Tag Archives: Protein

TOP 10 HEALTHY AFTERSCHOOL SNACKS

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Here’s a recent blog I wrote for The Parent Express: 
NUTRITIONAL THERAPIST AND MOTHER, AMANDA ASHY-BOYD, SHARES HER TOP 10 HEALTHY AFTERSCHOOL SNACKS THAT KIDS WILL EAT AND LOVE

Follow Amanda on Instagram for healthy lunch box ideas or to register for her Eat a Rainbow course.  Alternatively, check out some of her recipes at The Healthy Happy Baby.

Collecting kids from school requires logistical planning comparative to a NASA expedition.

For working parents, wrap-around care needs to be in place five days a week; for mums on maternity leave, it’s praying for that perfectly timed break in between naps and feeds, and hoping that baby will willingly get into the variable sling, car seat and pushchair without making you (both) cry along the way.

For me, three days a week, it’s an hour-long outing, first collecting Melody from nursery, then driving, parking, and walking to collect Eliza on time. Often times I’m running from car to class, with Melody on my hip, desperately trying to avoid being the last parent at the classroom door.

The first thing that comes out of their mouths, having not seen me for six-plus hours is, “Snacky?”

Continue reading at The Parent Express

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Bolognese & Sweet Potato Noodles

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Ingredients:

500g ground red meat (grass-fed preferably)

1 onion

2 cloves garlic

4 mushrooms

4 cherry or plum tomatoes or 1 medium tomato

2 cups tomato sauce / passata

3/4 cups hot water

2 large sweet potato or 3 medium

Spices: olive oil, 2 bay leaves, 1/4 tsp basil, salt & pepper

Method

  1. Season meat with salt & pepper and start browning on a medium – low heat, covered, for about 2-3 minutes while you chop onion finely. Move the meat to one side and tip pan, letting the fat from the meat drain to one side. Add the onion to this natural fat and fry with lid on while you chop the garlic. Add the finely chopped garlic to the onions and fry for 2 minutes
  2. Quarter tomatoes and add to the onion and garlic. Fry for 2-3 minutes while you clean and chop the mushrooms. I usually slice the mushrooms 4-5 times horizontally and vertically
  3. Mix onions, garlic and tomatoes and mushrooms into the meat. Let itcook for 3-5 minutes while you prepare your sweet potato noodles using a spiralizer or julienne peeler (see below)
  4. Add the leftover core of the sweet potato (cut into cubes first) to the meat, as well as your spices: 1/4 tsp basil, 2 bay leaves, salt & pepper, tomato sauce and hot water. Cover, bring to a boil
  5. Once the sauce has boiled, reduce to a simmer, keep covered and cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally
  6. In a separate frying pan, warm up 1 tbsp of olive oil. Add sweet potato noodles and cook on medium-low heat for 4-5 minutes, stirring once or twice each minute. You want the noodles to keep somewhat of a crunchy texture to them so they don’t wilt under the sauce.
  7. Add sauce to the sweet potato noodles
  8. Voila!

Sweet Potato Noodles

  1. Peel the sweet potato
  2. Using a spiralizer or julienne peeler start making your noodles. I use a julienne peeler because it works just as well as a spiralizer and I don’t have space in my kitchen for another large appliance. It’s very simple. Hold the potato and using the julienne peeler, firmly start to peel the potato. I usually do 4-5 peels before turning to start on the other side of the potato. Continue to do this until you’re left with about a 1/2″ core of the potato. (This core will be cubed and added to the sauce for natural sweetness)
  3. Salt noodles and continue with step 6 in Method

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I’ve never been a fan of boiling noodles. They take ages, and I end up obsessively watching the pasta cook for the last 5 minutes, constantly testing it to make sure it’s done. Sweet potato noodles solves that problem! Not only do these ‘noodles’ increase the nutritional value of the meal, but they take about 4 minutes to cook. Super simple!

As a mother and a nutritionist, I choose to restrict many grains and refined flours. I do this as a lifestyle choice for myself and also as a guideline for weaning and toddler nutrition, especially 0-2 years. Don’t get me wrong, I love a sandwich, and one of my best food experiences from my holiday in Italy was the large bowl of four cheese pasta that got devoured with a bottle of wine.

I consider grains such as pasta and bread a treat, like ice cream, rather than a staple. Both are a carbohydrate, and carbohydrates along with protein and fat are categorized as macronutrients. A balanced macronutrient intake is essential for optimal health. As a starchy carbohydrate replacement, I prefer root vegetables like sweet potatoes and squash. I always have sweet potatoes in the house. Sweet potatoes are a nutrient powerhouse, packed with vitamins A and C, two well known antioxidants and immune supporters, as well B vitamins which our bodies require daily to make energy. Sweet potatos are also very easily digested – perfect for the developing digestive tract of a baby or toddler, and contain good fibers that when digested help to improve the microflora in the gut, contributing to a healthy digestive tract. Sweet potatoes are in season almost the entire year, making them a versatile and accessible carbohydrate.

Enjoy!

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Hidden Veggie Turkey Loaf

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Ingredients

2 lbs ground dark turkey meat (see note below)

2 eggs

1 cup grated zucchini

1 cup grated carrot

1 cup peas

1/2 cup tomato sauce

1/2 cup vegetable stock

1 tsp thyme, salt & pepper to taste

Ghee or olive oil for frying

Parchment paper and baking dish

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350F, 180F, Gas Mark 4.  Saute onion in ghee with salt, pepper and a pinch of thyme until soft – about 10 minutes
  2. While onion is frying, grate carrot and zucchini
  3. When onions are soft, add vegetable stock and tomato sauce. Leave to cool for about 5 minutes
  4. While cooling, add meat, vegetables, eggs, salt, pepper and 1 tsp of thyme into a big bowl and mix well
  5. Add onion mixture to the bowl once cooled and mix well. Transfer to a baking dish lined with parchment paper
  6. Mold and smooth turkey into a loaf. Add two teaspoons of tomato sauce to the top of the loaf. Put into the oven and bake for 1.5 hours
  7. Voila!

As a child meatloaf was one of my favorite meals. My mom cooked it in a big pot with loads of tomato sauce and peas. Oh, the peas! I would have triple servings. As much as I would love to revisit that taste sensation, and make the meatloaf I grew up on, it’s not really possible. The two main reasons 1) it’s too labor intensive with an ingredient list a mile long and 2) living in the UK, I don’t have access to many of the ingredients. So I’ve modified the recipe, as I do, ensuring it ticks a) the health conscience box b) the busy mom box and c) the toddler approved box.

Now, about the ‘hidden’ veggies – I know there are two camps about how food should be presented. One camp believes present the food as it looks – if broccoli looks like a green tree, put it on the plate and talk about how lucky we are to eat a miniature green tree. Another camp believes, my child doesn’t care if it’s a tree or a pot of gold, if he can see it and it’s green, he ain’t eating it. I was watching an interview with Sandra Bullock recently and she was talking about getting a child to eat. She actually counted the hours she spends saying, ‘Can you please eat.’ It’s 720 hours a year we spend trying to persuade our tykes to eat. Her point of view, ‘If I can just blend it in a little juice, I would do it at this point.’  We all know Sandra Bullock is not a lazy woman – I imagine she works just as hard in her domestic life as she does in her professional life, and her biggest struggle seems to be getting her child to eat. I’m hoping to help parents have a little less struggle during the 720 hours we spend trying to persuade our children to eat. Let’s remember, it actually starts in the womb, something I will be blogging about soon…

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Additional Note

You can use either dark ground turkey meat or beef for this recipe. If you can’t find dark turkey mince, then I advise using beef, otherwise, your dish might turn out a bit too dry.

Enjoy!

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Better Than Southern Fried Chicken

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Ingredients

500g chicken thighs

500g chicken drumsticks

1 onion quartered

3-4 cloves of garlic whole

Half a lemon

Spices: 1/4 tsp salt, garlic granules, cumin, all spice

Water

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 375F, 190C, Gas 5. Mix all of your spices together
  2. Wash chicken and line a baking dish, skin down. Add onion and garlic
  3. Sprinkle each piece of chicken with a pinch or two of the spice mixture. Save the remaining spice for later
  4. Squeeze lemon juice over each piece of chicken
  5. Add water to the baking dish. Enough for the chicken to be covered halfway. This will create a nice, mild gravy to pour over rice or potatoes and vegetables. *see note below* Put into the oven and bake for 20 minutes
  6. After 20 minutes take chicken out and flip. Sprinkle each piece with a pinch or two of spice mixture. Squeeze lemon juice over each piece of chicken then add the lemon to the dish. If the water is looking low, add a little more.  Put into the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, until the juices run clear
  7. To crisp the skin, broil the chicken for 5 minutes. In the UK, this is the same as putting it under the grill for 5 minutes. The skin will brown and crisp nicely
  8. Voila!

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I don’t often cook with boneless chicken or white meat for three reasons 1) I find white meat very dry 2) dark meat contains more nutrients 3) bones are nutrient powerhouses. When cooking chicken on the bone, with a little water, a gravy is made, and adding lemon to the water helps to extract minerals like calcium, magnesium and potassium from the bone. It’s good to remember that the bones of an animal are just as important as the muscle meat, and when possible, they should compliment each other.

Baked chicken is such an easy family food – put it in the oven and pretty much forget about it. It’s perfect for baby led weaning, toddlers, growing adolescents and mom and dad.  Everyone has their comfort foods – those foods that make them happy – gives them a metaphorical hug and says, ‘everything is going to be better because you’re eating me!’ Growing up in South Louisiana, it’s almost a prerequisite to claim fried chicken and chicken with rice and gravy as two  of your comfort foods. This baked chicken is possibly better than southern fried chicken, and it goes without saying, much healthier. It’s comfort food at its best!

Enjoy!

Additional Notes

Serve chicken and gravy with your choice of side dish. Sometimes I serve with rice, sometimes with cauliflower rice, sometimes with roasted potatoes. Always with vegetables like beans, broccoli and carrots.

 

 

 

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Ashy Family Tabbouleh Salad

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Ingredients

3 cup cooked quinoa (1 cup dry)

1.5 – 2 cup finely chopped parsley

1 tomato

4 green onions

3 sprigs of mint (15-20 leaves)

1 1/2 lemons

2 tbs olive oil

1/4 tsp sea salt

3 pinches of cayenne pepper

Equipment

Mortar and Pestle aka “Knocker” (wooden preferably)

Large salad bowl

* double all ingredients for a larger batch

Method

  1. Cook and cool the quinoa. Once quinoa is cooled, add to large salad bowl. You can either cook the quinoa the night before, or you can cook it and cool it in the fridge while preparing the other ingredients
  2. Wash parsley, onions, tomatoes and mint
  3. Start chopping vegetables. I start with the parsley – cut stems off as close to the leaf as possible. Do this in handful sizes. Bunch the parsley up and chop finely. It usually requires a horizontal and vertical chop to get it to a fine consistency. You can use flat or curly parsley; curly parsley is quicker and easier. Once chopped, chuck into your quinoa in a large salad bowl *see note below
  4. Chop onions (white and green) and tomatoes quite finely and add to quinoa
  5. Remove mint leaves from stem and chop. Add to the knocker with pinch of coarse salt. Knock and mash the mint with considerable pressure until you get a paste consistency. The coarse salt helps to grind the mint down into a paste. This usually takes 60 seconds of firm knocking and mixing
  6. Squeeze juice from lemons and add to the mint paste along with salt, pepper and olive oil Mix together well then pour over quinoa. Mix well
  7. Serve chilled in lettuce wraps
  8. Voila!

Example of how finely to chop tomatoes, onions and parsley

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Growing up in a Lebanese family, in south Louisiana, is quite a unique experience. My great-grandparents left their country in the early 1900’s and migrated to the southern parts of America. They chose the south because they were Christian, and they were French speaking. South Louisiana offered a home to both of those attributes. We southern Lebanese descendants now proudly refer to ourselves as Leba-Cajuns because of the rich cultural experience we received growing up in Acadiana Parish. Cooking, eating and drinking shaped our existence.

My mother’s father was Lebanese and her mother was French, so my mom grew up with a predominately Cajun-Creole cuisine. When my mom married into the Ashy family, she was taught through the generations the recipes of the Old Country. My mom was a great student and an even better teacher. I’m so grateful to my mom for teaching us that nothing tastes quite as good as food prepared in your own kitchen.

Traditionally, Tabbouleh is made with number 2 medium grind bulgur wheat. My ancestors might not approve, but I substitute bulgar wheat with quinoa. Quinoa much improves the nutritional value of the dish, and I actually prefer the taste. Quinoa is one of the few plant foods containing all essential amino acids, making it a complete protein, which makes this version of Tabbouleh a well balanced vegetarian salad providing essential fat, protein and carbohydrates.

I make Tabbouleh at least once a fortnight. The girls taste it & Number 1 likes it more & more. Number 2 still struggles to chew leaves, especially parsley, but she will get there. And so, the Lebanese tradition continues to be passed down through generations – with food this tasty and healthy, how could it not!

Additional Notes

Chopping parsley is the most time consuming part of the preparation. It’s worth taking the time to hand chop, so maybe plan to make this salad on a weekend. However, being a realist as well as a busy mom, I have many times chucked the parsley in a food processor and whizzed it up in seconds. If you do this, make sure not to over process; otherwise, you will end up with soggy parsley.

Enjoy!

  

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Poached Cod in Red Sauce

Cod in Red Sauce

 

Ingredients

400-500kg (1 pound) of responsibly sourced Cod

1 onion chopped

1 red pepper chopped

2 garlic cloves chopped

1.5 tbs pine nuts

3 cups tomato sauce (this is about 1 large 680g jar or about 3 cans)

1 cup water

1/2 juice of lemon

Ghee or olive oil for frying

3 sprigs of Thyme (1/4 tsp if dried), Salt & Pepper

Method

  1. Warm ghee or olive oil in a saucepan for a minute then add chopped onion, garlic, red pepper and the leaves of 1 sprig of thyme, or a pinch of dry thyme. Sauté on a medium heat, covered, for 7 minutes
  2. Season your fish with half juice of lemon, salt & pepper. Cut into 3″ pieces (prepare your rice or potatoes while your vegetables are cooking – see below)
  3. Once the veg have softened, add the red sauce, water, 1/2 tsp salt, black pepper and the remaining thyme. Bring to a boil
  4. Add the fish to the boiling red sauce, reduce heat, cover. Poach for 10-12 minutes, until the fish is cooked. Once the fish is cooked, take a spoon and separate the whole pieces of fish into tiny flakes. This will help to make the sauce lovely and thick
  5. Add pine nuts and drizzle with olive oil
  6. Voila!

I recently had a chat with a good mom friend, who has a beautiful 15 month old and a thriving career. As many moms can relate, this combination leaves her extremely time poor. Some days she’s gone before her daughter is awake and home after she’s asleep. It’s difficult to find the work/life balance for moms, and often times that can drown them in guilt. My lovely friend, driven by her guilt, will often get home from a full day, and spend her evening batch cooking for her daughter. She feels the next best thing to seeing her daughter is providing her with nourishing food. So, my good mom friend, this one is for you!

Fish in a sauce can be tricky. In my opinion, it’s not as diverse as chicken or meat, so knowing what to do with fish to enhance its flavor is essential. The simplicity of this dish is what makes it so wonderfully delicious! Cod is a light and fluffy white fish. It doesn’t have a strong ‘fishy’ flavor, so many people welcome it into their kitchen. The fact that it’s a mild fish also gives it the ‘toddler approved’ stamp. The fatty acid profile of cod is not as high as other oily fish like salmon and sardines, however, it’s a decent source of omega 3 fat, so keeping it on regular rotation will help to provide the essential fats necessary for the growth and development in babies and toddlers.

I serve the dish with either steamed and buttered potatoes or buttered white rice.  You can prepare either of those while your vegetables are sautéing. This dish should be your go to meal when you have only 20-25 minutes to prepare something nourishing and healthy for the family.

Enjoy!

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Caribbean Dream Smoothie

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Ingredients

1 papaya

8 cherries

1/2 banana

3 tbs Greek yogurt

3 tbs hemp seeds

1 tbs desiccated coconut

1/4 cup coconut water

Method

  1. Cut the papaya in half, discard the seeds and scoop out the flesh
  2. Deseed the cherries
  3. Add all of the ingredients into a blender, NutriBullet or whatever blending method you prefer. Blend
  4. Voila

Dad has been training hard lately, so I’ve been creating post-training smoothies to supply a good hit of glucose to transport energy to the muscles, protein for muscle repair and electrolytes for rehydration. This formula is also perfect for a toddler smoothie, especially in the summertime when extra hydration is needed. The protein in the smoothie with slow down the release of sugar from the fruit, creating a more stabilized source of energy, and keep the body fueled for longer. It’s a great early morning or mid afternoon snack.

I had an idea of how this smoothie would taste when I was making it, but it actually came out better than expected. Drinking it made me feel like I should be dancing in the sun, on a white sandy beach, in the Caribbean islands. Thanks to my little Caribbean Dream smoothie, for that lovely memory recall…

 

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Cheesy Flourless Muffins

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Ingredients

1 tbs hemp seeds

2 tbs chia seeds

3 tbs Greek yogurt

2 eggs

1/2 cup grated cheese (less if desired)

Any herbs you like. I added 1 tsp green tops of onion, a pinch of chopped parsley from my garden and black pepper. You can add basil, oregano or keep it simple with only black pepper. Salt is not needed in this recipe.

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 375F, 190C, Gas Mark 5
  2. Whisk the eggs together then add yogurt and whisk
  3. Add seeds and spices, whisk
  4. Add cheese and whisk
  5. Using a 1 tsp measuring utensil, add 2 tsp of mixture to each large greased muffin cup
  6. Bake for 18 minutes or until muffins bounce like a sponge when lightly pressed upon
  7. Voila!

Dad has the sweet tooth; I prefer savory. I was a little bored of sweet breakfast muffins, but I needed something quick and nourishing with good quality protein to keep me and the family energized, so I whipped these up. They are very dense, which is a tribute to the Greek yogurt and they are very moreish. I made them in about 3 minutes, popped them in the oven, and while they baked I went to get the girls from bed.  Brilliant! Great breakfast for an on-the-go family as well.

Greek yogurt in baking is becoming more popular, and I love it! It’s more nutritious than milk and regular natural yogurt, lovely and tangy, less hassle than flour, thickens your batter like flour, the only drawback is that the heat destroys the probiotics in the yogurt.  Oh well. Or, as the British say (one of my new favorite phrases), Nevermind!  Just move on, appreciate the good, and not focus on the bad…

Enjoy!

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Mellow Jello

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Ingredients

3 cups of juice (not from concentrate)

1 cup of water

3 tbs Gelatin

Method

  1. Mix the juice and water together.  Pour one cup of the juice mixture into a bowl and sprinkle the gelatin. Let it sit and form a solid texture
  2. Heat the remaining 3 cups of juice mixture on medium-low heat for 5-7 minutes
  3. Whisk the heated mixture into the gelatin then pour into a glass or ceramic baking dish
  4. Let it set in the fridge for 2 hours
  5. Voila!

Being in control of what goes into your child’s body is so important these days. There are small changes that we can make to our food approach to give us more control. Preparing homemade and healthy snacks is a good starting point.  Little tykes typically need three meals and two snacks a day.  It’s important to remember that snacks should be small meals – not junk – but finding healthy, balanced snacks that isn’t fruit is really difficult.  Preparing homemade jello, using grass fed gelatin, is a winning 5 minutes of your time.

There are many myths about gelatin associated with store bought Jell-o. I can’t say for sure how true they are, but I can say that store bought Jell-o is very low on the list of natural, healthy snacks for kids.  However, jello made with gelatin, sourced from grass fed cows, using quality fruit juice is a wonderfully nutritious snack or dessert for your child.  I will blog about gelatin and its benefits soon, but for now just know these basic facts: gelatin is a pure protein, so mixing it with fruit juice will help to balance blood sugar, preventing your tiny human from having sugar tantrums. AND, here’s a big selling point, gelatin contains an amino acid called glycine which is well known for its calming and sleep promoting properties, so maybe serving up this Mellow Jello might have a positive outcome for your toddlers sleeping patterns!

Try these flavors: grape, cherry, orange & mango, strawberry & pineapple, apple

Enjoy!

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Mexican Rice Bowl

Mexican Rice Bowl

 

Ingredients

1.5 lbs diced chicken thigh (vegetarian option use lentils or black beans)

1 onion chopped

2 tomatoes chopped

100 grams of spinach (about 3 large handfuls)

3/4 cup white basmati rice

1/2 cup corn – either frozen or from a can

3 tbs tomato sauce

1 cup chicken stock (vegetable stock for vegetarian option)

1 cup water

1/2 lime juice

Spices: 1 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp smoked paprika, 1/4 tsp garlic granules, 2 pinches of chili powder, S&P

Ghee for frying

Cheddar cheese optional topping

Method

  1. Season the chicken with salt, pepper and lime juice, let it marinate while you heat the ghee in frying pan.  Slowly sauté the onions for 5 minutes – covered
  2. Add chicken, cover and cook for 10 minutes on medium heat. Turn once. While your chicken is cooking, chop tomatoes, wash spinach, mix spices in a bowl, grate cheese.
  3. Add chopped tomatoes – cook for 2-3 minutes
  4. Add rice, tomato sauce, chicken stock, water and seasonings. Partially cover the pan. Bring to a boil then reduce heat slightly. Cook until rice is soft – about 15 minutes.
  5. Turn off fire, add corn and spinach, cover. Spinach will wilt in the heat and you can stir it into the rice once it’s wilted
  6. Serve and top with grated cheese
  7. Voila

This is such an easy dish to prepare – the hard work is buying the ingredients.  Once the ingredients are in the house, the meal can be made in about 30 minutes. Once the rice is added to the dish, it’s just a matter of leaving it to cook.

White rice is one of the primary sources of starchy carbohydrate that I feed to my girls. It gets a bad reputation because it’s considered ‘refined’ and also because it elevates blood sugar levels a bit more than brown rice.  However, if you’re not trying to lose weight, and if you don’t have blood sugar issues, then white rice is perfectly fine, and in my opinion, for babies and toddlers preferable to brown rice.

White rice is basically pure glucose.  It’s white because it’s been hulled and polished, so it doesn’t contain any of the harsh fibers that brown rice contains.  Babies and toddlers have an developing digestive tract, and their mucus membrane, which is the protective barrier inside their colon, is extremely sensitive.  I followed very specific guidelines when feeding my girls, and my goal was to restrict grains and cereals for the first 12-15 months of their development.  Obviously, this is nearly impossible in the world we live in, and I understand that.  It’s OK to have ideals but being idealistic is not always realistic.  As moms, we do our best to achieve our goals, whether it’s breastfeeding, sleeping, discipline, whatever – but babies and toddlers are unpredictable, and so is life.  All we can do is try our best, and know that at the end of the day that bar of chocolate, glass of wine, Netflix marathon or hot bath is waiting to congratulate us – regardless of the outcome.

Enjoy!

 

 

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