DIY Toddler Learning Tower Stool
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Ever since Milly was an infant she’s been hanging out in the kitchen with us. When she was an itty bitty babe I’d wear her in my wrap or carrier and she’d watch me put dishes away or prepare meals. Many times we would keep her in the dock-a-tot on our island in the kitchen and she’d watch us cook and eat. Once she was sitting up, she’d sit in her chair and watch me from the counter. I’ve always encouraged participation in the kitchen. When she was old enough to grasp things I’d let her stir a dish or press the button on the mixer. I love how interested she is in learning! If there’s anything I’ve taken away from parenting it’s to embrace the messy and give your child the liberty and independence to learn. Every day there is something new to discover! So you would imagine as soon as she was big enough to cruise and then stand, she was always tugging at me trying to see what I was doing and get in on the action. One could think your child is whining or getting fussy because they want a toy or want you to stop what you’re doing but with Milly, as soon as I picked her up and showed her what I was doing she was immediately engaged and excited. Once this clicks, it’s a lifesaver for continuing your day and getting all that household business done. Even just explaining to Milly what I’m doing or why I’m doing it makes her feel like she’s involved. They just want to help and be a part of whatever you’re doing! I couldn’t wait to have Mr. A help me make this learning tower stool IKEA hack I found on Happy Grey Lucky (the link is below!) And by help, I mean I picked up the $19 stool from IKEA. :) He did everything else.

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What I love about this learning tower stool is the design. It’s sleek, modern and I like the raw pine look. We haven’t put the finishing touches on (we plan on covering the screws with wood filler, staining it slightly and then sealing it with poly to make clean up super easy) but I love the way it turned out! There are a lot of similar stools available but they are bulky and large and in our amazing bungalow, space is limited. Plus, they cost anywhere from $200-$250 and this entire hack cost us less than $50! This is something Milly will use for at least 3-4 years and hopefully one day her little brother or sister will enjoy it too. Be sure to follow me on instagram to see the many ways we use it for learning and hands on activities!

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For the full tutorial go to Happy Grey Lucky!

Pumpkin Spice Blueberry Donuts

Blueberries are an absolute staple in our home so I’m thrilled to partner with The Blueberry Council on some fun and easy recipes like these pumpkin spice blueberry donuts. Some might argue these aren’t donuts because they aren’t fried but I promise you they are every bit delicious. These cake donuts are fluffy and tender with juicy blueberries, a creamy frosting and if you like pumpkin spice-they have all those warm comforting flavors that instantly get you in the fall mood.

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And when I say this recipe is easy, I mean SO simple! All you need is pumpkin bread/muffin mix, oil, eggs, water and blueberries!

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You basically make the batter, fold in the blueberries and then pour it into your donut pan and bake. That’s it. This is the donut pan I use.

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If you want to add a simple glaze on top, you need a little bit of powdered sugar, water or milk (I used almond milk cause that’s what we had on hand) and some chopped blueberries. Then just frost them after they’ve cooled.

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Even my 15 month old daughter, Milly was able to join in on the fun! If you’re like me and your kiddos won’t let you do anything without them, invite them to help you! I love using cooking and baking as a teaching tool. I had Milly help me add the blueberries to the batter. It may have took her a while and she ate about half of the blueberries but she did it and was so proud of herself!

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For a finishing touch, I added a few fresh blueberries on top of each donut while the frosting was still wet and I had Milly help with this too.

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I mean, can you even with those cute chubby baby hands!?

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I just love this recipe and I hope you do too. The flavors of the pumpkin spice and blueberries work so well together and frankly, I think it’s a beautiful treat to show off at any of those holiday parties you have coming up!

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Photography Credit: @Ographr

A Mermaid Inspired Dessert Table
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I adore a good dessert table. It's perfect for someone like me that can never just commit to one dessert. Anyone else want the cookie AND the ice cream? I remember when I was a little kid and my parents would let us get one treat-I'd always try to find a way to get two! Why have just ice cream when you can get an ice cream sandwich with two chewy cookies hugging that ice cream. Right?! A dessert table at a party is always a good thing...and in some ways it's easier! Making a batch of a few things brings me so much more joy than stressing about making one gigantic perfect cake. And something I've learned in my years of hosting parties and my experience owning a dessert catering company (raise your hand if you knew this-and if you didn't-let me know in the comments below and if you want me to blog about that amazing adventure) is not everyone likes cake (gasp!). So I knew a dessert table was the way to go when it came to our daughter, Milly's first birthday shellebration! 

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How cute is this babe holding her birthday cake truffle? For the record Mama took it out of her hand before she could sneak a bite (sorry baby girl!).  If you read Milly's first birthday party post, then you already know I didn't end up making her a homemade smash cake like I wanted to. We actually didn't let her do a smash cake at all and guess what? It was fine! She already got her first taste of buttercream when we gave her a cupcake during her one year photos and that was enough for both Mr. A and I to agree that we don't need to let our babe go ham on some cake. 

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We did however make sure we had cake for our guests! I ordered our favorite birthday cake and truffles from Momofuku Milkbar and made my favorite funfetti cupcakes topped with chocolate seashells and mermaid tails.

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These are SO easy to make and you can find the molds for each online. Scroll down for the full recipe/directions on how to make these. 

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One of the easiest treats to make ahead of time for a party are marshmallow treats! You can't tell, but these are made with brown butter giving them a salty caramel flavor.  It's my absolute favorite way to elevate any dessert.  Then while they were still warm, I sprinkled my favorite sprinkles from Sweetapolita on top. These were gone in like .2 seconds!

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And if that's too much work and you want to keep things simple, host a candy bar! Even if it's just to see adults act like giddy little kids-have a candy bar at your party.  I'm telling you it's amazing! We love Sugarfina because they have all the best candy.

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I'm partial to gummies so we chose 5 of our favorites (baby whales, peach bellini, baby butterflies, apple frogs and ice cream cones). Nothing brings me more joy than to watch the look on people’s faces as they load up their candy bag! I also love how this pretty much acts as a party favor meaning one less thing I need to do which by the way-I don’t like party favors and think they’re a total waste of money. :)

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The last dessert we made were these cookie dough gems. Mr. A and I actually tag teamed making these because they’re that easy to do! They’re filled with homemade egg less cookie dough using this recipe (or you can also just buy Edoughble). All I did was tint white chocolate using gel food coloring (you can also use candy melts) and then filled each mold with the melted chocolate. Flip it over to allow the excess to drip and then place in freezer for about 5 minutes to set. Then you fill each chocolate coated mold with cookie dough and top with more melted chocolate to seal. Place back in the freezer for at least 15 minutes to harden. To remove gems from the mold, just tap on a kitchen towel covered counter. You can make these up to a week in advance if kept in a cool, dark place. You can also keep them in the refrigerator but they can sometimes sweat. For a finishing touch, I dusted mine with luster dust.

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I melted several different colors of white chocolate and then swirled them with a knife to create the marble effect before coating each mold!

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I actually used the same chocolate for the gems as I did with the mermaid tails and shells. Keep it simple!

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 I just adore how our daughter's party turned out. Let me know what you think! And if you recreate any of these recipes or ideas, tag me on instagram @BrandiMilloy. For the full party blog post including the simple DIY balloon arch Mr. A and I made, be sure to check out Milly’s First Birthday Shellebration. And scroll down for a quick recipe for these show stopping mermaid tails!

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CHOCOLATE MERMAID TAILS RECIPE

by Brandi Milloy

Ingredients:

Directions

  1. Slowly melt candy melts using a double boiler method or in the microwave for 30 seconds and then 10 seconds at a time. Once they are melted, use a spoon to carefully fill the mold, tapping it on a hard surface to get rid of any air bubbles. I mixed a few different colors to achieve the pastel watercolor look.

  2. Place mold in the freezer to harden and set for about 10 minutes. You can make these up to a week in advance and they will still taste and look fresh as long as you keep them in a dry cool place. 

Milly's 1st Birthday Shellebration
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Thank you to Jenny Quicksall for her amazing photography in capturing this special day for us. Like all parties, it's always a whirlwind trying to say hi to everyone, make sure food is replenished, all your guests have a drink, baby is happy, etc. I can't imagine trying to remember to take pictures on top of all of that much less pictures that include both myself, Mr. A and Milly- so to have our friend, Jenny there taking photos of each moment was an immeasurable relief and a priceless gift we will cherish forever!
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Happy Birthday Little Amazing!!! I can't believe our baby girl is already 1 year old. They say the days are long and the years are short and now that I'm a Mama I totally get it.  My little mermaid baby that couldn't wait to meet us, who was almost born in Daddy's car-is here and has given us so much joy in the last year it's hard to remember life before her. She is a dream baby but I don't know if I ever really looked at her like a "baby" because to me she's always been a magical gift from God, this tiny person that I've always known and continue to fall more and more in love with. Every night after we put her to bed Mr. A and I will look at each other and talk about how amazing she is. Sometimes we do this for hours. We love being Milly's Mama & Daddy! And we couldn't wait to shellabrate her with a party fit for the mermaid babe she is and invite all her friends.

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The inspiration for her party began with the sweet ruffled one piece she wore. I bought this on Amazon a few months after she was born because I liked it so much but never really planned on it being her birthday outfit. After months of looking at it hanging in her closet, I couldn't wait for her to wear it for her special day.  I like that it has the mermaid scales and pastel watercolors without being a true mermaid costume/outfit. When I added the pink tutu all of a sudden it was the perfect birthday ensemble. 

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Our favorite park felt like the best spot to celebrate. There's plenty of room for all of her friends and their families and I liked the idea that guests could bring a blanket and we could all party under the trees.  The only predicament with this idea was figuring out where to hang decor and how to make the large space personal for our birthday girl. One night I was wasting hours on Pinterest when I showed Mr. A a balloon arch and backdrop. I explained to him how I didn't know where I was going to hang a simple Happy Birthday banner much less any other decor and he told me he'd make it for me.  Wait. What? He said he'd make a backdrop for the party. Maybe two of them. We had a ton of reclaimed wood on the side of the house his dad had given us from old projects/who-knows-what-else and he'd make them for me.  You guys-I HAD NO IDEA Mr. Amazing was so handy when I married him. I mean-the man is actually beyond handy. He is a home engineer! He fixes things, builds things, did a ton of remodeling on our house and so much more. In two days he had created two wood backdrops.

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I'm obsessed with them. Oh but his help with the party didn't stop there. The man pretty much created both of the balloon arches in one evening so there's that too. I totally scored the best husband.  Granted these balloon arches look way more complicated than they actually are. I should have taken tutorial photos to share but it's not even necessary cause anyone can make these. All you need is balloon tape, balloons and a balloon pump (to make your life easier). The balloon tape is a plastic ribbon with holes where you place the tied balloons. Once you've blown up your balloons in various sizes, you just push each balloon tie into the holes on the ribbon (alternating colors and sizes). Once you have the length you want, simply cut the ribbon and fasten the arch. We used a staple gun to attach our balloon arches to the wood backdrops. If at this point you want to fill in any spaces and build out your arch with other balloons to make it fuller, you can tape them on, use glue dots or use a low temperature glue gun to add more. We ended up being pretty satisfied with how it looked the way it was! I think the real key is making sure you use different colored balloons that are still complimentary. I love these affordable variety packs I found and I still had balloons leftover!

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But I think what really made the backdrops were the two banners we got from Glam Banners. It's tough to tell in the photo but both the "Let's Shellebrate" and the monthly photo banner are made with this fun disco glitter card stock so they catch the light and have this fun colorful prism look. I just adore the playfulness of the Let's Shellebrate banner and the monthly photo banner holding Milly's pics from month 1-12 is a must have at any first birthday party! It's so sweet to see the changes month to month!

Mr. A and I went back and forth on if we were going to let Milly enjoy a smash cake. I mean we wanted her to enjoy something and I couldn't wait to hang this adorable high chair banner I got on Etsy.  As you know, Milly's been self feeding since 6 months so she is very capable and able to pick up a ton of cake and frosting at a time. She's definitely not one of those kids that will just poke at a cake. If she sees food in front of her, she's devouring all of it. But all of this sugar can't be good for any child, especially a 1 year old so I thought I would make a carrot or zucchini cake with coco whip. Then the night before her party I absolutely bailed on that idea after having a complete melt down (literally-our city got hit with a heat wave that wouldn't let up) and I threw in the towel and went to bed deciding I would just use the Momofuku Milk Bar Birthday Cake we ordered for the dessert table as her cake. Done and done. This is one of those moments where I had to just let go of what I had planned and go with the flow. Everything in our house was melting (no AC for this beach town living family) and I was losing my mind trying to control everything. 

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The morning of her party we added a chocolate mermaid tail I had made for the dessert table to the center of the cake, a custom cake topper from DeLovely Details and the cake was done! I figure I have plenty of years ahead to take cake requests from my daughter and joyfully look forward to making all her sugary dreams come true.

And even though I didn't make her cake, I made plenty of other sweet treats for our guests including brown butter rice krispie treats, cookie dough chocolate gems, funfetti cupcakes and so many chocolate mermaid tails and seashells. Sugarfina gummies completed the dessert table and are always the star of the show. I've never seen adults get more excited than when you give them a cello bag to fill with candy from Sugarfina. To read all about the dessert table of our underwater dreams, I'm creating a dedicated blog post just for this with a ton more photos tonight so stay tuned for more!

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The dessert table was such a big hit, I think people skipped lunch and ate dessert first or maybe only dessert! We hosted lunch from our favorite, Chick-fil-A (sandwiches and nuggets), sweet tea and lemonade and made pasta salad, sliced fresh fruit and a veggie platter. It was so wonderful to have most of Milly's friends there (a few were out of town!), our friends, some of Mr. A's family and a ton of my extended family that live in SoCal but I hardly ever get to see.  Milly had so much fun playing with her friends, crawling and cruising around, eating everything in sight and waving at everyone passing by! 

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We are so grateful to everyone who was there physically and in spirit to celebrate our daughter. And even though we put "no gifts necessary" on the invitation, Milly was spoiled beyond belief and we were spoiled too. The cards with sweet messages telling us we are kicking ass as parents and how much they've enjoyed watching us as parents are cards I will keep forever! Thank you to everyone for being a part of our first year as parents. We couldn't do it without our village. 

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 Mr. A made this too! This was a total surprise. 

Mr. A made this too! This was a total surprise. 

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My New Food Network Show, Let's Eat!
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I'm thrilled to finally officially announce my new show on Food Network premiering August 12th at 11/10c called Let's Eat! I'll be alongside Stuart O'Keeffe and Jamika Pessoa who also happen to be good friends of mine. There's nothing better than doing what you love with people you love too! I can't wait for you to see us together in the kitchen showing you our favorite delicious recipes, food hacks you need to know and drool worthy food mash ups that are bound to become new favorites.  You can read more about the show here but be sure to mark your calendars now! I'll be LIVE tweeting every single episode.

Baby Helmet Therapy for Plagiocephaly

It actually seems like forever ago when we made the tough decision to get Milly fitted for a helmet to help correct the flat spot on her head but looking back I'm so glad we did. Thank  you FAM: For All Moms for allowing me to share Milly's story. You can watch my interview with Susan Yara and Sharzad Kiadeh below and then let me know if you have any questions in the comments below. 

A Chic & Tropical Young AF Birthday Party
 Viceroy Santa Monica Cabana

Viceroy Santa Monica Cabana

Happiest Birthday to one of my favorite women in the world, Faith Kesington! You've surely seen her on my instagram and in photos because SHE is the woman behind making so many of my big life moments so special. From helping host my epic bachelorette party in Palm Springs to helping me find my wedding dress(es) and standing beside me on my wedding day as one of my bridesmaids to making my baby shower for Milly the best ever-Faith is one of my nearest and dearest. She is kind, soulful, giving, driven, inclusive, smart, successful and one of the most beautiful people, inside and out. 

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So when it came time to plan a day to celebrate her, I was beyond thrilled!  Everyone deserves to be celebrated and it was an honor to host a party just for her with a dozen of her friends.

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The Viceroy Santa Monica was the perfect spot for the chic soiree. Designed by Kelly Wearstler, the bold & modern space became the ultimate backdrop for my most fashionable friend. Our poolside private cabana provided plenty of room for all of us girls and with a few personalized touches, it went from #SundayFunday to a Young AF Birthday Party for our best babe! 

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I've always hated the whole "flirty and 30" party theme and "dirty thirty" is even worse.  So when I saw these rose gold balloons  on etsy I knew this would be a fun idea. And when it comes to decor, there's a fine line between going for it and over doing it. These made the space an instant party but so much of design is all in the details!

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Adult sippy cups featuring flamingos and watermelon provided a playful touch and doubled as party favors.

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For the tropical florals I met up with my friend, Drew of Rogue & Fox Floral Co the day prior at the LA Flower Mart to get the adorable mini pineapples, flamingo lily, scabiosas, pincushions, dahlias, David Austin roses and a "Queen" protea in the rose gold, coral pink color palette. 

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Even if you don't have access to a huge flower mart, check with your local florist to see what exotic florals they carry. I've even seen amazing range at my grocery store depending on the season. I really love the texture these florals bring to the space!  I also made sure to pack a vase to arrange all of the flowers to give to Faith after the party.

Hosting an insta-worthy party is EVERYTHING and having a larger than life float is key at any pool party. I love this oversized ice cream cone from Sunnylife where everyone snapped pics for the gram.  And how bombastic does our birthday babe look on this? 

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Anytime I host a party I like to have a few bottles of bubbles on ice so guests can be greeted with a drink as everyone arrives.  As soon as our birthday girl got there, we kicked the afternoon off with a celebratory toast! And because the craft cocktails at Viceroy are so amazing, we opted for a few carafes of their jalapeño pineapple infused tequila cocktails. They were the perfect mix of sweet and spicy and so refreshing on a warm day. 

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After some delicious bites, (the cauliflower tempera and truffle fries were a huge hit) we sang Happy Birthday and satisfied our sweet tooth with homemade birthday cake cupcakes by yours truly.  Covered in amazing Sweetapolita Sprinkles and decorated with cookie dough gems (recipe post to come-I promise!) Faith's featured a rose gold cake topper by Glam Banners.  

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The entire afternoon was flawless.  Good friends, great vibe and a gorgeous day. I remember looking around and no one was on their phone, everyone was in or around the pool lounging, listening and laughing with each other. It was such a memorable birthday party.  To see more pics of this chic and tropical Young AF party scroll down! 

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Let me know what you think in the comments! Do you have any other theme ideas for 30th birthday parties? I'd love to hear them!

Patriotic Oreo Cheesecake Bars
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If you're tired of showing up to 4th of July parties with the same berry flag cake (no offense), you've gotta stop what you're doing right now and make my patriotic oreo cheesecake bars.

They are super creamy with a chocolatey oreo crust and the red and blue swirls are actually pureed strawberries and blueberries (with a little gel food coloring for bold color)! These bars are relatively easy to make-the hardest part is waiting for them to set up! If you're short on time, follow the same fruit swirl technique using your favorite no bake cheesecake recipe!

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I had so much fun making these on Home & Family.You can grab the full recipe here.

American Egg Board Disney•Pixar’s “Incredibles 2” World Premiere
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This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of the American Egg Board. The opinions and text are mine.

In case you missed my INCREDIBLE night, which I documented on Instagram stories, I had the opportunity to attend the Disney•Pixar’s “Incredibles 2” World Premiere on behalf of the American Egg Board. I can’t believe it’s been almost 14 years since the first movie premiered so if you’re a Super fan like me, you can agree it’s about time for this sequel to finally happen!

The premiere shut down Hollywood Boulevard, stretching from the Roosevelt Hotel to the El Capitan Theatre. I joined some members from The Incredible Egg and we watched anxiously as the stars arrived.  From the iconic Disney•Pixar’s “Incredibles 2”-themed red carpet, to the décor and activities, the event completely transported us to Metroville. Even the food was on theme! 

I went straight for the Incredible deviled eggs and sugar cookie masks! Don’t mind if I do. Then I snapped a pic with Edna and did my best Super pose before heading in to watch the movie.  It was fantastic! There is so much to love about this sequel! The humor is fantastic, the family dynamic was spot on, there’s non-stop action and so much love for female heroines!  It’s hard to choose what was my favorite part about the movie. All I kept thinking while watching it was “what would my superpower be if I lived in Metroville?”

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I love taking personality quizzes, so when I learned that the Incredible Egg had created a quiz to see which Disney•Pixar’s “Incredibles 2” character you are, I had to find out! (If you want to try it yourself, visit The Incredible Egg’s blog!)

Then based on your results, it will tell you how you like your eggs – with recipes paired with each character’s distinct personality. I totally got a kick out of my results because it said I was Jack-Jack. He reminded me of my daughter, Milly, totally stealing the show! His dish is Multiplied Deviled Eggs.

 Photo Credit:  Incredible Egg

Photo Credit: Incredible Egg

I had so much fun taking the quiz, I tried it out again just to see what my results would be. The second time I got Mr. Incredible, which was even funnier to me because out of all the egg dishes I enjoy, I eat egg avocado toast and deviled eggs on a weekly basis. Try Mr. Incredible’s Clobbered Egg Avocado Toast!  

 Photo Credit:  Incredible Egg

Photo Credit: Incredible Egg

Can’t choose which recipe to try out? You can find all the customized recipes for each of the leading characters at IncredibleEgg.org/DisneyPixarIncredibles2.

This is making me so excited—I’m contemplating changing Milly’s 1st birthday party theme to Disney•Pixar’s “Incredibles 2” since the menu is already done!

Thank you to the American Egg Board for inviting me to this unforgettable event.  

 

 

All You Need to Know about Baby Led Weaning

Milly and I loved hanging with Nora of Modamob to give her some tips on baby led weaning. Her darling little babe, six month old Ayah is definitely ready to start feeding herself solid foods so I made sure to share all I know with Nora! It makes me so happy anytime I get to meet with other moms and offer any insights with them about my motherhood journey. I cover everything from how to get started to what to do about allergies and so much more in this video. After you watch, leave a comment below letting me know what you think. Plus I'd love to hear any tips or tricks you might have about baby led weaning including any simple recipes. Also, you might need to watch it a few times since Milly is adorably distracting...especially around 1 minute when I give her a piece of pear but she thinks it's gonna be a lemon? LOL! Love her! 

Yogurt Bark: Tropical & Peanut Butter and Jelly
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Looking for a healthier option to ice cream? Yogurt bark is a frozen snack packed with sweet fruit that takes minutes to make and keeps in the freezer. I love having fun in the kitchen and this is definitely one you can get the kiddos involved!  It starts with the same base-any type of yogurt (I make this with coconut milk yogurt for my 10 month old), maple syrup/honey/agave for a little sweetness, vanilla extract and any mix-ins you want! Use what you already have to keep it easy.  I love to use chopped fruit, fruit purees, dried fruit, nuts, spreads like peanut butter or chocolate hazelnut spread. Anything you would put in a smoothie or top a smoothie bowl is fair game.  I tend to over buy produce so this is what I do when I have too many strawberries. I ether make yogurt bark or homemade jam.

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So when Home & Family invited me on the show to make a treat, I decided to share two of my favorite flavors. The tropical bark is loaded with mango, kiwi, pineapple and dragonfruit. If you've never seen dragonfruit in your market, ask the produce manager to get you some. Otherwise usually you can find it in speciality grocery stores or in the freezer section in frozen puree packs.

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The pb & j has that classic peanut butter and jelly flavor and is super creamy and addicting. If you prefer almond butter, that works too. I also love to sneak n crushed nuts or even slices of fruit. For this one, I used strawberry jam and added sliced strawberries. 

Let me know what flavor you try to make or if you create your own. Be sure to post your photos on instagram and tag me @BrandiMilloy

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Tropical Yogurt Bark

by Brandi Milloy

Ingredients

  • 2 cups nonfat plain or Greek yogurt
  • 3 tbsp. agave, honey or maple syrup
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract 
  • dragonfruit, pieces (you can also fold in dragonfruit puree found in the freezer section)
  • mango, sliced
  • pineapple, chunks
  • kiwi, pieces
  • shaved coconut
  • mini chocolate chips, optional

Directions:

Onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, spread your yogurt mixture about 1/4" thick. Sprinkle toppings evenly. Freeze overnight and then break into pieces and enjoy.

Peanut Butter & Jelly Bark

by Brandi Milloy

Ingredients

  • 2 cups nonfat plain or Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter, melted
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 4 tbsp. strawberry jam
  • fresh strawberries, sliced 
  • chopped peanuts, optional

Directions:

Onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, spread your yogurt about 1/4" thick. Top with peanut butter, using a knife to swirl it through. Do the same with the strawberry jam.  Sprinkle toppings evenly. Freeze overnight and then break into pieces and enjoy.

 

 

 

A Letter to Our Daughter on My First Mother's Day

My sweet Milly,

Everyday I fall more and more in love with you. You are pure magic, baby girl. Beyond our wildest dreams you have completely filled our lives with joy and enchanted us with your overwhelming presence.  I marvel over you. You are like the sun, so warm and bright shining light everywhere you go.  It’s been so very special seeing the world through your eyes.  Your big brown hazel eyes and those ultra long lashes. You are curious about everything and I love explaining it all to you.  You love to observe the world around you and I watch you study every little thing the same way I do when I’m trying to learn something new.  You are as calm as chamomile.

I love the way you communicate-and how you tell me exactly how you’re feeling.  I’ve never felt more in tune and connected to someone (besides daddy) before in my life.  Our relationship feels as natural as bees making honey.  I love how it feels like you know what I’m thinking at any given moment. Sometimes we stare at each other and then burst into laughter at the exact same time. It’s so much fun being your mama.

Every night as you rest in my arms, smelling like buttercream, I trace my fingers around your face and look at you in wonder.  And as you slumber, I watch you dream. I hope you are dreaming of goodness and the good you will bring to the world and those around you.  I hope you know you can do anything you dream and don’t let anyone or anything tell you otherwise. 

You are such a delight I can barely stand it. It’s an honor to be your Mama. Thank you for trusting me, Milly. It is truly a gift to call you ours. You are filled with so much love and purity and I’m so grateful God chose me to be your Mama and us to be your parents. I love the person you’ve made me. I’ve never been more proud of who I am than now. Being around you gives me a fullness I’ve never felt before. These are the good ole days.  We are living them.

Milly, you radiate rainbows.  You are a unicorn in a field of horses. You’re a cupcake in a world of muffins. You’re a ranunculus in a garden of roses.  Happiest Mother’s Day to the one who made me a Mama because today is about you too.

Love,

Your Mama

A Rainbow & Sprinkles Unicorn Marshmallow Cereal Cake
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I just loved hanging with Erin Robinson on the set of her new show, What the Flavor on ClevverTV. She is every bit relatable, adorable and so much fun to be around. It didn't even feel like we were working.  I just loved showing her how to make one of my favorite treats in cake form-a ooey gooey marshmallow cereal treat cake featuring the A team or your childhood (Fruit Loops, Fruity Pebbles & Lucky Charms). We made a "cake layer" of each cereal and put yummy frosting in between. Then because we are both living our best lives, decided to hide Skittles and sprinkles in the middle- cause why not. 

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This cake would be perfect for a party especially one where you want to show off how amazing you are. Who doesn't love rice krispie treats and candy? Hello! No one! Be sure to watch some fun behind the scenes we did together below.

Then check out the episode here and then be sure to make the cake and post all your gorgeous photos on instagram and tag me @BrandiMilloy and @ErinRobinson. 

 I promise to remake this and post some better pics! LOL This was after we had eaten half of it. Whoopsie.

I promise to remake this and post some better pics! LOL This was after we had eaten half of it. Whoopsie.

RAINBOW & SPRINKLES UNICORN MARSHMALLOW CEREAL CAKE

By Brandi Milloy

  • 6 tbsp. butter
  • 9 cups marshmallows
  • 12 cups cereal
  • 1-16oz. container frosting
  • 1/2 cup sprinkles plus more for decorating
  • 3/4 cup skittles or candy of choice plus more for decorating
  • cereal marshmallows

Special tools

8" round cake stand

6" round cake tins/pans

Directions

  1. Into a heavy bottom pot, 2 tbsp. butter on medium heat, being careful not to burn. Once melted, add 3 cups of cereal and mix. Allow to cool slightly and then press into 6" round cake pan that's been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Repeat step 1 until you've made all three layers of cereal cake. Allow to cool.
  3. Using a biscuit or cookie cutter, cut out a hole in the center of each cake. Set aside.
  4. To assemble: spread a little frosting onto your cake stand to keep the cake from moving.  Place one cereal layer in the center of your stand and top with frosting and sprinkles. Repeat with the next two layers. 
  5. Once you have three frosted cake layers stacked on each other, pour your skittles into center of cake and top with a piece of excess cereal to close hole. Frost your cake and decorate with candy, sprinkles and marshmallows. Serve immediately and enjoy! 
Made with Love, an Embroidered Pennant
Photography Credit: Another Cup Photography
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One of my favorite parts about my job is being able to work with people who inspire me.  So I was thrilled to team up with two of my friends, Ashley Adams and Julianna Strickland on the most joyful and colorful shoot to celebrate Mother's Day.  

I can't believe this will be my first Mother's Day with Milly (earthside). I have so many feels about this beautiful gift of being a mother so stay tuned for a full blog post on a Love Letter to Milly on My First Mother's Day. 

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For me, a homemade gift will always mean more ten times over so I'm happy to share an easy embroidered pennant craft idea you can make for your mom or with your daughter for Mother's Day.  It's super simple to make-and like many needle necessary crafts, it's utterly therapeutic.

 Photography Credit:  Another Cup Photography

Photography Credit: Another Cup Photography

One of my favorite gifts I received when I was pregnant with Milly was a beautiful piece of embroidered hoop art. It's a gift I'll cherish forever that hangs in Milly's bedroom. There's something so personal about handmade art and receiving it ignited this desire in me to learn embroidery. And let's be real-it also could be because this old school craft has been getting some major love over the last few years with faves like Lauren Conrad showing her embroidery talents with her Baby Tell announcement.  Regardless, it's a trade I'd love to learn and get better at.  For years I used to crochet (blankets, scarves, throws-you name it) and when I was a little girl I loved to sew. I remember I made these amazing denim pocket purses from jeans I bought from thrift stores and tried selling them in 6th grade (I was wayyy too ahead of the trend). Then, for several years I made jewelry and sold my pieces on Etsy. I guess I love working with my hands, it's no wonder I work in food. I should open my store back up....

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EMBROIDERY SO EASY EVEN A BABY CAN DO IT

For this pennant, I chose to do the letter, "M" for Milly but a meaningful word like "love" would work too or a positive affirmation would be absolutely dreamy! I'm calling it now: embroidered pennants should replace vision boards!  For this craft you only need a few things: embroidery needle, embroidery floss and fabric (a linen blend banner, burlap flag or any thin fabric will do).

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STEP ONE Using a pencil, mark the letter or words you want to embroider on your fabric.

STEP TWO Thread your needle by pulling your floss through the eye only a few inches and then knot the other end. Cut your excess floss.

STEP THREE Get started by choosing your stitch. For text, a back stitch or split stitch is best. You can read and view step by step instructions for each of these here. I love the raised look of a split stitch. You can really see this stitch detail in the pink "love" banner.

STEP FOUR Hang your pennant where it will inspire you or gift to someone special. 

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If you want to get even more inspired to create and to see the rest of our fun shoot head over to Julianna's blog to see how to put together the happiest rainbow balloon installation and go to Ashley's blog to learn how to make her boho cactus cake!

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This served as the perfect backdrop for photos and totally made me want to recreate it for Milly's first birthday (but please don't quote me on that). 

I'm also majorly crushing on the boho cactus cake Ashley made and decorated. Swoon! 

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I'm trying to figure out an occasion I can make it (this would be perfect for a boho bride wedding cake or birthday party, bridal shower, etc OMG!)...but really- I'm an Zona girl-do I actually need any excuse to make something that pays homage to my homestate?! I'm already dreaming about how I would decorate mine with fuschia prickly pear!

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Special thanks to Juliana of Another Cup Photography for capturing this special day for us. I just melt over the moments she captured of Milly & I.  You can follow her on Instagram @JulianasCup 

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Which idea is your favorite? Let me know in the comments below and be sure to tag us on social if you recreate any of these joyful DIY ideas! @BrandiMilloy @ashrachelle @Julianna_Strickland

The Breast Pumps that suck the BEST

I was happy to guest host on What's Up Moms new show, GEAR alongside Lizzy Mathis! We tested a few breast pumps from classic favorites to modern high tech and even my go to hand pump.  You can watch the episode below and scroll down to learn more about each one. Also,  let me know what your favorite pump is and if you have any tips for pumping I'd love to hear those too! 

Featured BREAST PUMPS

 Medela Freestyle 

Medela Freestyle 

My 5 Minute Mindful Breathing Exercise

Sit in a comfortable position with your spine elongated.

Gently close your eyes, relax your body, relax your mind.

Feel the weight of your head, your body sink into your seat.

I want everyone to take a deep breath in through your nose and as you inhale, fill your belly with air, expanding your ribs and allowing your chest to rise.

And then as you exhale, feel your chest sinking down, your abdomen flattening and releasing any tension or tightness you have in your body.

Continue to take these deep breaths, breathing in through your nose and out through your nose.

Listen to the sound of your breathing and once you start to feel that rhythm, starting at the top of your head, relax the weight of your head, let go of any tightness you have in your eyes, between your eyes at your third eye, relaxing your cheekbones, your jaw, your neck, shoulders, your back, your chest, down to your lower back, hips, thighs, knees, legs, calves, ankles, feet, toes.

And as you breathe, calm your mind. If your thoughts start to wonder or you get distracted, bring it back to your breath.

As you continue your deep breathing imagine a calm place and the sound of your your calm place (for me, it is the ocean) and as you breathe in imagine you are breathing in peace. And as you exhale, imagine you are breathing out stress, tension and any tightness you have in your body.

Continue visualizing your calming place, focusing on the sounds you are hearing and every time you hear that sound, let it relax you more and more and more.

And as you continue breathing think about all of that beautiful oxygen filling your body with goodness and light, every time you inhale, fill your lungs, surrounding your heart with all of that goodness and warm light.

Continue your deep breathing and allow your body to embrace this time you’re giving it.

When you start to feel ready you can gently reawaken your body and mind.

Keeping your eyes closed, notice the sounds around you. Feel the floor beneath you. Feel your clothes against your body.

Wiggle your fingers and toes.

Shrug your shoulders.

Open your eyes, straighten out your legs, stretch your arms, enjoy how relaxed you feel, feeling re-energized for the rest of your day.

Now quietly thank your body and yourself for allowing you this moment.

Five Simple Ways to Self Care

By definition self care is activities and/or practices we engage in on a regular basis to reduce stress and enhance our well-being. It's things we do to feed our soul and nourish our heart. It's essential for all of us to live, thrive and succeed!

Self care is extremely important to me and absolutely the reason I live each day with a peaceful heart.  Giving myself time to feed my soul allows me to be a present wife, mom, friend, sister, daughter, business owner, etc. Prioritizing myself and making my mental, physical and soulful health a priority has impacted my life and those around me in magnificent ways.  When I feel good I am able to be better.  But unfortunately for many of us it’s one of those things that we put off and put off and sometimes it takes a life changing moment or worse-a wake up call until we understand the power of loving ourselves and making time for you. Here are my five simple ways to self care.

DEEP BREATHING

This is a powerful self-care tool we all have. Each of us has this in us already-this natural superpower-but so many of us don’t utilize or embrace it.  The power of deep breathing and using your breath to direct your energy and your focus, allows you to be present and to calm your mind and body.  You can do the following mindful breathing exercise anywhere. It's a great way to begin your morning but is a lifesaver in the afternoon when daily stresses. To experience my five minute mindful breathing exercise, go here

 THE POWER OF "NO"

This was a hard one to embrace because if you're like me, you like to please and never want to let others down. But sometimes it's not about everyone else. It's about you putting yourself first and prioritizing what fulfills you. Would it really be the end of the world if you skipped a pointless/spontaneous happy hour with your coworkers? Or said no to doing mindless activities? And instead said YES to trying a new workout class or yes to cooking a healthy dinner at home for yourself (with Andrea Bocelli playing in the background in your favorite comfy yoga pants....I digress). Too often we allow our guilt to drive our decision making when in fact we should make decisions with a clear mind and a sincere heart. 

GIVE THANKS

Keeping a gratitude journal is an easy way to clear your mind and focus on what you are thankful for. Even when everything seems to be spiraling out of control and your to do lists get longer and longer, and it feels like nothing is going your way-writing down what you are thankful for is an easy way to put things in perspective. This is something you can do every day before you go to bed. It doesn't need to be fancy-you can just jot it down in a notebook. If you enjoy writing, I would suggest writing letters to yourself-this can be very therapeutic and a deeply emotional way to move past personal obstacles you might be facing.

Since becoming a Mama I've started writing letters to Milly. The first letter I wrote her was right after she was born and then I wrote another when turned four months old.  My goal is to continue writing her letters at least every quarter or whenever I feel compelled to. It's amazing how powerful putting your thoughts to paper can be.

DISCONNECT

Unplugging from electronics, taking a social media fast or even setting technology boundaries are powerful ways to reconnect with yourself and those around you.  As much as I love social media I rarely post on my social channels while I'm actually experiencing whatever "thing" I'm doing. I typically will take the photos, videos, etc and post later. This allows me to be present and live in the moment.  In our home we rarely have the television on. Instead, we enjoy playing music and save media time for designated times in the day. 

QUALITY, NOT QUANTITY

I think it's important for each of us to identify the activities that fulfill you and in the same token, identify the people that also do so. A huge component of self care is the influence of others and understanding positive relationships. Having even just a few select people in your life that support your commitment to self-care is imperative-seeking only those people that you can learn from, lean on and laugh with.

Keep reading for some of my favorite ways to practice self care. I invite you to try some of them yourself and when you do, I'd love for you to share your experience with my on instagram @BrandiMilloy or down below in the comments. 

Some of My Favorite Ways to Practice Self Care

  1. Write affirmations and post them somewhere you see everyday.
  2. Wake up early and go for a walk.
  3. Go to the beach to meditate or pray.
  4. Have a homemade picnic in the park.
  5. Take a long bubble bath.
  6. Buy a new feel good book or swap one with a friend.
  7. Listen to an inspirational story/podcast/speech/lecture.
  8. Declutter a drawer. Keep decluttering and keep things that only "spark joy" via the Kon Mari method.
  9. Volunteer or give back. Do something good and pay it forward.
  10. Surprise a friend with a card of small gift.

 

Delicious Vegan Queso For Folks Who Aren't Even Vegan
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You don't even know how proud I am of this recipe. I consider myself the queen of dips, the master of appetizers and love greeting my guests with a snack as soon as they arrive. So when we invited our friends over who are vegan, I was met with a bit of a challenge.  I couldn't make my go to buffalo chicken dip or my massive cheese & meat boards. So....instead of serving veggie sticks I decided to attempt my own homemade vegan queso. I've had cashew cheeses before and always liked the flavor and texture so I decided to start there.

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This "queso" has everything its traditional counterpart has including heat, gooey goodness and flavor. I served it with all the fixins for nachos:  homemade salsa (recipe to come!), homemade guacamole (I'll write that one up too!), roasted corn, black beans and jalapeños. For my meat substitute I chopped sweet potato and mushroom and sauteed it in homemade taco seasoning until soft. The entire meal was delish!

 If you want more cheesy flavor & color (none of my photos are ever photoshopped cause I don't know how (insert laughing emoji) just add a bit more nutritional yeast.

If you want more cheesy flavor & color (none of my photos are ever photoshopped cause I don't know how (insert laughing emoji) just add a bit more nutritional yeast.

I hope you enjoy this as much as we did and I dare you to make it for your next party and we can keep the vegan part our little secret and watch as it gets devoured in minutes! Don't forget to post your photos on IG and tag me @BrandiMilloy and let me know if you're going to try this in the comments below OR if you have a recipe you'd like to see me make! xo

Vegan Queso 

by Brandi Milloy

  • 1 heaping cup of raw unsalted cashews
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast (I found mine at Trader Joe's-this adds cheesy flavor & color)
  • 2 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp seasoning salt
  • 1/2 tbsp. hot sauce like El Pato (you could also seedless jalapeño as desired for heat)
  • 3/4 cup-1 1/2 cups of filtered water (start with 3/4 cup and add as needed for desired consistency)

Directions

  1. Soak cashews in cold water overnight or in hot water for a few hours before making recipe. Drain before using.
  2. Into a high powered blender (like a Vitamix), add soaked & drained cashews, tomato paste, cumin, garlic powder, seasoning salt, hot sauce and 3/4 cup water. Blend until smooth scraping down the sides as needed.  Add water in 1/2 cup increments until desired consistency. Add salt and other seasoning as needed.  I served my queso with salty sweet potato chips so I didn't need to add more salt.