Birth Days

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A lot has been going since K’s second birthday…our lives have been filled with starting a toddler group co op which I’ve been running since September, the exciting holidays spent with family and friends, welcoming K’s first baby cousin into the world, and now nesting for our second little one this July!

If I can sum up the last six months or so in a few words, I’d say…”Birth Days.”

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Toddler Group – Since last year at this time, a few mom friends of mine and I started talking about preschools. While it’s more than a fortune to send a little one to school or daycare out here in Santa Monica, our hope was to give our littles a preschool experience but with parent involvement and without the high cost. I did some research about how I could start a preschool once K turned two and just knew with the little time we had, it would be nearly impossible to find a space, get licensed, enroll and then open. But then I came across the idea of starting a cooperative (co-op) and learned that parents could get involved and share their time, resources and any costs into running the school.  I fell in love with the idea and after sharing this vision with others, a group of 8 moms who have littles around K’s age decided to join in and we birthed the toddler group co op the week after K turned two. It’s been the biggest blessing for our family. We’ve been able to watch K grow in so many ways along with her close group of friends, I’ve learned so much from the other moms and have been able to rely on their support, and I’ve had the opportunity to do what I love most (or second best to being a mom & wife)…teach and work with little ones!

Holidays – From Thanksgiving and Christmas to Valentine’s and St. Patrick’s Day, our holidays were full of fun and laughter, yet were a little bittersweet knowing that it would be our last holidays with K as our only child. We enjoyed some of our family traditions and birthed some new ones too!

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Making Thanksgiving Turkey Hats

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Making Almond Flour Christmas Cookies

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 Gingerbread House Decorating

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Enjoying a New Year’s Shabu Shabu Lunch With Family

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Making & Breaking a Valentine’s Day Piñata With Friends

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Making & Drinking Shamrock Shakes (tomorrow for St. Patty’s)

Baby Cousin’s Birthday – About a month ago, K’s first baby cousin was born into the world. “Donald Duck is born,” she told us (K referred to him as Donald for the past 6 months…and yes, that was around the time of her first Disney trip where she met the real Donald Duck). K anticipated Baby coming out for months and FINALLY he arrived. She was in awe of her cousin and could not help but giggle with joy every time she touched his head or his teeny tiny hands. And ever since then, she has told us that she has a special Baby Daisy Duck in her belly that will come out one day.

Anticipating One More Birth – Last September we found out we were expecting our second baby and Scott and I were beyond thrilled! Well, October and November rolled around and unlike my first pregnancy with K, I experienced what most moms go through…morning sickness. Ugh! I guess I had it really good the first time around because this morning sickness thing was no joke. From the moment I woke til the second I fell asleep at night, all I felt was nausea and everything I ate made me sick. Moving made me dizzy and the heat didn’t do me any good either. Thankfully it only lasted a few months and gratefully that was the worst of it. K definitely kept me positive and helped me get through it as she sang songs to Baby everyday, rubbed my rapidly growing belly and talked to Baby.

Last month we found out baby’s gender and K had the chance to watch Baby move during the ultrasound as she sang the “ABC’s” with her lips up to my belly. Excited to find out if she were going to have a sister or brother, she waited patiently, watching the screen. “You’re having a boy!” the doctor told us. K smiled and told us, “I’m having a brother!” The joy on her face emulated the room and all Scott and I could do was take it all in.

We couldn’t wait to share with our family so I decided I would whip something up in the kitchen to share the news. I tried a new recipe (Chocolate Pots De Creme by LA Fuji Mama) and they were a hit! I hid blueberries under the fresh whipped cream and then had the family top theirs with either a raspberry or blueberry with their guess. And to their surprise (apparently K tricked them and said she was having a sister a few hours before), they found blueberries in their dessert confirming she would be having a brother!

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I’m excited to be back blogging again…well, at least for the next few months until Baby Boy arrives. Hope to share some of our favorite co op art projects and activities, what’s been going on in our kitchen, all the new seedlings we’ve planted in the garden and some of our new go-to places here in Santa Monica!

The Joy of Giving (and receiving too!)

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Baby K spent a lot of time, energy, patience, hard work and creativity over the last few weeks making and decorating valentines for her friends and family. She loved the entire process from painting glue on paper hearts and picking out treasures/beads/stickers for each recipient to writing special messages and sprinkling tons of glitter on them to make sure each one sparkled just the right amount. Making these valentines brought her great joy but none compared to when she gave them away!

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The first few weeks of February flew by with all of the fun going on in K’s craft room. Valentine’s Day finally came and that special day and weekend was a very exciting time. Not only did K get to enjoy special playdates which included making and eating pink heart-shaped pancakes with her friend (or should I say Valentine) M and enjoying girl-time with C and M, but she finally got to hand out each of her valentine cards to her friends and family (and even give bunny some fresh valentine snacks).

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Excitement filled K’s eyes as she grasped on tightly to her valentine card and ran over and handed it to her loved one. Carefully observing her recipient’s facial expression and response, K desperately waited for a big smile to appear. Thankfully all of her loved ones responded with a smile (phew!), gave her lots of hugs and kisses and thanked her for the valentine. K just glowed and great joy overcame her. I could tell that she was proud of all the work she put into making the valentines and happy that she was able to make her loved ones feel so special.

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K also loved receiving special valentines and gifts (well, I guess that’s no surprise…what baby doesn’t love receiving gifts?). From her first valentine card and toys from friends to outfits and books from family, K received each of them and was overwhelmed with love and joy (and so was I). “Thank you, thank you,” she would sign.

Watching K joyfully give and gratefully receive from others reminds me of how blessed I am to have given birth to K and receive her as a miraculous gift from God. From the day my husband and I found out I was pregnant to the day K was born, we were filled with an immense amount of joy and didn’t think it could grow even more. But the love and joy we have with baby K in our lives continues to grow stronger each day. While we are constantly giving our love, nurture and care for K, we are receiving endless amounts of joy from her sweet smiles and giggles, every new milestone she reaches and each moment we share as a family. All we can say is “thank you, thank you” as we end each night in prayer.

Baby K Loves Ice (plus a special giveaway from Rita’s of Santa Monica)

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Yes, ice…and she can’t get enough of it! Ever since we introduced ice to her she is constantly asking me for ice to chew on and melt in her mouth. “Iye, iye, iye” she would say as she tries pulling the freezer door open. But there’s something icy that she loves even more than ice (which is hard to believe once you see her beg for her life for ice)…her little stuffed friend, Ice Guy!
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K loves to play with her stuffed toys (or “friends” as we call them)! We often find her giving them a hug, brushing their teeth with her toothbrush and as of the last few days, serving them “food” at her table (pictured above). Of all her stuffed friends, Rita’s of Santa Monica‘s mascot, Ice Guy, is the only one that puts a guaranteed big smile on K’s face.
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Last fall, we heard that Rita’s would be opening up in our city and we were so excited, especially because the nearest Italian ice & frozen custard shop we’ve visited was all the way in Orange County! As their grand opening approached, not only did we sign them up as Community Perks parters (I love how owners Young and Hannah Ko are huge supporters of our city), but we heard about and couldn’t miss their grand opening day!
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We woke up early that morning to stand in line for a chance to win Italian Ice for an entire year. As we waited, K sat in her new Minnie Mouse car, we enjoyed a few samples (more like teasers because they were so good), and one of Rita’s workers came out to give the crowd a pop-quiz about Rita’s. When someone answered correctly, that person would receive a bag with a Rita’s treat inside. K would listen and watch intently as the man shouted out questions to the crowd and handed gift bags to winners. K began to point at the bags, so I thought I better start answering the questions as there were only a few bags left. I started shouting out guesses and the man, probably feeling bad for me and my long-shot guesses, said that my answer was the closest to correct and handed K a bag. K glowed as she received it and we made sure she signed “thank you” upon receiving it. She opened it up and it was like love at first sight. Inside was her new best stuffed friend…ICE GUY!!! She looked at him, he smiled at her and then my husband had Ice Guy do a dance, flipping his feet from side to side. K laughed and smiled and held on tight to her new icy friend.
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And ever since then, when we go out for a refreshing Italian ice or frozen custard treat at Rita’s, K is all smiles and loves to find all her Ice Guy friends around the store. And my husband and I love checking out their ice, cream and custard flavors for the day (they have a TON of flavors and combinations – check out their daily flavors/menu here) and enjoy visiting Young, Hannah and their team! While I can go on and on about this fun and family-friendly Italian Ice shop, Young’s sister, Sommy Rhee, wrote a great post featured on Red Tricycle and her blog, sharing about everything from Young’s entrepreneurial background to all the delicious treats that Rita’s of SM has to offer!
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If you haven’t yet visited Rita’s of Santa Monica (located at 2307 Main St., Santa Monica 90405), it’s time you do!!! And tomorrow (Valentine’s Day) would be a better than perfect day to go. Here’s why: they are actually going to be giving away BOGO coupons to every customer to use on their next visit. The coupon will work toward any of their regular treats, including Gelatis, Sundaes, Milkshakes, Blendinis, and Mistos. And in case you already have Valentine’s Day plans, they are offering FREE regular cups of Italian Ice to every customer on the first day of Spring, which is Thursday, March 20.
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And to encourage you to drop by their Italian ice & custard shop (that also serves hot pretzels, perfect for a cold day), Young and Hannah are giving away 10 Free Ice Coupons (which can be used toward Gelatis) and your very own ICE GUY toy!!!!
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Enter the GIVEAWAY!!!
If you were to be selected, what would your first Gelati (ice + custard) combination be?
Oh! And in case you are wondering, we did win a year of ice at Rita’s grand opening, giving us even more of an excuse to visit THE BEST ICE & CUSTARD SHOP IN SANTA MONICA!!!!
Rita’s photo credits: Alice Cho Photography

Candy for Baby K ?! (plus a sweet giveaway from p.o.p. candy co.)

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Friends and other parents have asked me when I would offer baby K her first taste of candy and my first thought was Give K candy?!?! NEVER!!! And then I laughed…of course that wasn’t possible! K has already been exposed to candy (plus she’s already has had some chocolate ~ 100% cacao nibs) and I know how much I enjoy an occasional sweet treat, especially on special celebrations and holidays like Valentine’s Day. Never couldn’t be a good answer!

Rather than asking myself when a good time is to allow K to taste some candy, I think the bigger question I need to ask myself is what kind of candy are we going to allow K to enjoy. That means when selecting the type of candy I purchase, taking a good look at its ingredients first is necessary. First, the type of sweetener used to create its sweet goodness could range from real fruit, fruit sugars, maple, molasses and honey to agave, cane sugar, high fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners like Splenda. Making sure the sugars used are natural and real is very important to me. Second, additional ingredients in most candy include additives, hardeners and preservatives…basically all the long words that are labeled on the back of its package. My rule is if I don’t know what it is, I won’t eat it (and that means K definitely won’t be having any of it either).

So you may be wondering if there actually is a candy out there that uses natural sugars and does not have additives, hardeners and preservatives. Well there’s great news! There is ONE candy that I LOVE (with the exception of 73% + cacao and soy-free dark chocolate which I actually consider a health food) that meets my criteria. What I am referring to is p.o.p. candy co.s delicious, flavorful butter crunch made by Santa Monica locals, Bill and Rachel. Not only do I love how they’re huge community supporters, I love how they use simple, natural ingredients like dairy butter, cane sugar, organic brown rice syrup, and whatever nut, fruit or herbs they include in it! They have a great variety of flavors including customer’s favorites: Rosemary Almond, Fire Pistachio, Brown Sugar & Cinnamon and C-C-Curry (my favorite!).

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As Community Perks partners, I had the chance to meet up with Bill and Rachel at the Mar Vista Farmers Market (they’re there every 3rd Sunday) and asked them to share a little about p.o.p. candy co..

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Tell me a little bit about yourself!

We are a hub-and-wife team that, amazingly, got married *after* starting p.o.p. candy co. six years ago. Bill has been in the food production for — let’s just say it — most of his life. (He’s pretty bonafide!) Rachel is a former restaurant owner, though her training has been in the nonprofit world, so when we started p.o.p., integrating a philosophy and mission statement into what we’re doing came naturally.  Great food and building community is what we’re about.

What makes your candy and other products unique?

We use farmer’s market herbs, premium spices, and real food to create our flavors. People are constantly surprised by the ingredients we use that you don’t normally find in toffee or brittle.  Shredded carrots in our carrot cake (a 2013 holiday special flavo); Groundworks coffee and fuji applies in a granola bar; natural sundried cherries in our Thyme, Walnut, and Cherries; anise in our no-nut p.o.p.. That and no corn syrup, no oils, only premium butter and nuts. We stand by every list of ingredients for every one of our flavors.

I think p.o.p. candy is a perfect treat for this Valentine’s Day, especially if you’re going to be enjoying something sweet with your little ones. We’ll be stopping by the Mar Vista Farmers Market this weekend to grab something sweet for our family for sure! In case you’re still on the lookout for a sweet treat for your loved one this Valentine’s Day, check out their Fire & Spice Hearts:

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Their smoky rich Fire Pistachio 3″ hearts are half double-dipped in premium Belgium chocolate that’s dark, semi-sweet, satiny, and incredibly delicious. Their flavor-bursting C-C-C-Curry 3″ hearts are half double-dipped in creamy white chocolate that’s rich in cocoa butter (oh my!). (C-C-C-Curry = combo of cinnamon + coconut + curry.) The butter crunch and chocolate pairings are mouth watering and PERFECT!

Two of each flavor hearts (so 4 total per order) are tucked in a p.o.p. kraft gift box that’s wrapped with a vellum band and satiny Valentine’s Day bow and “kissed” with sweet and salty Valentine’s Day messages. You can still get it delivered in time for Valentine’s Day if you live locally and place your order by TONIGHT (2/11/14)!!!

Also…Bill and Rachel are offering a 10% discount (enter SantaMonicaMama10 at the checkout) to Santa Monica Mama readers so be sure to apply that to your order.

And finally…

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Enter our giveaway !!!!

Bill & Rachel will be giving away a Crazy 8 Pack of assorted p.o.p. butter crunch flavors!

Check out their variety of flavors. Which of their flavors are you most wanting to try?

I’m still waiting (though not pushing) for the day baby K really shows in an interest in trying some candy…p.o.p. candy, that is. And I am wondering which flavor she’d like most 🙂

My Valentine’s Tradition (Plus a Cookie Giveaway from Books & Cookies!)

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Every Valentine’s Day since K was born (which makes this one the second), I visit my favorite local children’s bookstore/kid’s café, Books & Cookies, to pick out a Valentine’s Day gift for baby K. This morning I had the chance to go to Main Street and enjoy some time (baby-free) browsing through the sweet Valentine-themed selection at Books and Cookies. Not only did I find K the perfect book for this Friday, I also discovered Santa Monica’s BEST vegan cookie (a Valentine’s treat) and first time mom and published author Chudney Ross, who just happens to be the owner of this lovely store!

First, let’s start with K’s Valentine’s gift. The one book that really caught my eye was “Big Hugs, Little Hugs” by Felicia Bond (bestselling artist of “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie”). This colorful board book shares examples of animal hugs from all over the world. I love how the few simple words on each page teach opposites and habitats, communicate love and promote diversity. I know K will love the adorable collage/textured material pictures of the parent and baby animals hugging in different habitats. I cannot wait to give her this Valentine on the 14th!

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Second, whether you’re vegan or not, once you take a bite out of this huge Almond Butter & Jammers heart-shaped signature cookie found only in their cafe, you’ll be craving for more. Standing at the register with my book in hand, I glanced at the mouth-watering sweet treats, savory sandwiches and great drink menu. Among the ever-so-popular rainbow sprinkle sugar cookies, Total Chaos favorite and chewy oatmeal cranberry cookie, this Almond Butter & Jammers caught my eye. I just HAD to get one of these…they’re made of almond butter (which I LOVE), are filled with berry jam and are shaped in a heart. And I am SO glad I did!!! I took one bite and my mouth was in heaven as I enjoyed the chewy cinnamon-y cookies and the creamy almond butter and sweet berry jam that squeezed out of the sides. Mmmmm! (enter in the giveaway and enjoy one of these!!!…or just pick one up right now!)

Third, as I mentioned earlier, it was truly a joy to meet Chudney Ross! She shared her incredible story with me and left me blown away by her accomplishments, her passion about literature and her love for children.

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I asked her to give me a few highlights about Books & Cookies that I could share with my readers and here is what she described:

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Books and Cookies is an enchanting blend of literature, learning and sweet treats…a children’s bookstore, kid’s café, party space and enrichment center!

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Our spacious, sun-filled book room stocks both classics and contemporary must-reads for babies to tweens. The space is completely kid friendly with cozy nooks, a hammock, a tee pee and plenty of places to curl up and get lost in the pages of a book.

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Our kidʼs café offers freshly baked cookies, but we also have a full menu of healthy snacks, baked goods and drinks for kids and adults. Weʼve taken special care to offer wholesome, homemade, organic, gluten free, vegetarian and vegan options, so that there is something tasty for everyone.

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During the week, we offer enrichment activities from story times to music classes, arts & crafts and cookie decorating. Our activities foster learning, fun and family interaction. On the weekends, we host children’s birthday parties, crafts, storytelling and cookie decorating all based on your child’s favorite books! Who wouldn’t want to bring in a new year with Dr. Seuss or Fancy Nancy or Pete The Cat!

It was wonderful meeting Chudney and seeing her vision for creating Books & Cookies. As mentioned in MomsAngeles‘ latest blogpost that featured this Chudney and her store, Books & Cookies needs your support in keeping this integral part of our city alive! And to encourage you to drop in, Chudney is giving away homemade cookies from her cafe in our giveaway.

Click here to enter: a Rafflecopter giveaway

I hope you enjoyed this post and I look forward to letting you know how K likes her Valentine’s book (maybe it’ll be her favorite like last year’s gift!) and which three of you will be receiving a delicious homemade cookie from Books & Cookies  🙂

What is your favorite children’s book?

**Santa Monica Mama is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

I Love You, Little One (by Nancy Tafuri)

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I love when baby K runs over to me and snuggles in my lap, placing this special book in my hands while asking me to “reee, reee pees Mama!” (read, read please Mama!). Beautifully themed for Valentine’s Day, “I Love You, Little One” by Nancy Tafuri, illustrates the way six animal babies and one little child are specially loved by their Mamas. I love how the words are poetically read from page to page in a familiar phrase that captures the beauty of love between mother and her “little one.” The animals are drawn with fine detail and its habitats are featured both visually and through similes when compared to a Mama’s love. As K and I read this story over and over again, she enjoys pointing out all the animals and critters on each page and helping me end each question with “Mama” and phrase with “always.”

Over the next week, I will read you this story as you reflect on your love for your little one.

 

**Santa Monica Mama is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.