My Favorite Baby Gear From A-Z

With just over two weeks remaining until our “bun” is fully “baked”, I’ve been in full-on baby preparation mode lately. In the past week I have borrowed a bassinet and several boxes of *pink* baby clothes from friends. I’ve washed four loads of doll-sized clothing and sorted them into drawers and closets. I located our infant car seat and toured the birth center at our hospital. And, finally, I got my bags packed for the BIG DAY. We’re officially (almost) ready for show time!

Seeing as I’ve been hyper-focused on all things baby, I thought I’d put together an updated list of some of my favorite baby items (my very first blog entry on this site was on a similar topic, so feel free to cross-reference that post here). And just to challenge my foggy pregnancy brain a bit more, I thought it would be fun to make this list in an A-Z fashion. Where possible, I’ve included links so you can view (and if you so desire, purchase) the products I reference. And now, with no further ado:

Allison’s Favorite Things: The Baby Gear Edition, From A-Z

Amazon PrimeIf there is one single product or service that has most positively impacted my life as a mother, it is Amazon Prime. I love Amazon Prime so much that I’m seriously considering the name “Amazon” for our third child (it’s got a nice ring to it, don’t you think?). Seriously, though, it’s amazing. My new-mom dream was to be able to do my shopping in my pajamas while nursing a baby and never have to leave my house–and Amazon Prime makes this wild fantasy come true. With Amazon Prime I can order everything from diapers to nursery furniture and it will be delivered TO MY DOOR in two days (or less) for FREE (well, “free” after you buy a $100 annual membership. But it’s worth every last penny, so just buy it).

71N34lz3t-L._SX522_Baby Bjorn bibs: Oooh! I think I should get bonus points for coming up with one that has not ONE, but THREE B’s! These are my favorite bibs because they are basically plastic troughs that you can attach to your baby’s neck, which is basically what you need if you’re trying to feed a real live baby/toddler. Babies are the messiest eaters in the world and they spill every dang thing you feed them. The “spill pocket” at the bottom of the bib catches all the food that your little darling hurls out of their mouth and, since it’s plastic, you can just toss the whole thing in your dishwasher after the food dismemberment feeding time.

4Carseat Canopy: When you go out in public with a baby, everybody will want to see and touch your baby–never mind if the baby is sleeping or you just don’t want strangers getting near your offspring. Enter the carseat cover. You just strap this bad-boy onto your carseat’s handle and you have an instant privacy shade for your baby (*bonus: it keeps the wind/rain/sun off your baby when you’re out and about). I like the brand Carseat Canopy because they often offer freebies as long as you pay the cost of shipping–just Google “free carseat canopy promo code 2016” and you should come up with a few options for buying your own at a discount.

71sBhaQKMPL._SX522_Diaper bag: You really do not need anything fancy for a diaper bag–as long as you have some sort of receptacle that can carry a few essentials from point A to point B, you’ll be fine. That being said, I do prefer a backpack-type bag because you can wear it along with a baby in a front-carrier and not topple over to one side. And while any old backpack will get the job done, my favorite is the Petunia Pickle Bottom Boxy Backpack. I’ll be the first to admit that this is a splurge item ($150 for a bag that will literally hold poop), but they’re so dang cute…and practical. They are made of a strong, liquid-resistant outer material (this becomes essential as you realize the fact that babies are basically just tiny liquid-discharging machines) and can be worn as either a backpack or messenger bag. They also have a fold-out diaper changing station and plenty of pockets for storing essentials. Plus, you’ll use it every single day, so you may as well get a sturdy bag that you love.

As an added bonus for the letter D, you’ll want to stock your diaper bag with diaper cream. My choice: Bordeaux’s Butt Paste. It gets the job done.

61C+HfLHDRL._SX522_Ergo baby carrier: With two other busy boys to care for every day, I’m pretty sure baby #3 is going to live in her baby carrier. I’ve had my Ergo since baby #1 was born and it’s still in excellent condition after years of near-constant wear and tear (seriously…boys wear and tear everything they can get their hands/feet/mouths on). It’s comfortable for me to wear, easy to get baby in and out of, and compact enough to stuff into my diaper bag when I’m not using it. I also love that it can be worn in three positions: front (perfect for newborns and babies), side (to be honest, I have no idea how this position works so I’ve never actually worn it this way), or back (great for older babies and toddlers–I can still fit 3-year old Jacob in it this way).

814ykZ+Vs5L._SL1500_Food preparation: When your baby is ready to start eating solids, it’s great to have some options for making and storing your own baby food. Making your own baby food can save you money, plus you know exactly what is going into the food that you serve your baby (and they get a preview of the food that they’ll be enjoying for the entirety of their growing-up years: your cooking). I have a Baby Bullet that I use for making everything from rice cereal to veggie purees (it also comes with food trays and jars for freezing and storing servings). Another type of baby feeding product I love are reusable food pouches. There are several brands available, and they are a great option for baby self-feeding and food on-the-go.

41t+ZTXVOuL._SY300_Gowns: During the first few weeks of life, our babies live in these open-bottomed sleep gowns. During this time frame, babies need approximately 10 thousand diaper changes and everyone is sleep-deprived and groggy and doesn’t want to deal with a single button or snap or zipper. Sleep gowns are the perfect solution because you can just pull the gown up, change the diaper, and nod back off to sleep–all without even having to fully open your eyes.

download (1)High chair: You can spend a pretty penny on a high-end high chair, but you really don’t need to. What I have found to be the most practical (granted, not the most fashionable) high chair is a simple space saver high chair that straps on to a regular dining chair and can transition from baby chair to toddler booster seat. I also love fold-up booster seats for dining out and travel.

Fisher-Price-Cradle-n-Swing----pTRU1-18900932dtInfant swing: Our first baby needed to move All. The. Time. If he was not moving he started fussing (and, by fussing, I mean screaming his bloody head off). This constant need for motion was not conducive to any of us getting sleep. We would not have survived our first few months of parenthood if it were not for our baby swing (which, conveniently, can keep a baby in motion while Mom and Dad pass out on the floor next to him). There are hundreds of baby swings on the market–some go forward and backward, some go side to side,some jiggle around like a kangaroo, some have light shows and play music. My best advice: borrow one from a friend or find a cheap one on Craigslist. While I think a swing is necessary, every baby likes a different type of motion, and some babies (not mine) don’t like motion at all, so it’s really not worth investing hundreds of dollars on a swing right off the bat. Plus, if you borrow one from a friend you won’t have to store a big, clunky swing in your garage after the baby outgrows it in a few months.

71gjkTVIlBL._SX522_Jumparoo: These things are god-sends for busy parents. My babies loved jumping in their Jumparoos, and the Jumparoo gave me a safe spot to set baby while I completed necessary tasks such as cooking dinner or peeing by myself.

koala-baby-deluxe-blanket-matte-satin-gray-41389276-01Koala Baby Blanket: These blankets are well-made, soft, and adorable. David received a Koala blanket as a baby and, five years later, is still one of his favorite lovies (he calls it Gigi).

Lansinoh Lanolin: When you are nursing a newborn for 8-10 hours a day (Yep, you read that right) there are some areas on Mommy’s body that may become a bit…um…tender. I keep a few bottles of this lanolin stashed around my house: 1 on my nightstand, 1 in the nursery, and 1 in my diaper bag for whenever I need a bit of relief.

Madela nursing pads: I have tried just about every type of nursing pad (used to soak up breastmilk leaks…this is a real-world baby post, so no apologies for TMI) and these are my favorite. There are a few reusable types that worked really well for me, but they just added to the already seemingly endless piles of laundry that breed in my house when there’s a new baby. This brand is super absorbent and, due to their sticky backs, they stay in place well.

51-RRZZqrfL._SL1000_Nose Frida nasal aspirator: This one may gross you out–Jon can’t even be in the same room when I’m using it–but it’s one of the most useful tools I have in my baby care arsenal. Babies get all forms of gunk stuck in their tiny noses and, since infants are terrible at following simple directions like “blow your nose into a Kleenex”, nasal aspirators are quite helpful. As long as you can get past the fact that you literally have to suck the snot out of your baby’s nose (don’t worry, there’s a filter in the tube so nothing ever passes from baby’s nose to your mouth), this device works like a charm.

51bqoE-8TcL._SY679_Odor-free diaper pailAdmittedly this one is a bit of a stretch for the letter “O”, but it’s important so I had to fit it in somewhere. I’ve used the popular Diaper Genie but I got fed up with buying pricey liner refills every week or two. My new favorite is the Baby Trend Diaper Champ–it’s simple to operate, it uses standard garbage bags (which you can buy for pennies at Costco), and it does a great job blocking odors.

61JHmam7RlL._SX522_Portable cribThis is an essential baby item in my book. A portable crib is useful for setting up an extra sleep or play space for baby anywhere in your home or for use when you’re traveling. My two favorites are the basic Pac ‘N Play and the KidCo Peapod (basically a tiny tent that folds up into a pouch and can fit in a carry-on bag–awesome for airplane trips or stuffing into an already-packed car).81vFpOKT4fL._SY679_

Quiet book: Think of a quiet book as part story, part activity book. They are engaging for both baby and parent (which is important, because you’re the one who will have to read it 60,000 times). And, while we’re at it, just go ahead and stock up on books in general. The more books, the better!

Rocking chair: You will use your chair every day when you are feeding your baby or helping them fall asleep. A comfortable rocking chair or glider with a foot stool will make your life oh-so-much easier. If you choose a chair for sentimental reasons (you know you’ve had your eye on that old wooden rocker that your grandpa made for your mom when you were a baby) just make sure you find one that doesn’t creak or squeak–the last thing you want is for your chair to wake a just-now-sleeping baby!

51-tH1-Qy4LStroller: I actually have four strollers because I use them all for different purposes. I have a cheap umbrella stroller (seriously cheap…I think I got it for $8 at Target) that folds up compact for those times when I just can’t fit another piece of anything in my car. I have a snap and go stroller for when I want to push around the baby car seat and a few essentials. I have a BOB jogging stroller for when I want to exercise or have an all-terrain “vehicle”. And I have a Phil and Teds double stroller for when I need to transport one or more smallies and still want supreme maneuverability. Excessive? Nah. I mean, you wouldn’t ever just own one pair of shoes, would you?

81zalEX4A9L._SY679_Teethers: You’ve gotta feel for those poor babies when their razor-sharp teeth start poking out. My babies never had terrible teething pain, but there were a few cherished teethers that helped them through the hard times. Sophie the Giraffe is an all-time favorite with her soft rubber body and yummy scent. I also really liked these fresh food feeders by Munchkin–I’d just slip a piece of frozen fruit inside the mesh pocket and baby went to town. Although I’ve never used them, I have friends that swear by amber teething necklaces for baby to wear (they help with inflammation) and silicone teething necklaces for mommy to wear (fashionable and chewable. Trés chic.).

Under garments: Fact: moms need practical, supportive under garments while they are nursing. I’ve never found a nursing bra that I really liked, but I love wearing nursing tanks. They help me stay covered up while nursing…and also help a bit with holding in that lovely post-partum tummy th.

Video monitor: Being able to monitor baby once she moves to her own space can help put your mind at ease. A video monitor is particularly useful because you can spy on baby to see if they truly need your assistance or if they’re just faking it for attention (or you can just look at how stinkin’ cute they are while they’re sleeping).

51GBK5Pv31L._SL1200_Water bottles: When I’m nursing I basically turn into the Sahara Desert: I’m parched all the time. Now I keep water bottles in every room of my house so I can quench my thirst on a whim. My favorites are the no-spill type with a 81KhpJObTvL._SX522_straw like these made by Camelbak and Contigo.

eXersaucer: This little gem keeps baby entertained and your hands free. What’s not to love?

Yum-yums: When baby starts eating solid food, you’ll want a good supply of snacks. Some of my favorites are puffs (they’re truly delicious–make sure to save a few for the baby if you decide to sample them) and yogurt melts. You may also want a snack cup with a lid to serve them in, especially if you’re on the go. I also love squeezy pouch baby food (carried in all grocery stores, and even Costco has a great selection now).

81dhKS8PJOL._SX522_Zippered sleep sacks: Apparently babies are no longer allowed to sleep with traditional blankets, so sleep sacks can help keep baby warm at night. Zippered sleep sacks can also serve a dual purpose: if you have a toddler who is prone to removing their own diaper (ewwwwwww….but it happens), just put the sleep sack on backward and zip it up. Bam: baby straight jacket.

Whew! I did it: the whole alphabet of must-have baby items. Now that you’ve read my list, what are some of your favorite baby products? Just let me know if you need my address so you can send them my way–I’ll even let you use Amazon Prime 😉

The Best Of Ireland Awards

Yesterday marked one year since we arrived in Ireland. ONE YEAR! I can’t believe how fast this year has gone…and yet, at the same time, it feels like we have lived here forever. We have been to more places, seen more things, met more people, tried more food and experienced more in this year than at any other time in our lives.

People often ask me what the best part of Ireland is and, the answer is, there are many “bests”. There is no way I could possibly limit my favorites down to one thing. So I won’t even try. What I will do, however, is offer you a compilation of the best things we’ve actually experienced here in Ireland. I now present to you:

The Best of Ireland Awards (According to me, of course!)

Best Natural Site: The Cliffs of Moher
IMG_2049I can’t think of anything more spectacular than moss-covered cliffs that plunge 400 feet into the ocean. They’re seriously amazing.

Best Museum: Titanic Belfast
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OK, so for starters, the museum is in the actual shipping yard where Titanic was built and the front of the building is a scale replica of the size of the great ship’s hull. The exhibits are fascinating, there is an amusement park-style ride that takes you through the ship building process, and the cafe serves scones on White Star Line china. What’s not to love?

Best Monument/Historical Site: Newgrange
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Probably the oldest building you’ll ever see (it’s 5,000 years old, making it older than Stonehenge and the Egyptian Pyramids). Just don’t take your kids with you or you might get kicked out for unruly behavior.

Best Holiday Celebrate In Ireland: St. Patrick’s Day

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If you thought the St.Patrick’s Day parade in your town was fun, then wait until you see how Ireland celebrates! St. Patrick’s Day is definitely the most festive holiday we’ve been a part of here.

Best Time To Visit Ireland: Easter Week
IMG_2496The flowers are blooming, the sun is starting to find its way out of winter hibernation, and the towns are starting to come back to life. Easter falls right at the beginning of the official Irish tourist season, so shops and museums that have been closed for the winter will again welcome you in–plus the crowds won’t arrive for another month or two. There are lots of special activities and festivals throughout the country during Holy Week, making this the perfect time to visit.

Best Castle to Explore: King John’s Castle, Limerick

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I’m a self-professed castle-holic, as you will know if you’ve read this blog for any length of time. We have seen a LOT of castles here in Ireland. It’s hard to chose just one favorite castle, but I’m going to have to give this award out to King John’s for their fabulous renovations and hands-on exhibits. I mean, where else will you get to dress up like a knight in shining armor…in a REAL medieval castle?!

Best Irish Food: Scones
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I’m obsessed with scones, so this is no surprise. They’re just the best thing ever. Period.

Best Irish Drink: Barry’s Tea
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Barry’s Tea will forever be that taste that reminds me of Ireland. On my last trip to the grocery store I bought a giant box of Barry’s Tea with enough tea to last me through the apocalypse (or at least until the next time I make it back to Ireland).

Best Place Off The Beaten Path: Ballycotton Cliff Walk
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This cliffside walk is one of the most beautiful, most peaceful places I’ve ever been. The views are incredible, and every corner you turn takes a bit more of  your breath away. Truly spectacular. Also, for the first time in nearly 180 years, this year they are allowing the public to tour Ballycotton Island and lighthouse (via a guided boat ride and tour). I can only imagine how stunning the views must be looking back at the cliffs from the picturesque island.

Best Chipper: K.C. & Son & Sons, Douglas (Cork)
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There’s a reason why hundreds of people queue up outside K.C.’s each night: it’s dang good food. K.C.’s has the right mix of juicy, greasy, succulent-ness that you expect from a good burger or pile of fish and chips.

Best Farmer’s Market: Mahon Point (Cork)
IMG_1486This weekly farmer’s market is one of the best-run public markets I’ve ever been to. All of the food is fresh and local, sold by the farmers who produce it–and everything is incredible. Fresh cheese, home-baked bread, crisp veggies, straight-from-the-farm meats and fresh-from-the-sea fish–anything you could ever want for your weekly shopping. Plus they have woodfired pizzas and what I lovingly refer to as “crack curry” because it’s just so addictive.  Nom nom nom…

Best Scenic Drive: The Ring of Kerry
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Seeing as The Ring of Kerry is on every tourist’s agenda,  this choice is a bit cliché. But it really is incredible, and every tourist to Ireland should see it at least once. Driving The Ring takes you through mountains and valleys, past lakes and waterfalls, and along sweeping ocean cliffs. There are countless hikes that you can take just off the main road if you want to explore a bit more of the beauty, or you can just stay in your car and take it all in.

Most Unique Irish Experience: Bunratty Castle Medieval Banquet

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This was one of our family’s favorite experiences–my kids still talk about our dinner in the castle and ask when we can go back ther. Picture this: you arrive at a medieval castle and are greeted by people dressed in medieval costumes. These people then serve you bottomless wine, feed you a meal fit for a king, and serenade you with music. Did I mention you’re in a REAL castle?! Did I mention there was wine?!

Best Bike and Foot Trail System: Cork Bay Railway Walk

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This is a rails-to-trails system that follows the bay from Cork city out to a town called Passage West. There is an entrance to the trail right down the hill from our house, so we have spent many, many hours exploring these waterfront miles. The trail even goes directly to Jon’s office, allowing him to walk home from work on a peaceful trail when he wants a break from the usual commute. One section of the trail also leads to Blackrock Castle and cafe, the perfect place to stop in for some lunch or tea while you’re out exploring

Best Stone to Kiss: The Blarney Stone

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Some say that the Blarney Stone will give you the “gift of gab”. I think it may just give you canker sores and a strained neck, but it’s still worth giving a little smooch.

Best Big City to Explore: Dublin
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Everyone from Cork has just stopped reading this blog as I have pronounced heresy. Sorry, Rebels, but Dublin IS bigger and it’s my pick for city explorations. Take your pick of museums, cathedrals, pubs and parks–as well as trendy restaurants and upscale shopping. If you’re looking for a big city in Ireland, this is it!

Best Festival: Youghal Medieval Festival
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A medieval festival in an actual walled medieval city. Need I say more?

Best Island: The Great Blasket Islands
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This was one of my favorite day trips that we took in Ireland. A somewhat crazy boat ride takes you out to an ancient island that was finally abandoned half a century ago. We spent our day on the island exploring ruins, climbing grassy hills, and frolicking on sandy beaches with hundreds of basking seals. I would go back there in a heartbeat.

I could go on and on about all of my favorite things in Ireland, but I’ll show a wee bit of restraint and stop myself there. Ireland is an amazing place–an amazing place that I have been fortunate enough to experience for one whole year.  You will always be near and dear to my heart, Ireland!