to eat, no need to serve immediately.  Delish! 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Green Bunny: George Monkey

Logan was obsessed with "George Monkey" (as he is called in our house) and we were lucky that this exhibit came to the Seattle Children's Museum! What a fun memory.

A little digital work happening here. Changed the large photo from color to B&W, then colored the hat yellow using Photoshop Elements and added the yellow journaling. (Logan loves George, but there is just something about that yellow hat. He used to chant those words anytime the show was on. He practically attacked this sign at the museum.)

CREATIVE TIP: The small calendar at the bottom of the layout (see below) was a clear plastic sticker. I wanted to circle the exact date that we visited the museum, but my markers were smearing on the plastic (tried on the outer edge of the sticker sheet first...GOOD thing!) I typed my journaling into word and measured the strip to line up with the calendar dates. Then, I saved some room on the left margin and punched a circle with a regular hole punch. Glued the strip on the page and...voila! Now the date stands out and it was a creative little fix at the same time!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Roots & Wings

♪♪ "When I think of home/I think of a place/where there's love overflowing..." ♪♪
If that's the definition of home, if home truly is where the heart is, then I've never been more at home in my life than I am right now.  We have so much love in this house, love in excess, love exploding out the windows and spilling out into the driveway.  One time in an interview, Julia Roberts said, of her three children with husband Danny Moder, "How lucky we are that we love each other so much that we burst into three pieces."  That's exactly how I feel about our little family. 

Doug loves crazy, rain-soaked Washington, and largely in part to our incredible Washington family and friends, I do too.  But is it okay to look back sometimes?  Is it okay to occasionally miss Kansas so much it actually makes me ache?  The nostalgia is so strong, it's tangible.  Sometimes if the weather's just right, a whiff of bonfire in the air, I can close my eyes and instantly be transported back there, just for a minute.

I miss everything about home.  Crisp September evenings aren't quite the same without a Spartan football game to cheer for; I loved the sound of a roaring, enthusiastic crowd in the stands.  I miss the smell of burning pastures.  I miss being able to get anywhere I needed to go in five minutes.  I miss the anticipation of having four distinct and dramatic seasons (I won't dwell on this one, suffice to say this Washington weather is hard on me).  I miss baseball season, I spent 19 years cheering on my dad's team... I miss the van rides home from road games we won (but I do not miss the van rides home from the ones we lost :).  I miss raging thunderstorms and nights in the basement huddled up listening to tornado sirens.  I miss the people.  Lord, do I ever miss the people, I loved our tight-knit little community.  I miss my Kansas family and my grandma's German blackberry kolaches.  I miss the simplicity and slow pace of life in a small town.  I miss the abundance of wide open spaces, the Flint Hills at night, and long drives on dusty gravel roads.

I guess if I'm really being honest, I miss my childhood.  I probably view my memories through rose-colored glasses but that's okay, I like the idea that you can hold on to the good things and let the bad fall away.  Life wisdom from Sweet Home Alabama: "You can have roots and wings."

I just can't help myself, I have to include another kolache recipe, this time from Homesick Texan.  (How fitting!  After further examination, I'll be doing a lot more cooking from that blog.)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Summer to Fall

I used to be a person who didn't really enjoy summer because I don't care for those HOT, HOT days. In the last couple of years, a few things have changed in that department...

Without question, Fall is still my favorite season. However, with two very energetic little boys who LOVE being outside, I have learned to love the sunny summer days (air conditioning helps too). There is just something about chubby little arms in a blue baby pool and running barefoot in the grass that makes me smile.

A summertime moment.
As we encounter the changing seasons:

I will gladly put the sunscreen away in favor of fuzzy fall hats,
I will order a few caramel apple ciders instead of my 'usual' at Starbucks,
I will bake snickerdoodles,
I will enjoy snuggly Sunday football with my boys,
I will watch two little men run through the pumpkin patch,
I will make stew,
I will make Logan some Super Scoopers,
I will enjoy every moment!

What are your family's favorite Fall traditions?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Joyeux Kitchen: Love-My-Husband Delicious Soup

A few years ago, Doug mentioned this soup as being one of his favorites, and I was searching for new recipes to add to the usual weekly meal rotation, so I thought I'd give it a try.  Not everyone is crazy about the idea of ground meat in a soup (myself included) but it has become a favorite of the whole family.  The recipe is from Doug's Great Aunt Ann.  The girls call it 'orange soup' and Hannah loves it; it's one of those ultimate comfort foods. 

You'll need:
  • 1 lb lean ground turkey (or super lean ground beef, but I prefer the turkey)
  • 1 medium chopped sweet onion
  • 2 cans cream of celery soup
  • 3 cups V8 juice (I like the Hot & Spicy)
  • 3 cups grated carrots
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
Brown the meat and onions (drain if needed, but if you use super lean meat there won't be a lot of fat to drain off).  Add the remaining ingredients, stir, bring to a boil, and then simmer 2-3 hours.  Great Aunt Ann recommends adding 1/2 lb hot italian sausage as an option.  Also, sometimes I substitute 1 cup grated parsnips for 1 cup of the carrots.  Dinner accomplished.  Super easy! 

Betty Crocker's Best Dinner Rolls

You'll need:
  • 3 1/2 to 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour or bread flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 package regular or quick active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
  • 1/2 cup very warm water (120-130 degrees F)
  • 1/2 cup very warm milk
  • 1 large egg
  • Melted butter
Mix 2 cups of the flour, the sugar, 1/4 cup butter, salt and yeast in a large bowl.  Add warm water, warm milk and egg.  Beat with your mixer on low one minute, scraping bowl frequently.  Beat on medium speed one minute, scraping bowl frequently.  Stir in enough of the remaining flour to make the dough easy to handle. 

Next you can do one of two things: knead the dough by hand 5 minutes on a lightly floured surface, or knead in your KitchenAid with the bread hook for 5 minutes (I opt for the bread hook).  Place the dough in a large bowl greased with shortening, turning dough to grease all sides.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place about 1 hour or until double.  Dough is ready if indentation remains when touched. 

Grease a 13 by 9 inch pan with shortening.  Push fist into dough to deflate.  Divide dough into 15 equal pieces; shape each piece into a ball and place in pan.  Brush with melted butter.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let it rise again in a warm place for about 30 minutes or until double.

Heat oven to 375.  Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.  Serve warm or cool (we like them with honey butter).
Look!  My new oven mitts!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Joyeux Kitchen: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

"They were delicious.  As far as pumpkin-anything goes, these are the best I've ever had." (said by Doug, after eating a cookie under duress, because he hates pumpkin-anything)

How many desserts can I put pumpkin into before the end of September?  Stay tuned.  This one is incredible, from George Duran on the Food Network.  As a cookie they're a hard 10, but the dough.... oh the dough.  Like heaven.  I would serve it at a party with a spoon and a hot cup of coffee. 

You'll need:
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) of unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs (room temperature--trust me, all baking ingredients should be room temperature)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt (1/4 tsp if you use salted butter)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 2 cups (12 oz. bag) milk chocolate chips
  • Nonstick cooking spray or parchment paper
Heat the oven to 350.  Spray your cookie sheets with cooking spray or line them with parchment paper (I use parchment paper--no pans to scrub!!).  Beat the butter in your mixer until smooth.  Add both sugars and cream on medium speed until light and fluffy (3-4 minutes).  Add the eggs one at a time, then the vanilla and pumpkin.  Mix all your dry ingredients in a bowl and add slowly to your wet ingredients.  Stir in the chocolate chips.  Scoop the dough by heaping tablespoons onto your cookie sheets and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the cookies have browned around the edges.  Remove sheets from the oven and let them rest for 2 minutes.  Then take the cookies off with a spatula and cool them on wire racks. 

These cookies are super soft and gooey.  I made the mistake of putting them in a Ziploc after they cooled, stacking one on top of another.  They're still edible but they aren't pretty anymore.  I'm thinking about crumbling the whole mess up and putting it on top of ice cream (and then going for an 8 mile run).  For storage I'd recommend layering them between sheets of wax paper in an airtight container.

This recipe was from a Food Network special (called Ham on Turkey?).  All the recipes from this episode sound incredible; for a list click here.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Green Bunny: Baby Name Art

I felt a creative urge when Sarah was pregnant with her third baby girl and [GASP] I was throwing the baby shower. Pottery Barn Baby was consuming my every thought. I was trying to emulate some of the adorable artwork on the bedroom walls in the 'I-want-it-all-please' catalog...
In explaining my love for all things Pottery Barn, I am reminded of an oh-so-classic Friends moment from 'The One With The Apothecary Table':

Ross: Phoebe HATES Pottery Barn???!!! She's so weird.
Rachel: Ross, she’s not weird, she just wants her stuff to be one of a kind.
Ross: Huh. Ya know what’s not one of a kind? A twin!
Anyway, back to the artwork, here's what I came up with:

This is 12x16. I framed it in a cream IKEA frame and displayed it on the table using a plate rack at the shower and then sent it home with Sarah...along with two others for Haley & Hannah!

This spiraled into making one for our MOPS auction:

and, one for my son (this one is 9x9):

Involved some cutting, some sewing, some chalking, some drawing, some tearing, some sanding, some major creative drive. All except for 'Kathleen' were before I owned my Cricut. (Yes...those are hand drawn and cut letters, flowers, birds, trees & bugs folks!) This is something I hope to include in my custom-made options when I launch Green Bunny Art....super fun project!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

I'd Like To "Ask The Audience" Please: It's A Celebration Situation!

I've been going back and forth about this for a while, so I thought I'd bring it to the blogosphere and see what everyone else thinks.  The girls birthdays are in October, November, and December.  Last year only Holly got a big party because it was her 1st birthday (and that's a pretty special day!), but this year we're having a combined party for all three girls in early November for our family and close friends.  We chose to go this route because inviting people over three months in a row for a party sounds a little excessive.  I know some people choose to only let one kid have a party each year in rotating fashion, but I got a party every year so I'd like to do the same for them (and besides, let's face it, I live to throw parties :).
Mud Pie Cupcake Birthday Hat
I have some questions about birthday etiquette and I'd love your thoughts.

Do we invite the girls' little friends to this party, which will be on a Saturday late afternoon, or plan separate, more casual get-togethers for their friends closer to their actual birthdays?  We have a lot of family close, so inviting only our closest friends and family still adds up to nearly 50 people (if everyone came, which they won't).  Tacking on additional kids' friends to this list boggles my mind--we simply don't have room for it.   However, the thought of this big party plus at least two little party-type-occasions is also mind-boggling. 

We want people to come celebrate birthdays with us, but if I got an invite to a party for three children, I'd feel obligated to bring three gifts and would probably feel burdened by this, given the current economic climate and the season of life we're in.  I don't want anyone to feel burdened!  So should I say "No Gifts Please"?  If I got an invitation to a kid's birthday that said "No Gifts" I'd bring one anyway.  Should the invite perhaps say "Gifts Optional"?  Well, really, gifts are always optional, so that sounds sort of rude.  So what I've been thinkin' is that I'll include a little note that spells the whole thing out and goes something like this:
"We are so excited to have everyone come celebrate with us. We will provide drinks and dessert, come ready to have a great time! We realize that celebrating 3 children at once is a little unorthodox, but their birthdays are so close together that it seemed like the easiest way to do things. Please don't feel obligated to bring three gifts. They like all the same things and are happy to share a gift between them, and mostly they'll just be happy to see all of their favorite people in the same room. Hope to see you there!" 
Is it presumptuous to assume anyone would even consider bringing three gifts?  Is saying nothing at all the best thing to do?  Any thoughts or advice would be fabulous.

I did find a couple of great websites for party etiquette, listed below.

Hosting A Birthday Party: Proper Etiquette and FAQs

Children's Birthday Party Etiquette from ModernMom.com

Joyeux Kitchen: Laura's No Bake Cookies

Everyone has their own version of this classic recipe, but this one from Doug's mama is our family's favorite.  So easy and fast to whip up!  The only problem is how quickly they disappear. 
You'll need:

  • 1 stick of butter

  • 3 tbsp cocoa

  • 2 cups sugar

  • 1/2 cup milk

  • 1/2 cup peanut butter

  • 1 tsp vanilla

  • 3 cups oats
 Combine the butter, cocoa, sugar and milk in a pot on the stove and bring to a boil for one minute.  Remove from heat.  Add peanut butter, vanilla, and oatmeal; stir quickly and drop by spoonful onto wax paper.  This sets up fast so don't dawdle.  Enjoy!  [Note: I like to sub a cup of chopped pecans for a cup of the oats, it makes for a crunchier cookie with a nice flavor.]
Love cookies?  Read about The History of The Cookie here.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Five Favorites + Five More [Oh Baby]

Happy LABOR Day!
How fantasticly timely this is since I was gonna write about babies and gifts! (I do realize this day celebrates a different kind of labor, but just go with it!)

We have three little bundles of joy joining our family in September (one yesterday and two in the next two weeks!). I will be an auntie to another niece and two nephews. YAY! All this baby talk got me thinking about the best go-to baby gifts. The things my babies loved...the things I loved...that I want to pass on to you...well, to everyone really!

This started out as a 'five favorites' list, but as mommies of five babies who have been doing this for almost five years...there were just too many fabulous things to discuss! Here are our favorites in no particular order:

(This link goes to our FAVORITE local baby boutique called SugarBabies. They included great info about Sophie on their webpage.) Made of 100% natural rubber and food paint. BPA free. Carter still loves her as we move into the second year.
Price: Varies depending on where you shop, but usually somewhere around $20. Both Target (online only) and Amazon carry her for cheaper than specialized baby boutiques.

I received this as a gift when I was pregnant with my first baby. It is a wonderful book filled with poetry, songs, recipes, and stories. It is perfect for the first timer who has forgotten all these little treasures during her years between being a baby and having a baby. There is a new 10th anniversary edition that sells for $25 at Borders. This is a picture of the original copy. Just because it's the one I own and it has a special place in my heart!

These items from Pottery Barn are SO soft and cozy! Warning: there is no turning back! I received two fitted sheets for Carter and I NEVER want to put regular cotton on his crib mattress anymore.
Price: $19.00 Changing Pad Cover
$29.00 Fitted Crib Sheet
$25.00 Boppy Slipcover

These are AMAZING! Let me say that again...AMAZING! They are huge, lightweight, breathable, 100% cotton Muslin fabric that just get softer and softer as you wash them. We never had loose feet or that one random wiggle arm when Carter was wrapped up in these. Super cute too!
Price: Again, varies based on where you want to buy...$33.69 for a four pack on Diapers.com

These floppy, snuggly guys are a favorite in Sarah's house. Each of her girls had one from birth and, I believe, Holly is currently loving on 'duck' number 4? This is a local company with a wonderful story.
Price: As much as we love Bunnies By The Bay, Sarah would like to point out that if you order from them you pay $10 shipping on top of the $10 price tag, but you can pick one up from Sugarbabies for $8.99 if you're local!

Melissa & Doug ANYTHING!
Great educational toys that the kids LOVE. So many puzzles, food play sets, blocks, classic toys & art supplies that we love here...the list goes on and on. The magnets above are a favorite in our house. Mommy loves them because they don't scratch the fridge like other magnets do. (We also play with them on cookie sheets.) 
Price: $11.99 for 20 animal magnets

Oh Plah! Teething Cuff by Roundhouse
Alas, this is one item Sarah and I never experienced (doing a blind review here). Don't know if they are fairly new or if we were just in the dark, but they look fabulous! You know when you are trying to finish a sentence with a friend at a coffee shop/playdate and your little one just wants to eat your jewelry...voila! Take off your bracelet and hand it over with no fear! BPA free & completely recycleable.
Price: $19.99

These are literally THE BEST thing ever when you are mixing kids + summertime. They clean up in the sink with dishsoap and hot water, slip on and off super quick (the kids can do it themselves), come in fun, fun, fun colors, have good grip on slippery surfaces, and don't get me started on jibbitz! My boys wear them all summer long.
Price: $24.99 (a little less on Amazon)

I swear by these things. They are not cheap, but are totally worth it. At any given moment I have a pack in my cupboard, car, diaper bag...you name it. They are extra soft and made with saline that dissolves mucus. As a first timer, I wiped and wiped and wiped Logan's little nose with regular baby wipes when he had a bad cold and ended up with a red, raw, horribly painful nose situation. NEVER happens with boogie wipes. You can find them in the baby aisle at Target, Fred Meyer, Walgreens...
Price: $3.99 for 30 wipes

We enjoy the "That's Not My..." series, but all Usborne touchy-feely books are equally delightful!
Price: $8.99

...I could probably keep going, but I'll stop at 10 great baby buys. Hoping you feel armed and ready to venture out on your next baby shower shopping adventure. Or...if you're a mama who just HAS to have one of the above goodies...enjoy! Let us know what your favorites are too.