This recipe for Healthy Blender Breakfast Bars is kid approved and comes together in a flash thanks to the use of a high-powdered blender. Naturally sweetened with banana and a bit of maple syrup, these healthy blender breakfast bars are refined sugar free and a great source of fiber.
I read somewhere on the internet – which NEVER lies (ha!) – that you may need to expose your child to a new food 10 or more times before they can truly decide whether or not they like it. TEN times… or more! I actually do agree with this but as a mother it’s quite frustrating and exhausting to put certain foods on your little one’s plate and watch them go untouched or watch them be cautiously licked and spit out time and time again. And then there are those amazingly victorious moments for the parents of a picky eater (I’m totally fine with that term, by the way) where a new food or a new recipe is an instant hit. HOORAY! High fives all around!
This recipe for healthy blender breakfast bars is one of those recipes.
I modeled this recipe after the Banana Oatmeal Blender Muffins for Baby recipe I shared that Chase loved when he was first beginning to navigate solid foods. I had a feeling the flavors would still appeal to our rather opinionated toddler. Bananas, cinnamon, oatmeal and a splash of maple syrup – all pretty safe on the food flavor scale and, better yet, all ingredients I feel good about incorporating into a recipe I’m going to feed to my toddler.
The bars are refined-sugar free and naturally sweetened with banana and a bit of maple syrup. They’re also very easy to adapt to make gluten-free as long as you use certified gluten-free oats in place of traditional oats, so keep that in mind if you’re on the lookout for a simple gluten-free breakfast bar! The texture is more similar to a dense baked oatmeal than a fluffy muffin and somehow this makes them taste more satisfying to me first thing in the morning.
I’ve made these bars a number of times and every time I find myself so tempted to throw in a handful of mix-ins of some sort, whether it be half a cup of chopped pecans, dried cherries, shredded coconut or fresh blueberries but time and time again, I stop myself. Why? Because I want to keep these bars kid-approved and while I think I could get away with fresh blueberries (or chocolate chips <—basically a sure thing), I have a feeling nuts or a chewy dried fruit would cause Chase to turn his nose up at this recipe. Don’t fix something that doesn’t need fixing, right!?
I only share this here because this recipe is the kind of recipe you can add things to if you wish. If I were going to make a batch just for me and Ryan, I’d add nuts for sure and think they’d give this recipe a fantastic bit of crunch and texture! I encourage you to play around with mix-ins if you think they will work well for you and your family. And please comment back to let me know what worked well for you if you give something new a shot!
Naturally sweetened with banana and a bit of maple syrup, these healthy blender breakfast bars are refined sugar free and a great source of fiber.
2½ cups old fashioned oats
1¼ teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 cup whole milk (non-dairy milk should also work well)
1 large very-ripe banana
3 tablespoons maple syrup
¼ cup coconut oil, melted
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8x8’’ baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
Combine 1¼ cup of the old fashioned oats, cinnamon, salt and baking powder in a high-powdered blender and process until consistency resembles flour.
Add milk, banana, maple syrup, melted coconut oil, egg and vanilla to the blender and process until a relatively smooth batter forms. (You may need to periodically stop the blending and scrape the edges of the blender with a spatula to make sure everything properly mixes together.)
Stir in remaining 1¼ cup old fashioned oats.
Pour batter into baking dish and bake for 30-35 minutes or until edges appear golden brown and the center is cooked through.
Allow to cool and slice into bars.
Per bar (made with whole milk): Calories: 202 / Fat: 9g / Sodium: 42mg / Carbs: 28g / Fiber: 5g / Sugar: 7g / Protein: 5g
While you can melt your own coconut oil, I prefer using coconut oil that is already in liquid form at room temperature for baking. I buy mine through Thrive Market.
Store any leftovers in an air-tight container in the refrigerator, as the dairy milk used in the recipe can cause them to spoil quickly.
These bars are freezer friendly. Slice bars and wrap them individually in plastic wrap before freezing.
Try crumbling up one of these bars and serving it on top of vanilla Greek yogurt with fresh berries. SO good!
For those with little ones: What are some of your go-to recipes that are always a hit with your children?
Without a doubt, these whole wheat pumpkin muffins are the recipe I make the most for Chase in our house. He loves them and I love that they’re freezer friendly so I can make a big batch and simply take one out and microwave it 20-25 seconds when I need a quick breakfast or healthy snack option for him.
Good morning! How are you guys today? I hope your week is off to a great start. My Monday was a pretty typical Monday around here so I figured it might be mildly interesting to recap if you happen to be like me and enjoy peeks into other peoples’ everyday lives. (Day in the life blog posts will forever and always be my favorites.)
With Ryan traveling for work most of this week, Chase, Sadie and I are ridin’ solo. This means that despite my coaxing Sadie does not relax at night until around 9 p.m. when she finally throws in the towel and accepts the fact that no matter how long she stares out the front window of our house, Ryan is not coming home. She’s only a lil’ obsessed with him…
I woke up on Monday morning a little before 6 a.m. and kicked things off with a bowl of triple chocolate protein oatmeal. I then made myself a hot mug of decaf coffee with whole milk and collagen to fuel me through a bit of work before Chase was up for the day around 7:30 a.m.
The first words out of Chase’s mouth when he woke up were, “1, 2, 3… HIKE!” so you can see the toddler crib talk randomness continues around here! I scooped him up and he immediately requested stories and cuddles along with breakfast, so we snuggled up and read The Cat in the Hat together while Chase ate a breakfast bar. Getting Chase and myself dressed for the day was a complete joy (sarcasm to the extreme) but after a tearful strip down and changing his pants two times, Chase was dressed and happy again. Gotta love those emotional rollercoasters!
We spent the rest of the morning packing Chase’s lunch and making cards to go along with some small gifts for Chase’s preschool teachers. (His school is celebrating Teacher Appreciation Week this week.) By the time I dropped Chase off at school, I wasn’t feeling the most energetic and considered skipping the gym but I knew I’d feel 10 times better if I sucked it up and worked up a sweat.
This probably isn’t the most motivating mindset, but one way I get myself to the gym on days when I feel a little bleh is by telling myself I can take it as easy as I want and modify whatever I want once I’m there. Sometimes I scale back a lot and other times I find my groove right away. It’s a weird little mind trick that works well for me, especially during pregnancy!
The Burn Boot Camp protocol called for a leg workout and we paired off in groups of four to complete a lower body burner. Here’s what my slightly-modified version looked like:
In between each round, our group completed 40 jump squats!
I actually really enjoyed the workout not only because it kept things moving but because I paired up with three of my close girlfriends for this one and it made time fly by! Once the workout was done, I made a quick pit-stop at the grocery store for some food for the week before heading home to get a jump start on making a recipe for breakfast bars I’m planning to share on the blog tomorrow. I’ve had some requests for more kid-friendly recipes that Chase also loves so be sure to pop by the blog tomorrow if that interests you!
While my breakfast bars baked away, I quickly checked my emails, ate a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios and two pieces of a frittata out of some Tupperware and then grabbed a shower before I had to head back out to pick Chase up from preschool.
Right when we arrived home, I let Chase accompany me to the end of the driveway to bring the recycling bin inside which spiraled into a solid hour of playtime outside. I usually try to let him unwind inside with some quiet play for 30 minutes or so after preschool and then settle him in for his nap but he was amped up and, honestly, the weather was too pretty for me to resist as well. Sadie joined us for lots of fetch and running around in the grass and we made it back inside around 2 p.m.
After a quick snack, I managed to get Chase down for his nap and immediately came back downstairs to photograph the breakfast bars I made earlier in the day with the help of my furry photography assistant.
I ended up eating two of them for a super-late lunch (maybe I should call my cereal + frittata lunch?) along with a cup of yogurt with cacao nibs and chia seeds. While I ate, I worked on the computer until Chase was up. Chase woke up a little out of sorts and rather teary so we stayed close to home for the rest of the day, reading books, blowing bubbles in the backyard and playing frisbee with Sadie before dinner.
Dinner was a rather random assortment of leftovers – rice, cauliflower, cheese, cilantro, onions and roasted chickpeas – all thrown together in a bowl and topped with avocado.
Chase and I FaceTimed with Ryan after dinner before making our way upstairs for the whole bed time routine. I did a little more work once Chase was asleep while I half-watched The Voice. I eventually headed off to bed around 10 p.m. and read until my eyes were too heavy to stay open any longer.
Today isn’t a preschool day for Chase, so I’ll be hanging with my little man. I’m hoping to make it to the gym, the library and a local park at some point but the day is still fairly up in the air over here. Hope you all have a great Tuesday!
I love how the title of this blog post is “St. Patrick’s Day Weekend 2018” and yet we didn’t do much to celebrate and the green our family sported all day long was rather minimal. I’ve had my eyes set on Easter so St. Patrick’s Day totally sneaked up on me this year but we did manage to celebrate with some corned beef and cabbage on Friday night!
Our St. Patrick’s Day kicked off with breakfast and a little more babymoon vacation research before Chase was up for the day and ready for action. I wasn’t in the mood to work out on Saturday and suggested a trip to Discovery Place Kids with Chase as our morning activity instead of any kind of fitness. Our DPK membership comes in handy for spontaneous visits and since it was in the low 40s in the morning, it seemed like a decent family activity to enjoy while the outside temperature warmed up a bit.
Chase made a beeline for the pretend vet’s office when we arrived and quickly fell in love with a stuffed dog that he then proceeded to cart all over Discovery Place with him for the next 90 minutes. He called it his “Fire Puppy” after it rode shotgun with him in the big pretend fire truck and they were BFFs for the morning.
Before driving home, we ended up popping into Whole Foods to grab food from their hot bar for lunch and candy from their candy bins which I’d love to blame on Chase, but let’s be real…
By the time we made it back to our house, it warmed up and reached the 60s outside. The perfect sunny walking weather! Ryan handled settling Chase down for his nap after a quick jam-session on some pots and pans and then I headed off for some one-on-one time outside with my favorite furry lady.
Sadie and I covered around two miles together which was just enough time for me to make it through my favorite NPR podcast, Wait, Wait… Don’t Tell Me! I know I’ve mentioned this podcast a number of times on the blog, but it’s definitely worth checking out if you like trivia, enjoy hearing about current events in a lighthearted way and like to laugh!
By the time I made it home, it was pretty darn clear Chase wasn’t going to nap successfully on Saturday. He was upstairs yelling “MOM! DAD!” in the midst of choruses of “Ooh Eeh Ooh Ah Aah Ting Tang Walla Walla Bing Bang.” Listening to the words that come out of that kid’s mouth when he babbles and sings in his crib is one of my favorite things to do because he’s SO random. He’s like a little radio cycling through every song in his head and various imaginary scenarios with whatever toys he has around him in his crib. He also creates little games for himself sometimes where he’ll try to chuck all of his stuffed animals onto the twin bed or into one of the decorative storage bins in his room and say, “Mom! I made a basket!” when I open the door.
With Chase’s non-existent nap checked off the list, we decided to make the most of the gorgeous weather and spent the next few hours outside, playing at a local park, throwing rocks in the lake and feeding the ducks. I love easy, slow-paced Saturdays that involve lots of sunshine so much!
We made it home feeling ready for food and when I suggested a quick drive up to Mooresville for seafood from Eddie’s, Ryan immediately agreed so we piled into his truck and dug into an assortment of shellfish, shrimp and salmon as we overlooked Lake Norman. We rounded out our evening with bath time for Chase and an episode of Dateline for me and Ryan while Chase snoozed away and Sadie hijacked more than her fair share of our bed as always.
Ryan was up and out the door for yet another west coast work trip before 6 a.m. on Sunday morning. (Chase and I are ridin’ solo for a good part of this week.) With a mother-son day ahead of us, I took advantage of a quiet morning and got some work done on the computer. Chase slept in until nearly 8 a.m. (the time change has actually been kind of amazing for his wake up times lately – I hope it lasts!) and we eased into the morning together before getting dressed and heading off to church for the first service of the day.
Sunday’s weather mirrored Saturday and the sunny skies were too much for us to resist after church. The minute we got home, I made us some smoothies to take on a walk to the park with Sadie. We spent the next two hours outside playing at the playground and watching a fishing tournament at the nearby boat docks. I tried to just kick back and go with the flow during our time outside and let Chase take the lead on our little adventure which paid off big time.
He wanted to spend a solid 40 minutes sitting on the dock, watching the men fish for bass and there was something about simply sitting down in the sunshine with Sadie in my lap (her disregard for personal space continues) and Chase by my side that filled my heart right up. There are so many precious moments of motherhood I cherish and this weekend was full of them. I’m not sure if I’m feeling hyper-aware of some of these sappy mom feelings because of pregnancy hormones or what but in the midst of day-to-day craziness, these moments are the moments that rejuvenate me and make me feel so incredibly grateful for Ryan, Chase, Sadie and our little one on the way. I know that life is about to change in a big way and get a bit more chaotic soon, so I’m really trying to embrace some of the slower moments of motherhood right now.
We made it back to our house around 1 p.m., ate a quick lunch of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cashews and green beans (bless you, Whole Foods hot bar, for making a vegetable my child loves) before Chase settled down for his nap. I worked while he slept and got a jump-start on a recipe post before I started typing up this blog post.
We rounded out our Sunday with an evening at home which meant we were in our pajamas niiiice and early. Just the way I like it! Once Chase was bathed and sleeping, I read a few pages of The Keeper of Lost Things and while I like the book enough – it’s a good break from the suspenseful novels I’ve been devouring lately – it’s admittedly a bit slow. Ryan laughed when I told him I’m liking the book because it makes me actually GO TO SLEEP at a decent time rather than read for all hours of the night but I’m definitely looking for something a little more engaging for my next read. Up next on my Kindle: Little Fires Everywhere. Have any of you read this book yet? I’ve heard good things so my hopes are high!
I hope you all have a great week ahead! Thanks for stopping by PBF today!
I definitely didn’t mean to go dark on the blog yesterday. In fact, I wrote a way-too-wordy blog post that I ended up scrapping at the last minute because it was a big-time Debbie Downer to read. I wasn’t sharing anything major and the blog post was simply a recap of my Wednesday but Wednesday, honestly, was just an all-around annoying day.
It was filled with phone issues that had me running to four different stores (and the issues still remain unresolved), pregnancy nausea that resurfaced with a bang, losing my car keys and more and it just felt like a big whine fest when I wrote about it on the blog even though it was simply a real recap of my day. I didn’t enjoy writing about it so I figured you guys wouldn’t enjoy reading about it, so I hit delete and now here we are today. A new day! A better day. FRIDAY!
So let’s dive into your usual Things I’m Loving Friday post, shall we? Below you will find a short roundup of some things that are making me smile this week, including a must-try festive St. Patrick’s Day recipe, a sneaky giveaway and more. I hope you guys have a fantastic weekend and enjoy the luck of the Irish on Saturday!
Things I’m Loving Friday
(26-week ultrasound photos of our baby’s head and feet! <3 )
Hooray for a wonderful ultrasound and answered prayers! I had an appointment with a specialist yesterday morning to monitor our baby and look at my placenta and it went so well. We got to see our little one in enough detail to see fuzzy hair on our baby’s head and it was incredible. My doctor told me our little one is about 2.2 pounds already (I’m measuring slightly ahead – a big change from my pregnancy with Chase when I was behind the whole time) and looking great. Seeing our baby move and hearing our little one’s heartbeat is simply the best even though I think I’ve held my breath for the duration of every single ultrasound we’ve had so far.
Chase is still 100 percent convinced our baby is a boy and tells EVERYONE we’re having a boy with such certainty that even his preschool teacher said, “Congrats! You’re having a boy!” to me on Monday. I had to laugh and tell her that we don’t know and we won’t know until our little one arrives, despite Chase’s very vocal claims otherwise. He kind of has me drinking the Kool-Aid at the moment and part of me is leaning toward thinking we’re having another boy even though all of my physical symptoms seem to align more with the old wives’ tales for a girl this time around. We will see!
High Protein Frozen Mint Hot Chocolate with Collagen
Thank you to Great Lakes Gelatin for sponsoring this shout out!
St. Patrick’s Day is tomorrow and if you’re looking for a way to celebrate with a little treat that’s actually pretty darn healthy, I have the perfect festive drink for you! It combines two of my favorite flavors – chocolate and mint – for a frozen mint hot chocolate that packs a serious protein punch thanks to the addition of Great Lakes Collagen Hydrolysate. The recipe is creamy, frothy and chocolaty but doesn’t taste like a total sugar bomb. It’s a high protein frozen hot chocolate you can feel good about drinking, whether you choose to enjoy it on St. Patrick’s Day, as a post-workout snack or a healthy sweet treat at the end of the day.
A high-protein, creamy treat to enjoy when you're craving a combination of rich chocolate and refreshing mint.
2 cups milk (a higher fat milk will yield a creamier drink)
3 tablespoons Great Lakes Collagen Hydrolysate
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint leaves
pinch of salt
1 heaping cup ice
Combine milk through salt in a high-speed blender until mint leaves are fully blended into the chocolate liquid.
Add ice and blend until desired consistency is achieved. Top with whipped cream and a sprinkle of cocoa powder if desired.
I’ve been buying Great Lakes Collagen Hydrolysate for about two years now and love it because it dissolves so easily in my morning coffee or tea and makes a great addition to smoothies without altering the flavor of my favorite beverages. You can read more about why I first fell in love with collagen and continue to use it regularly in this post: Benefits of Collagen. The short version: I love it for improved digestion and hair, skin and nail health as well as bone and joint health. And yes, I do use collagen pregnant! I feel like it was my primary source of protein for a while there when I was on an all-carb diet for nearly two months. Ha! My doctor gave me the a-okay to continue using it, but definitely check with your doctor, too!
If you’d like to give this recipe a try or simply wish to try incorporating collagen into your diet, I think you’ll like today’s sneaky giveaway! One PBF reader will win two containers of Great Lakes Collagen Hydrolysate and one of the 20-count single-serving packs of the travel-size collagen packets you can throw in your bag to enjoy collagen on the go. (These are great for adding collagen to coffee or tea when you’re out and about.) To enter this giveaway, simply leave a comment on this post telling me how you currently like to enjoy collagen or one way you think you’d like to try using collagen if it’s something new to you! I will randomly select a winner next Friday morning.
I never think of my car as “old” but it’s 13 years old so I guess it’s technically getting up there, huh? The only time I really feel like my car is getting older is when I want to use some kind of new(ish) technology like Bluetooth and it’s not compatible or when I check the maps function of my car’s GPS and half the highways around me don’t even exist. I wanted the ability to easily stream music in my car before my long road trip with Chase a couple of weeks ago and ordered this Bluetooth adapter from Amazon.
The adapter worked like a charm and the set up was a breeze. The sound quality is great and I highly recommend it to anyone driving an older vehicle without the ability to stream music from their phones. The adapter also has the ability to charge your phone at the same time, so that’s a huge plus! It let me jam out to the Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and listen to my favorite NPR podcast (Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me) among streaming breaks of Pandora’s Baby Einstein station so I was a happy camper!
Purchasing these Chilly Cow ice cream bars was a valiant attempt at portion control on my part after downing my bodyweight in Moose Tracks ice cream a few weeks in a row. Though a big bowl of ice cream will always have my heart, I must give these bars rave reviews. They are incredibly creamy and chocolaty and seem to do a decent job of satisfying my sweet tooth at the end of the day. And yes, I’ve definitely downed two in a row a couple times now because I loved them so much but that’s better than half of a half gallon of ice cream, right!?
Hey friends! We’re halfway through the week and I hope you are all doing well. My brain is feeling a little all over the place – not in a bad way, just a bit unfocused – so I’m going to roll with it this morning and share some randomness on the blog today! Despite my love for stream-of-consciousness blog posts, I do like to maintain some semblance of organization in this space, so we’re tackling the randomness bullet point style.
Wednesday Randomness: Six Things
Ryan’s Pre-Baby Hair Challenge
I don’t know how I’ve failed to mention this on the blog but Ryan is about six months into growing his hair out! This is not motivated by a desire to change his hairstyle at all – I mean this is the same guy who brings out the buzzer and periodically asks me to “just buzz it all” and spends .02 seconds on his hair every morning – but his challenge began when we first found out we were expecting again. Once we made it past the first few nerve-racking prenatal appointments, Ryan realized he had yet to get a much-needed haircut and then decided maybe he should just roll with the longer locks since they’d served us well so far. Now you can expect to see longer and longer hair on Ryan for the next few months until our little one makes their debut early this summer. For what it’s worth, I think Ryan has fantastic hair (I have major hair envy because his hair is so thick and beautifully wavy) but we laugh at his new look regularly when he experiments with different parts and styling that often look like they’re straight out of the ‘80s.
All Kid Music, All the Time
I never thought I’d be a mom who played “kid music” at home or in the car but the moment I introduced Chase to the likes of Raffi and Nancy Cassidy, there was no turning back. (I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree because I LOVED this music when I was little.) Chase adores kid music and we play a LOT of it in our house and in the car. In the same breath, by the time Chase goes down for his nap, I often find myself in need of a little Jack Johnson or Dave Matthews Band to bring some chill back into my life and mellow things out after the 10,000th round of “Baby Beluga.”
Potty Training Prep
We’re getting ready to tackle potty training over here! (Well, I say that but I also just ordered another diapering bundle from The Honest Company on Monday… so we’ve got some time. Ha!) I took your advice to heart on my last Chase update post and ordered the Oh Crap! Potty Training book and I’m hoping that once I take some time to flip through it, I’ll feel ready to tackle this beast head-on.
I do have two rather specific questions for the potty training veterans out there before we begin:
1.) Did you use a mini potty or train your little ones using your adult-size toilet? I am rather tempted to just use our large toilet because I feel like that’s the most real world applicable (and less messy!) and I’m curious if the Oh Crap! book has any thoughts on this, too. I’ve seen the toilet inserts that let you make your adult toilet seat accommodate a little hiney as well and I really like that idea!
2.) Did you use pull-ups for naps and nighttime or diapers? (I have zero ambitions to potty train through the night for a while.) Chase’s preschool teacher said she thinks pull-ups can confuse kids a bit during naps/nighttime sleep since they mimic the movement of underwear and this makes a ton of sense to me. I feel like introducing underwear and pull-ups at once might be confusing and just doing underwear for daytime and sticking with diapers at naptime and nighttime when Chase will be in a pee-friendly zone makes more sense in my mind. Thoughts? Any personal experiences to share?
We’re two for two on this week’s meatless meal plan adventure and going strong! Monday night’s homemade broccoli cheese soup was a hit and last night we dug into The Minimalist Baker’s Vegan Sloppy Joes. While they were quite sloppy (especially when we tried to serve them on top of whole wheat buns), they were incredibly easy to make and absolutely delicious. The whole thing took me about 30 minutes to make (and that includes the time it took to cook the lentils) and I’m planning to eat the leftovers for lunch sometime this week in a bowl topped with plain Greek yogurt and cheese since the recipe felt a little chili-esque to me as well.
On a less healthy and completely unimportant note, I’m dying to make a batch of these chocolate chip cookies after dinner one night this week. My friend Melanie shared the recipe on Facebook and gave them rave reviews and now I need them in my life.
I had no idea Easter was April 1 this year until I saw it in my calendar this week and it seems like it’s coming up SO fast! We don’t have any big plans for the holiday and will be staying in Charlotte which is 100 percent fine with me! I am already looking forward to hiding eggs for Chase, the Easter service at church, making Easter baskets for my boys and decorating eggs with friends. As far as Chase’s Easter basket is concerned, I haven’t given it a ton of thought yet but have been gradually accumulating a few goodies here and there, including another Water Wow! pad, a new Dr. Seuss book and a Paw Patrol toy. I’m planning to add some fun sweet treats to my next Thrive Market order to round everything out. I just LOVE this kind of stuff!
Afternoon Cereal Fiend
There’s something about cereal and pregnancy that go hand-in-hand for me but the weird thing is that I almost always find myself craving a bowl in the late afternoon rather than the morning. Something about cereal just calls to me around 3 p.m. and I find myself snacking on a few handfuls or pouring myself a bowl of cereal nearly every day. Can’t stop, won’t stop.
And on that random note, it’s time for me to sign off for the morning! I’ll catch up with you guys in the comments section of this post throughout the day and hope to share a Wednesday recap on the blog tomorrow. Have a great day!
I typically love to do all of my meal planning and grocery shopping on the weekend but since our weekend was rather busy, everything fell to the wayside. Yesterday morning, I realized we didn’t have much in the fridge, freezer or pantry to feed our family for the week ahead. Since food and meal planning were top-of-mind for me yesterday, I figured I’d turn my meal plan for the week into a blog post since I’m pretty excited about what we have on the agenda for dinner over the course of the next few days.
This week’s dinner menu is plant-based and meat-free not because we’re vegetarian but because we’ve really been enjoying eating a more plant-based diet ever since my pregnancy aversions had me gagging at the sight, smell or thought of meat for nearly two months. We still eat and enjoy meat and seafood, but I’ve loved playing around in the kitchen and continue to find myself seeking out more plant-based recipes. Hopefully a few of the recipes we’re making in the Fagan household this week will appeal to you, too!
Since Monday has come and gone already, this is the one meal we’ve already made this week and if it sets the tone for how the rest of this week’s meals are going to go, we are in for a treat! Kristin’s blog, Iowa Girl Eats, has been a long-time favorite of mine mainly because she GETS flavor. All of the recipes on her site are gluten-free and most are quite healthy but beyond that, Kristin makes the kind of recipes I think most people would love and enjoy. She doesn’t shy away from full-fat products (SAME girl, same) but still manages to incorporate a hearty number of vegetables into many of her recipes. Bonus: The way she blogs about her husband’s food preferences reminds me a lot of Ryan and most of her recipes are big-time hits with him, too! It SNOWED in Charlotte yesterday (in MARCH… c’mon) so this warm and creamy soup was the perfect cold-weather meal that warmed us right up last night! (Note: To make this recipe vegetarian and truly meat-free, swap the chicken broth for vegetable broth.)
I saw my friend Brittany share a picture of lentil-based Sloppy Joes on Instagram Stories over the weekend and it inspired me to add this recipe to our meal plan this week. (Brittany is also doing a MeatLESS March challenge, so check it out if you’re interested in more plant-based recipe inspiration!) I’m curious to see how these sandwiches will turn out, but with 76 very positive reviews, I have high hopes! I bought whole wheat buns and pickles to use with the vegan Sloppy Joes and plan to serve them with a simple broccoli slaw side salad.
You’re not at all shocked to see another Pinch of Yum recipe pop up on our weekly meal plan, I know, but when you find a blog that churns out hit after hit of amazing recipes, it’s hard not to return time and time again for dinner inspiration! This salad looks amazing on their site though I’m under no delusions that my version will look half as pretty. I sometimes shy away from salads at dinner time but this salad looks hearty enough to taste satisfying at the end of the day thanks to avocado and roasted chickpeas. I can also already tell from the ingredient list that this salad will likely only serve me and Ryan (not four people, as the recipe indicates), but I’m excited to give it a try.
The more recipes I’ve made from Alexis’ blog, the more I realize she is the queen of fantastic sauces. The sauce on this Buddah bowl calls for peanut butter (heck yes), maple syrup, soy sauce and ginger and all of those flavors sound like heaven to me so I think this one will be a winner.
I planned this recipe for Friday because it seems like one I maaay be tempted to make for lunch earlier in the week. (My fallback plan: Swapping pizza in for Friday night’s dinner which always sounds fabulous to me.) This salad looks like a great combination of salty and sweet flavors and crisp, crunchy and creamy textures. Heaven in a bowl! I’m planning to use my giant salad chopper when I make this one to get as much flavor in every bite as possible since everything in this salad from the butternut squash to the pears and goat cheese sounds fabulous to me.
Man oh man, I needed this past weekend! Spending quality time with Ryan, Chase and Sadie was all I had on my weekend wish list, so it wasn’t too hard to make me happy.
Our weekend kicked off with homemade peanut butter cups and you know that’s always a good thing. I really wanted a Reese’s peanut butter egg when Chase was napping on Friday but since I couldn’t leave the house, I whipped up a batch of homemade peanut butter cups and they were the jam. Is it bad that they didn’t last more than 48 hours in our house!?
The rest of our Friday night included baked ziti, early bed times and reading. Rejuvenating and much-needed!
Saturday morning began with a big batch of high protein hemp oatmeal followed by a family trip to the gym. Chase was up by 7 a.m. so we had no trouble making it to the gym by 9 a.m. While Chase played in childcare for 45 minutes, Ryan and I completed our respective workouts and I went through a biceps/triceps/shoulder workout that looked like this:
I wasn’t feeling overly energetic at the gym so I moved through this one rather slowly, but something is better than nothing, right!?
(Hiii baby! FYI, the sweatshirt in the above pic is not maternity and is just an oversize slouchy sweatshirt I cannot seem to stop wearing! It’s from American Eagle and available in a bunch of colors. I’d recommend sizing down.)
The highlight of our morning at the gym came after we scooped Chase up from childcare and spent some time in the gym playing basketball. Chase is all about sports lately (if this child sees a ball of any kind, he makes a beeline for it) and he was in heaven working with Dad on his passing, dunking and dribbling.
After the gym, our stomachs needed some food, so we popped into Clean Juice in Davidson to share a giant carrot cake muffin selected by Chase solely for the icing drizzle on top.
Apparently aggressive eating runs in the family because Chase pretty much face-planted into the muffin. (And no, Mom didn’t get a single bite of muffin that had the icing drizzle on top.)
We also ordered some smoothies to go and sipped on them on our way to Sweetwater Farms in Huntersville. I read about the farm on Hula Frog (<—those with little ones must check this site out for local kid-friendly happenings) and apparently the farm is open to the public for free the second Saturday of every month.
I’m not sure how I’ve never heard about this local gem before because it was such a neat place to visit and the perfect Saturday morning activity for an energetic toddler!
The farm is home to ponies, a cow, a donkey, horses, goats, pigs, chickens and more. Chase thought the animals were cool but he was even more interested in all of the activities around the farm, including the garden center with a big box of dirt for kids to “practice” gardening, lawn games, badminton, hammock swings and tree stump drums.
We will absolutely be back!
Once we made it home, we were more than ready for lunch and dug into sandwiches before Chase went down for his nap. Ryan and I then grabbed quick showers and relaxed together on the couch as we researched some possible vacation destinations. We’re determined to plan a little getaway for the two of us before baby number two arrives in June and had fun daydreaming and Googling up a storm.
The rest of our Saturday was pretty low key and we stayed close to home with the exception of a quick trip to the park followed by a pit stop at the grocery store for Moose Tracks ice cream. Woop!
Sunday morning began with the early-morning service at our church. I think we were all a little groggy when we showed up thanks to the time change but left feeling much more awake thanks to a great message and a mad-dash through the rain back to our car once the service was over.
Since I cannot handle wearing real clothes at home for more than five minutes these days, I immediately changed back into my pajamas once we arrived home and Chase and I did a little food prep for the week ahead while Ryan headed off to the gym.
Just after lunchtime, I headed off to a baby shower for my beautiful friend Danielle who is expecting a baby girl at the end of April.
Danielle has such an amazing heart and came into my life at the perfect time after I had Chase. (Our boys are only two days apart!) She’s the leader of our small group and one of the most genuine, thoughtful and supportive women I know. I am so thrilled for this exciting time in her life!
Danielle’s sister-in-law hosted a stunning shower for her complete with lots of pink, balloons, florals and love.
The shower was catered by Zoe’s Kitchen and I’m officially head over heels in love with their guacamole. I’ve been on a HUGE chips and guacamole kick lately but have been largely disappointed by the guacamole at local restaurants. Thankfully Zoe’s nailed it and you better believe I will be making a trip to the restaurant this week for a big ol’ batch of it.
(My top is from ASOS Maternity – only $24 – and my pants are Wendy Bellissimo from Motherhood Maternity but I got them back in 2015 when I was pregnant with Chase. If you have any questions about my girlfriends’ looks, let me know and I’ll get back to you!)
Once I hugged Danielle goodbye and thanked Kat for hosting such a lovely shower, I drove back home to meet up with Ryan and Chase. We didn’t waste much time at home and immediately turned around and drove off to a birthday party for one of Chase’s friends, Cameron, at a local kid’s gym. The party was wonderful and Chase had a blast with all of the toddler-friendly activities. He ran around like crazy, loved clapping for Cameron as she blew out her birthday candles and couldn’t resist breaking into the bubbles he found in his goody bag on the way out.
By the time we made it home, I told Ryan I felt like I lived three Sundays in one Sunday thanks to all of the activity and I was more than ready to crash in bed by 9 p.m. Thankfully Chase did well with his usual bed time despite the time change. He woke up two hours after we put him down but settled rather quickly after a sip of water. (Water is my go-to trick/solution whenever he’s fussy or crying in his crib. Ninety nine percent of the time nothing is wrong and he doesn’t even know why he’s crying but if I go into his room and offer him some water it’s somehow a magical liquid that helps soothe him. I don’t know why it works but I’ll take it.)
Hi friends. I’ve been rolling through this week feeling one day ahead since Tuesday (so yesterday felt like it should’ve been Friday) and I’ve been draaaagging! I’ve also felt a bit down all week and really need this weekend for a number of reasons, most of all because I just want some uninterrupted time with my family. They always, always make me smile and feel better about anything and everything and I’m looking forward to some quality time together as well as some time with friends!
The weather is supposed to be a bit cold and dreary in Charlotte so I’m hoping we can find some fun things to do indoors and if I can sneak in a little extra reading (I just started The Keeper of Lost Things), then that’s all the better!
Before we’re all off to enjoy the next few days, I wanted to be sure to share my usual Things I’m Loving Friday post with you guys. See below for a short roundup of some small things that made me smile this week! I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!
THIS BOOK. Phew! If you previously read and enjoyed The Girl on the Train, you have to add The Woman in the Window to your must-read list ASAP. It’s a psychological suspense novel centering around an agoraphobic woman who thinks she witnesses a crime in her neighbor’s home. The first half of the book is a little slow to start but once it took off, it REALLY took off and I could not put it down. I found myself flying through this book and loved trying to figure out what was real, what wasn’t, who did what and who might be in danger.
Goody Ouchless Hair Ties
I recently found my new go-to gym hair tie! Hellooo, Goody Ouchless Forever! The packaging of this hair tie says the hair ties “hold like new every time” and bounce back and as someone who typically doubles up on hair ties at the gym and loops them around my hair as many times a possible for the absolute tightest hold, I had my doubts.
The first time I used it, I actually didn’t even think about the hair tie at all until after my workout was done which pretty much says it all. My messy bun didn’t budge during my workout and the Ouchless Forever hair tie has been my go-to gym hair tie ever since. If you find yourself having to stop mid-workout to tighten your ponytail or re-do your bun because it’s too loose, check this bad boy out! I think you will very quickly fall in love! (And, just to alleviate any confusion, I still absolutely love the Invisibobble hair tie I’ve mentioned on the blog in a past TILF feature and use it every night. It’s my preferred hair tie for sleep and preserving waves in my hair overnight without causing any creases. The Ouchless Forever hair tie is now my preferred GYM hair tie. Different hair ties for different purposes!)
I’ve had a few rough days this week for personal reasons and earlier this week, Ryan brought home this beautiful bouquet of flowers for me which absolutely made my heart swell. (These flowers were the gift that kept on giving when Chase commented on them the next day and said, “Dad gave Mom flowers!” This made me smile so big for these reasons. I hope and pray Ryan and I raise a thoughtful, kind and generous man and that gestures like this toward loved ones continue to stick out to him and impact his heart.) Also, is it just me, or would you guys also rather receive flowers at random times when you could really use a smile over the traditional flowery holidays? A surprise bouquet when I’m feeling blue means so much more to me than Valentine’s Day flowers. I truly could’ve cried when Ryan brought them home for me because they were completely unexpected and so, so appreciated.
This is kind of a random story but it goes along with this line of thought… This year when Ryan was leaving work on Valentine’s Day, he called me and said there was “a decent amount of traffic” on the road. I had a feeling this was code for “I need to stop and grab you some flowers,” so I quickly told him to drive safe and that if the “traffic” he was in involved a pit-stop for flowers, I’d rather him come home and see us 10 minutes early than receive flowers for Valentine’s Day. He burst out laughing and said I saw right through his plan. Can you tell quality time is one of my love languages?
A few weeks ago, I mentioned my experience with professional eyebrow tinting (you may see a before/after here) and it’s something I quickly fell in love with as a natural blonde with the lightest eyebrows (and eyelashes) in all the land. After commiserating over light eyebrows with a blonde friend of mine, she recommended I check out a super-cheap tint kit on Amazon for a DIY eyebrow tint I could do at home in between professional appointments.
I was incredibly apprehensive and nervous to try it out, but now that I’ve used it twice, I can say I am a BIG fan. It was really easy to use and the intensity of the tint was just right for my brows. (I used the light brown color but they have many shades available.) The first time I used it, I got nervous and wiped the tint off early, but it’s very easy to immediately add more back on and allow the tint to deepen. Of course I prefer the professional tint and shaping, but at $10 for four applications, this kit breaks down to $2.50 per application and you can’t beat that price! (Note: The kit says it’s for hair, but a TON of the reviews are user experiences with eyebrow tint so check those out if you’re on the fence!)
Weekend Sales: Buy One Get One Free Shorts at American Eagle (Includes the finally restocked TomGirl denim shorts I discovered last summer and LOVE for their distressed look and slightly longer length) / 30% off at J.Crew with code WORKIT / Extra 20% off at Kohl’s with code EXTRA20 (Includes the Instant Pot)
My morning yesterday began at 4 a.m. with a frantic “MOM! MOM!” call coming from Chase’s room. Chase hasn’t woken up in the middle of the night screaming for me in a month or so and I’m not sure what was up but he was in tears and asked for a “little rock” (translation: a cuddle and a story) which seemed to settle him back down. (I also immediately checked for a fever and he seemed 100% healthy.)
After a rather eventful 4 a.m. hour, I decided to sleep in and began my day around 6:30 a.m. with a bowl of triple chocolate protein oatmeal and a little meal planning. I am still catching up from a week of travel and slowly chipping away at my post-travel to-do list which includes all of the usual unpacking, laundry, grocery shopping, etc.
After sticking mostly to freezer foods over the past two days, I figured I should venture out to the grocery store yesterday and didn’t want to go shopping without some kind of a rough idea for dinners for the week. I flipped through some magazine clippings and scanned a few saved blog posts from favorite food bloggers to come up with this plan:
Chase woke up for the day around 7:15 a.m. and we eased into the morning with some books and train table play time. I initially had plans to head off to a mom’s mentoring group in the morning which would’ve involved two hours of childcare but Chase seemed a little sensitive and I didn’t want to push too much and unload him on kind childcare people we didn’t know. I decided to stick with something more familiar to Chase and we headed off to boot camp a little after 9 a.m. where he played with his BFF Claire and worked on an adorable St. Patrick’s Day art project.
Yesterday’s Burn Boot Camp workout included a lot of crunches and work with the ab wheel so I modified quite a bit of the workout and ended up completing a more pregnancy-friendly workout that looked like this:
(A lot of the mini band exercises I incorporated into yesterday’s workout are detailed in my Mini Band Booty Workout, just in case you are interested!)
I scooped Chase up from childcare after 45 minutes and he was back to acting like his energetic self! I think he may have just needed the familiarity of our usual routine after a week away.
Next up on our morning agenda was a pit-stop at the post office to mail a gift to one of my best friends who gave birth to a baby girl on Thursday and also send off a thredUP clean out bag full of some of my old clothes and baby clothes that never really worked well for Chase. (Thank you to Chase for decorating baby Annie’s package on Monday.)
A trip to the grocery store for lots of fresh produce, pantry staples and snacks rounded out our morning and we made it back home around noon.
As I unloaded the groceries, Chase hopped up on his kitchen helper cooking stand and I took advantage of his interest in food and, with his “help,” managed to make two breakfast casseroles – one for our family for dinner and a second to bring to a friend whose husband recently underwent a rather serious surgery.
Chase lost interest about 10 minutes into our cooking activity but seemed content to ride around on his Plasma Car and play with his trains for a bit, so I finished up the casseroles and then threw together a quick lunch for Chase to eat before his nap.
Though I saw some improvement in Chase’s attitude after boot camp, the fussiness from the beginning of the day surfaced again before his nap and I felt like I was facing battle after battle to simply get him upstairs and into his crib to take the nap he very clearly needed. He cried for a waffle instead of his lunch. He cried because he wanted to take an early bath. He cried because I cracked the eggs myself for the breakfast casserole and he wanted to do it by himself. I felt like the hour before Chase’s nap lasted 10,000 hours but some days are like that, right!?
Once Chase was settled into his crib, he was fast sleep within minutes and I finally exhaled and took a much-needed shower. There’s something about a shower that always makes me feel better and once I was nice and clean, I headed back downstairs to work while I ate leftovers for lunch.
I reheated some cauliflower fried rice with shrimp and ate it along with an apple. About 30 minutes later, I was still a little hungry and broke into a container of siggi’s banana cinnamon no sugar added yogurt (LOVE that the only sweetness in this yogurt comes from the bananas) and that seemed to quiet my stomach.
Chase slept for two hours and once he was up, I shut down my computer and the two of us played in his room for a bit before he seemed content to entertain himself with a puzzle and his pop-up playhouse. This gave me a little bit of time to clean out the hall closet which was a much-needed task. We had some old, ratty towels in there from back when I was in college that clearly needed to go!
It rained all day yesterday which put a damper on any plans to play outdoors. Thankfully Chase seemed down for a more low key afternoon but the highlight of his day came when we left to drop off the breakfast casserole at my girlfriend’s house and she encouraged us to hang out for a bit.
This gave Chase a solid hour to run around and play with one of his best buddies which was great but averting a meltdown when we had to leave was a fun little task…
We made it home a little after 6 p.m. and Ryan arrived home from work about an hour later. After some crazy play with Ryan (Chase almost always greets Ryan at the door with two of his ride-on toys… one for him and one for Dad so they can do laps around our kitchen), we dug into the second breakfast casserole I made for our family for dinner along with a simple fruit salad. Eventually it was time to make our way upstairs to do the whole bedtime routine with Chase and once he was snoozing away, Ryan and I chatted for a bit before opening our respective books.
We’ve been really trying to utilize the time after Chase is in bed for completely distraction-free conversation and it has been amazing! I know this sounds like something we probably should’ve been doing for ages, but we recently got into the habit of catching up about our days and life as we cleaned the kitchen, washed our faces, folded laundry or absent-mindedly checked our email. We’ve been much better about designating the time right after Chase goes to sleep to actually sit down (or, in most cases lie down in bed because we LOVE an early bed time!) and just talk for however long we want or need. I find myself sharing a LOT more – funny stories about Chase, how I’m feeling, etc. – rather than just a basic rundown of the facts about what we did that day. We both said it’s been a really great and VERY easy small change to implement that makes us feel more connected, especially at the end of a long day. It’s nothing crazy or mind-blowing but becoming a parents has quickly taught me that the seemingly unending uninterrupted time Ryan and I used to have together is something we have to actively seek out these days!
After we talked for a bit and caught up on everything, we read our books and I ended up finishing The Woman in the Window. I’ll share more about my thoughts on the book on Friday, but it was a good read and a FAST one. The second half of the book was particularly intense and flew by!
I hope you all have a great Wednesday! Thanks for stopping by the blog today!
Questions of the Day
Is there anything small or simple you like to do in your relationships on a regular basis that seems to make a big difference in your overall happiness or how connected you feel?
What is one of your go-to meals to bring to a friend when you offer to bring them a meal?
Last week I tackled two nearly seven-hour road trips solo with Chase and Sadie. (For those new to the blog, Chase is our 2 1/2 year old son and Sadie is our very energetic dog.) Ryan and I have traveled longer than seven hours in the car in the past with Chase and Sadie (our record is 11 hours in one day but I’m not sure we’ll attempt that again anytime soon – phew!) but this is the first time I’ve attempted a drive of more than a few hours with a toddler all by myself. If I’m being completely honest, I wasn’t looking forward to the drive and truly anticipated lots of fussiness, screaming, a bazillion stops and an all-around stressful experience.
I could not have been more pleasantly surprised when our drive to Florida and the drive back home to North Carolina went shockingly well. With expectations set rather low, I suppose it wasn’t too hard to come out on top but I truly could not have been more pleased with how both of our rather long road trips went and think a combination of over-preparation and LUCK served us well.
More than a few of you requested additional details about what I think led to a relatively easy road trip experience for us and while I initially began typing up some of the things I used to keep Chase entertained to include in last week’s Things I’m Loving Friday post, I quickly realized everything I wanted to say would have completely monopolized that post and deserved its own blog post. (Hopefully one day I will finally realize I am never a concise blogger and will embrace my long-winded nature.)
As I am sure anyone out there with a little one knows, heading into a long road trip with nothing to entertain your child is a recipe for disaster so the second half of this post details the things I packed for our long drive that ended up being key for toddler entertainment. However, before I share the toys, books and activities that helped entertain Chase, I wanted to kick off this post with a very short list of additional things that seemed to really pay off for me in a big way when it came to a rather smooth road trip experience. I think most (all?) of these bullet points are pretty common sense stuff but still worth mentioning since traveling with a little one can be overwhelming and sometimes the common sense stuff is easy to forget in all of the travel craziness.
Five Things To Help with Toddler Travel
In no way did I go into our trip with expectations of driving down the highway happily singing “Old MacDonald” for hours on end with Chase. My vision for our trip looked more like “Frazzled mom does everything she can to prevent toddler meltdowns by throwing snacks and toys at her toddler at the first sign of fussiness.” I am normally a fairly optimistic and positive person but I think going into out road trip expecting some crankiness, a decent number of stops and some stress helped me feel like we were coming out on top when things went well. I tried to keep my energy and attitude upbeat and positive and my voice patient and calm (sometimes easier said than done) but I think hyping up the trip as something special and unique to Chase helped keep him happy and excited about the drive ahead and our final destination.
Organize Toys and Snacks
I learned to keep things organized during travel the hard way during my first solo flight to Colorado with Chase when he was six months old. I overstuffed his diaper bag and trying to find what I needed in an overflowing diaper bag when Chase was screaming his head off made my stress level sky rocket. Never again! During this road trip, I kept things as organized as possible. I used two large green eco-bags to separate toys from snacks and used a large shoebox for Chase’s books, DVD player and DVDs. I put all of Chase’s small toys (cars, trains, little animals) in one large plastic bag within the eco-bag filled with his toys so that they didn’t fall to the bottom of the bag and were easily accessible at all times.
Leave at the Right Time for Your Child
This is another lesson I learned the hard way. Chase does SO much better if we load him into the car after a few hours of running around and play time. While I would’ve loved to hit the road first thing in the morning last Monday, I opted to head to Florida after Chase had a full morning at preschool and this helped so much. He expended a decent amount of energy in school and seemed way more content to sit in a car seat for hours after he had such an active morning. This isn’t always possible (I personally MUCH prefer tackling a long drive first thing in the morning), but knowing when your child is most likely to be content in a car seat for hours seems to really be beneficial if your schedule allows for some flexibility. When Chase was a baby and napped well in the car, we’d try to set out on our trips right before nap time and cross our fingers for some peaceful sleep in the car!
Stop At Places Where Kids Can Run Around
We lucked out with decent weather during last week’s travels, so this wasn’t too hard since rest stops with an open picnic area worked perfectly for our stops and allowed Chase to run around in the grass and Sadie to take her potty breaks at the same time. Friends have also recommended stopping at restaurants with play places or, for extra-long road trips, researching parks and playgrounds on Yelp ahead of time and planning a stop at a park for the sake of expending energy and shaking out your legs.
Don’t Forget To Pack Food For YOU
Long road trips always make me hungry and in the rush to pack everything I needed for Chase for our road trip I almost forgot to pack snacks for myself! Sure I could’ve broken into Chase’s snack stash (and I definitely did a few times because Mama wanted some Goldfish…) but remembering to pack some of my favorite healthy road trip snacks made the drive more pleasant for me, too, since I wasn’t hungry and listening to my stomach growl as the miles ticked by.
Toddler Road Trip Entertainment Favorites
Below you will find a detailed list of the toys, activities and snacks I packed for our road trip that seemed to contribute to an overall successful road trip experience with our 2.5 year old toddler!
These sound like they’d be an absolute mess – water in the car!? – but they are virtually mess-free and entertained Chase for a shockingly long amount of time. You simply fill a squeeze-pen with a bit of water and kids use the water pen to “color” the pictures in the book. When it dries, the color fades so they’re reusable which is AWESOME! My friend Lauren is a road trip warrior with her kiddos and highly recommended these to me and I could not have been more pleased!
While Chase preferred the Water Wow! pads, an invisible ink pad was also exciting for him (and mess-free!), mainly because I bought a Finding Dory one and he still loves anything Dory and Nemo! They have invisible ink pads for all different kinds of characters so it should be relatively easy to find one featuring a character your little one adores.
At 2.5 years old, Chase is clearly not reading yet so books with lots of visual stimulation are the best for self-entertainment. I packed two of these point and match books for Chase which entertained him as he looked for multiples of animals, cars, etc. He’s really into pointing out duplicates and counting right now, so these books were a big hit. They’re even more entertaining when you can seek and find together, so they’re great if you happen to be road tripping with multiple adults and someone can interact with the book and child, too.
Snacks that take a while for Chase to eat were the absolute best during our road trip. Mini carrot sticks, a small apple, cashews, Cheerios, cucumber slices, orange slices, energy bites, Goldfish, etc. were great for filling him up and entertaining him at the same time. I tried to limit sugary snacks on the trip to avoid the sugar crazies but I did pack a few novelty sweets that Chase doesn’t get as often that made him happy like Pez and YumEarth Lollipops. (I buy them on Thrive Market.) The best part about those lollipops is that they can legitimately take Chase 30 minutes to eat!
Rather than spend money on a bunch of new books for our road trip, I stopped by the library with Chase and picked up some books from the library that I had a feeling he’d enjoy. Since he’s into almost any book featuring trucks, dinosaurs or animals, I picked books featuring pictures of these toddler favorites and he seemed to enjoy flipping through some new-to-him books. Our library also has a pretty great selection of board books for little ones who might be more likely to rip the pages of bigger books.
We are rather limited with screen time for Chase in our house (mainly because he becomes a complete zombie in front of the TV and super cranky when we turn it off) but when we travel, all bets are off! I still don’t like to use the portable DVD player until it’s absolutely necessary when we travel, but there’s no denying that it absolutely saved me during critical moments of our drives to and from Florida when Chase was quickly becoming extremely antsy and fussy. I bought a new Paw Patrol DVD from Target before our trip and he absolutely lit up when I turned it on. The best way to transition him away from the DVD player seemed to be during our pit stops for gas or bathroom breaks when he’d get out of the car, run around for a bit and then I’d switch him to books, a snack or an activity rather than the DVD player when I loaded him back into the car.
Chase LOVES stickers and they entertain him for quite a while, mainly because he’s right at the point where he can usually manage to get the stickers off the pages by himself but it takes him some time and concentration. This worked well for our road trip and I had some sheets of stickers for him to use to put onto pages of his invisible ink book once it was all colored and done.
Favorite Imagination Toys
I’m sure most parents out there know what toys entertain their little ones best and now that Chase is using his imagination more and more, I made sure to pack some of the toys that I see him use in our house all the time to create different make believe scenarios. He loves his cars and will make them race and talk to each other, so packing a few of his favorite race cars and passing them back to him and planting some kind of “imagination seed” in his mind (“I think Cobra is faster than Lightning! What do you think!?”) often got him started on a make-believe journey. He also loves playing make-believe with his Little People farm animals, so I packed a few of them as well!
Old Toys and Books They Haven’t Seen in a While (or Borrowed Toys)
A few months ago, I boxed up a bunch of toys and books that Chase was neglecting and went “shopping” in this storage bin before our road trip. I packed a few old toys that Chase hadn’t seen in months that I thought might excite him and it worked like a charm! I also think reaching out to a friend to borrow a few toys from their little ones is a great way to accumulate some new toys without spending any money before you travel!