{Mama in the Kitchen} Paleo Treats

This post includes several Amazon affiliate links. :)

I’ve personally been gluten free for about five years now, but several months ago I also went dairy free because Eli seemed to be reacting to something I was eating. This motivated me to dive into the world of paleo cooking and baking, and I have had so. much. fun! I used to feel really overwhelmed by paleo recipes–I always seemed to be missing at least one key ingredient, or I would finally have everything and then the recipe would be a flop. Slowly but surely, thanks to more experimenting, and recommendations from friends, I am starting to figure out what I like, what can be subbed for what, and what ingredients I should keep on hand. I thought I would share that list, as well as my current Top Five go-to treats. :)

Here are the items essential to my paleo (baking) pantry, and where I generally buy them:
coconut oil (Costco)
honey (Costco)
maple syrup (Costco)
eggs (Costco)
almond flour (this one on Amazon)
coconut flour (Trader Joe’s)
arrowroot powder (this one on Amazon)
almond butter (Costco)
dairy-free dark chocolate chips (Trader Joe’s – not technically paleo depending on how they are sweetened)

If you purchase these items for less elsewhere, please fill me in!! 

Current Top Five Paleo Treats: 

  • Double Chocolate Paleo Cookies – literally the yummiest gluten free cookies I have ever had. They’re best eaten chilled! My friend brought them camping and we used them for s’mores instead of Graham crackers…amazing! Make sure you have pumpkin puree on hand. :)
  • Paleo Banana Bread – I made these into muffins. The key is to use super over-ripe bananas! The whole batch was gone in under 24 hours.
  • Crepes/Wraps – These are found in the Against All Grain Celebrations cookbook. Even my skeptical hubby really enjoys eating them like pancakes! I make them into PB&J wraps, or quesadillas for Caleb’s lunch.
  • Chocolate Chip Cookies – I would start with baking for 12 minutes…you don’t want these over-done!
  • Paleo Dutch Baby – This was such an easy and tasty breakfast. I made a strawberry compote for the bottom of the pan.

Note: Where butter is called for, I currently always use coconut oil. Ghee would be great, too, but I don’t keep it on hand.

Do you have specific go-to blogs or cookbooks? What’s your favorite paleo treat?

{Mama Journal} The Shark in My Shopping Cart

On the way into Costco recently, I grabbed a smoothie to “share” with Caleb. He enthusiastically slurped the icy treat as we started shopping. Five minutes in, he was wailing about how cold he was as goosebumps appeared all over his arms. I apologetically explained that we would be through the store as quickly as possible (and kicked myself for not anticipating this problem.)
The second Caleb caught sight of the walk-in produce refrigerator, he melted into a puddle of frantic tears, loudly begging, “DON’T TAKE ME IN THERE! I’m COLD!”

This put me in a predicament. It takes a lot of effort to get to Costco, traipse through with a whale-of-a-cart, and get the children and groceries up the stairs and into the apartment, so coming back sounded awful. At the same time, I couldn’t exactly drag a hysterical two-year-old through the crowded refrigerator. I get enough “Your hands are full” comments when he’s NOT crying. (Side note: that observation cracks me up. I have two children, not twenty.)

As internal mom-panic set in at the prospect of another Costco trip, I decided to see if they sold winter jackets in May…and that’s when I spotted the shark bathrobe. They only had it in size 5/6. Caleb is two. “He’s big for his age,” I told myself. “He’ll grow into it.”

The crisis was averted. My child was both warm AND delighted with his new robe (which, according to him, is actually a dinosaur, not a shark) and we left with the required produce.

And THAT’s how I ended up pushing a shark/dinosaur through Costco.

{Mama Tips} Our Favorite Library Reads

Caleb and I love. to. read. We have dozens of great books, but because we read so often, we (or more accurately, I) get a little tired of the same stories. (Maybe I’m a bad mom, but I’m so over Curious George!) I would love to own hundreds of children’s books, but space (and budget) are a concern. Enter the public library!

I hadn’t started checking books out regularly until recently, but I have been pretty disappointed with the quality that’s on the shelves. So many poorly-written tales, agenda-driven plots, boring illustrations, or hokey, sometimes creepy, themes. I started placing holds on titles that I know I love, have had recommended, or that look like something we would enjoy based on what I can see online. Game-changer!

But what I quickly discovered was that it was hard to think of titles and authors off the top of my head while I was online placing holds. So I’ve slowly accumulated a list to draw from, and I thought I might as well share it here! :) 

These titles link to Amazon affiliates, but I hope you have a library you can use to give them a whirl for free. I’m putting an asterisk at the end of titles that I personally find especially entertaining (or moving) to read aloud even as an adult (many of which we own), but these are all books that Caleb loves and asks for. :)

This list mostly excludes board books and a-few-words-per-page books, of which we have many favorites as well…but we’re really loving more lengthy stories these days. :)

All the Places to Love*
One Morning in Maine*
The Relatives Came*
Make Way for Ducklings*
Blueberries for Sal*
The Little House*
Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel*
Katy and the Big Snow*
Mr. Putter & Tabby series*
Poppleton series*
There’s a Giraffe in My Soup
If You Give A… series
Farmer Palmer’s Wagon Ride* (Old, so the synonym for “donkey” is used. I edit.) :)
The Story of Ferdinand
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs
Bread and Jam for Frances* (I love all the Frances books, but you have to watch for attitude issues)
The Josefina Story Quilt
Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site
The Belly Button Book* (super fun author!)
One Special Day*
Five Little Monkeys Reading in Bed*
A Day With the Animal Builders
The Cow Loves Cookies
Days With Frog and Toad
Press Here
Have You Seen My New Blue Socks?*
Tweak, Tweak
Froggy Gets Dressed
Classics by Beatrix Potter*
Harry the Dirty Dog
Waiting is not Easy
The Tiny Seed (and other Eric Carle books)
The Underground Gators
The Baby Blue Cat and the Whole Batch of Cookies*
Goodnight Baseball
Dragons Love Tacos*
Just Me in the Tub
If I Built a Car* (excellent rhyming!)

A few more from childhood that we haven’t gotten our hands on yet:
The Bear That Heard Crying* (beautiful paintings & story!!)
Horatio’s bed*
Nine for California*
Amelia Bedelia series
Little Bear series

Can you add to my list? I’d LOVE your recommendations! 

{Mama Tips} Camping With Babies

We just returned from a super fun two-night spring break camping trip with other seminary families. This was Caleb’s fourth time to experience the tent life, and Eli’s first. So today, I’m sharing a few lessons I’ve gleaned from my limited experience camping with littles. This list is by no means exhaustive! It’s all just off the top of my head and I would love to hear your favorite tips as well! The “What to Bring” section includes a few Amazon affiliate links. :)

Regarding Mindset 

  1. Expect very poor/very little sleep. I like to set my expectations super low, that way I’ll be pleasantly surprised and grateful if I feel at all rested when I’m camping. Goodbye, mama grumpies! 
  2. Throw healthy eating and a desire for cleanliness out the window. Camping is for enjoying junk food and playing in the mud. (Besides, dirt is a great natural source of probiotics, so that counteracts all the artificial sweeteners and food dyes, right??) But seriously…I’m pretty picky about how my son eats at home, so we all enjoy the freedom to indulge for a few days of vacation. 
  3. Likewise be willing to adjust your normal routine. Flexibility, baby! Just go with the flow and enjoy the upheaval…it’s short-lived! No sense stressing over schedule. Baby can nap in the carrier, two-year-old can skip the nap entirely (possibly after exiting his pack-n-play without permission multiple times…a purely hypothetical situation), and everyone can catch up back at home! 

What to Bring

  1. Wipes, wipes, wipes. Bring ALL THE WIPES! (I’m kind of obsessed with these Water Wipes.)
  2. More diapers than you think you’ll need. Just trust me. 
  3. A bouncer or something similar that the baby can sit up in, off the ground, to watch what’s going on around him. 
  4. A big blanket to roll around on. 
  5. A high chair/booster seat with straps to contain the toddler (depending on age) during meals. I didn’t bring this and desperately wanted it when we took 16-month-old Caleb camping. 
  6. A play yard or travel sleeper for the toddler/baby. (We love our Sleepod for this!) 
  7. Quick, easy snacks. Caleb’s favorites this trip were applesauce cups, crackers, Gogurts, and TJ’s popcorn. If you struggle to get enough protein into your kid, you can always mix flax, chia, or hemp seeds into their yogurt, oatmeal, or applesauce. 
  8. Toys for your infant. Seems obvious, but you might forget. Eli is at that age where he needs something in his hands all the time! 
  9. Sunscreen, sun hats, long-sleeved rash guard, etc. 
  10. Warm clothes (think: many layers) and warm hats for night time sleep. 
  11. Books for quiet time. It’s helpful for the toddlers/preschoolers to have a break from all the free play and just sit. Ahhhh that peaceful sound of silence and containment. 
  12. shade shack. This was soooo helpful since shade was limited and I didn’t want to lather sunscreen on Eli. It kept him happy in the middle of the action but well-sheltered. 

There you have it…the first tips that come to mind within 24 hours of a crazy fun camping adventure with our littles. What would you add to the list? 

{Mama Tips} Traveling With Littles

Caleb and I are seasoned travelers when it comes to short (2.5-3 hour) flights, and we’ve even taken Eli along a few times already! :) It’s a huge blessing that airfare to our hometown is often dirt cheap. I have no experience with cross-country or international travel with babies, which is a whole different beast when it comes to time on the plane, but these tips will apply to flights of any length. Traveling with children isn’t something to be scared of as long as you are prepared and fairly familiar with the airport, your airline’s policies, etc. This post includes a few Amazon affiliate links to gadgets/gear we have found helpful when traveling. :)


  • With some airlines, if you add a lap child to your ticket, they’ll automatically block the seat next to you so that it’s the last one to get booked if it’s not a full flight! Sometimes you can add the baby online but often you must do so over the phone.
  • If both you and your spouse are flying, book a window and an aisle seat. The middle seats are the last to get taken, so there’s a chance you’ll have an empty seat between you. If not, people will always trade a middle for a window or aisle, so you’ll end up together either way.
  • Depending on the age and temperament of your child, departing around bedtime can be handy because they might sleep on the flight.

Things to Pack

  • A no-spill sippy cup (this is my favorite). Keep it empty through security, or be prepared for it to be tested on your way through.
  • Lots of non-messy snacks in little baggies and snack traps
  • Books and interesting toys you haven’t had out recently. I Spy books can be real attention-grabbers.
  • A device with movies and toddler apps downloaded and ready to go. We like the Kindle Fire for this as it’s very affordable, a great size, and can be loaded with free movies if you have Amazon Prime! Don’t forget earbuds.
  • More diapers and wipes than you expect you’ll need
  • Copies (not originals) of the kids’ birth certificates
  • I highly recommend a backpack style diaper bag for travel. I LOVE this one from JuJuBe. (Hooray for lightening deals!) 
  • A nursing cover with 360* coverage is a total game changer if you’re seated next to a stranger. I reviewed one that I love here


  • Wear the baby/toddler through security. (If you use a ring sling with metal rings, you’ll have to take the baby off or get a pat-down. I wear my Ergo.)
  • Little ones don’t have to remove their shoes!
  • Remove wipes, baby food, etc. from the diaper bag. I’ve had mine searched multiple times because it had wipes in it. :(
  • You can bring liquids like bottled water, yogurt, etc. through security when traveling with kids, but it will be tested.

Airport Time

  • I personally have never flown with a stroller. I like being able to take escalators vs. finding elevators (they can be sparse), and I don’t want airport personnel throwing my good stroller around.
  • If at all possible, borrow a car seat in the place you are going, so that you don’t have to travel with one. But if you do bring one, the airline will gate check it for free. Look into getting a car seat travel bag.
  • If you’re checking a car seat, you might as well check your carry-on luggage (if the airline is offering that for free, sometimes they do). One less thing to wrestle on board.
  • Board at the end of the line even though you have the option of boarding first. There is no reason to spend extra time on the plane (unless you want to snag overhead space for your bags).

During the Flight

  • When you board, ask a flight attendant which bathroom has a changing table so you’re prepared.
  • Ask the flight attendants to dilute apple juice for your littles. A cup of ice chips can also be a fun distraction/snack.
  • Some airlines offer a complementary coloring book and crayons for children.
  • Be aware that you will have to unbuckle the baby from your carrier for takeoff and landing.
  • Nurse on take off and descent to help the baby’s ears adjust to the altitude change.

So that’s my little roundup of basic travel advice…what am I forgetting? What’s your number one tip or trick for traveling with littles? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below! :)

{Mama Tips} What to Do with the Coconut Oil Jar

DSC_9640That’s pretty nasty looking coconut oil, isn’t it? Actually it’s a smoothie! Read on…

Today’s mama tip is so very simple, and likely something you’re already doing, but it makes my life easier every week so I must share. :)  Did you know there are some wonderful jobs for used jars of all shapes and sizes? I keep my jars from pasta sauce, jam, coconut oil, olives, etc. and here are my two most common reasons why…

  • They’re great for freezing smoothies! I send smoothies to work with Andrew sometimes, and when I’m sending an old jar, I don’t have to care whether it finds its way home or not! :)
  • They’re great for freezing homemade bone broth and vegetable broth. Quart size is way too big, because I don’t usually want to thaw that much broth at one time…so I end up wasting some. But these small jars, with capacities of a cup or two, work awesome!

And while I’m on this topic, saving the plastic containers from sour cream, yogurt, etc. comes in super handy as well! I often send Andrew with leftovers in these containers so he can just toss them after lunch. If I’m taking my breakfast or lunch on the go (something I do frequently) I like to use old containers. When I’m finished, I toss it so that it doesn’t sit in the hot car and stink it up with the remnants of whatever I ate.

Basically, the less my good containers have to leave the house, the better–because we all appreciate the phenomenon that is a container with matching lid, am I right?? I actually just went through my container cupboard and was pretty bummed about how many lid-less containers and container-less lids I found. A sad story for another day.

What jars or other disposable items do you find awesome uses for?

{Mama Review} Sleepod

After three months of frequent use, I’m excited to finally be reviewing the Sleepod, made in the USA by Askr & Embla! I was so excited to have the opportunity to try out and represent this new product for them, and it did not disappoint!

What originally drew me to the Sleepod was the fact that it is made from organic and non-toxic materials. Our kids are surrounded by toxins daily, so any small change I can make to protect their little bodies is welcome. Since Eli spends 14+ hours a day in the Sleepod, I love knowing he isn’t being directly exposed to additional chemicals. The Sleepod feels very quality and its thick cover is so easy to remove and wash!

The Sleepod is designed to be a cosleeper, and I’ve tested it out as such various times when I wanted to nap with Eli. I love that it is a soft structure, unlike many popular cosleepers, so you’re not bumping a hard plastic frame in your sleep.

We live in a small two bedroom apartment with two little ones. I can move the Sleepod from room to room with ease, giving Eli familiarity and security while still accommodating what the rest of us have going on. Every night, he sleeps in the living area and he sleeps SO well there! We don’t swaddle, so I feel that the cozy sides of his Sleepod provide him that sweet sense of security instead of putting him in a crib or pack-n-play at this age. For most naps, I move the Sleepod to our bed.

We take the Sleepod to Bible study with us on Fridays so we have the option of putting him down there. This past week, a friend’s one-year-old ended up borrowing it. He slept so well, his mom immediately wanted to know where I’d gotten it! We also traveled to San Jose using the Sleepod and loved it for that trip! It can fold up and fits inside their cloth bag, so it’s a breeze to transport.

Although it may look like Eli is close to filling it up at three months old, believe it or not, his two-year-old brother loves to lounge in it on the couch or bed! I actually think it would work great as a travel bed for him, too! Maybe I need to get a second one. ;)

So that’s that–my honest take on what has become a staple we use daily with our second baby. If you’re in the market for a baby travel bed, a cosleeper, or a bassinet alternative, be sure to check out the Sleepod!

{Mama Review} The Undercover Baby 3-In-1

The Undercover Baby sent me this beautiful 3-in-one cover in exchange for my honest review. I am always 100% candid when sharing about a product. All opinions are my own.

I was excited to choose a pattern from The Undercover Baby’s beautiful selection. Apparently I chose well, because three different moms commented on how pretty it was the first day I used it! Although my baby is a boy, I consider this more of an accessory for myself, thus the floral pattern. ;)

I love how soft and breathable this cover is. I live in LA, so lightweight is an absolute must. When used over the infant seat, it shades baby from the sun without trapping the heat. This gives it an edge over a similar-style cover I have from a popular brand.


The 360* coverage offered makes it practical for nursing in just about any setting. Unlike with the apron-style covers that have rounded wire on top, I can lay the fabric right against my chest to keep it closed, which means I am comfortable using it sitting down even if people are standing right next to me. Another pro is that this product is made in the USA!


You can check out The Undercover Baby for how to use this as a shopping cart cover–something I haven’t tried.


One important word of caution: make sure the cover isn’t pulled down too far when you are inserting the car seat into the base or a stroller. The cover may get pinched, and snag. This hasn’t happened to me because I’ve intentionally kept the material clear of the latches, but it would be easy to do.


Check out my Instagram to enter the giveaway to win this cover, and be sure to use my code for 10% off your purchase from The Undercover Baby: ordinaryjoymama10.

The #momlife tee I’m wearing in these photos can be found here.

{Mama Journal} The Difference 15 Minutes Can Make

Being a mama means learning and growing in new ways constantly, as our little ones hit new developmental stages and also learn and grow themselves. Today I’m sharing one simple principle I have been implementing over the past couple of months that has made a big difference in my mom life. :)

I am purposing to, whenever possible, leave the house 15-20 minutes before I actually need to. We live in an apartment, a flight of stairs and two doors from our parking garage, which makes getting two kiddos and their paraphernalia to the car a bit of an ordeal. Leaving really early allows for my mom brain to go back inside for things I have forgotten, and gives me time to address correction with Caleb if needed, without arriving late.

But more importantly, I realized that I was rushing Caleb. When I leave with only minutes to spare, we have to hurry. Caleb likes to stop and pick up leaves on his walk down the steps. He spots bugs and wants to discuss them. He gets distracted by the construction across the street. He is two and he will only be two for 10 more months. I want to leave time for him to be a child, and for me to enjoy that. Our trips will be much more pleasant and peaceful if we can take our time walking down to the garage.

Implementing this simple habit has already led to much happier treks to the car. I can interact patiently with my little man over his observations and discoveries. We make small memories and Caleb learns new things. It is a very simple and realistic decision that is already bearing sweet fruit.

I hope that thanks to this little change, one day when I look back on our LA apartment life, I will remember getting out the door with my little ones with a fond smile and a full heart.