Posts in Mom Life
Ideas For a Non-Candy Easter Basket

Check out my IGTV to watch me reveal Milly’s First Easter basket featuring non-candy ideas. I loved putting this together for her! There are so many wonderful items to give your children that encourage learning, fuel fun and inspire imagination! I hope this sparks your own ideas for your little one’s Easter basket. Check out the full list of items below and then I’d love to know what other ideas you have down in the comments below! Happy Easter! xo, Brandi

Yoobi Glitter Chalk

Roly Poly Dog

Hair Accessories

Wooden Bug Catching Puzzle

We Are the Gardeners Book

Reusable Sticker Book

Bubble Wand

My Go To Store Bought Snacks for Toddlers

As any parent of a toddler knows, snacks are life! Truly lifesavers. I don’t leave the house without them and you best bet I take more care in packing Milly’s snacks for a trip than I do her clothes! If you think your husband/boyfriend/significant other gets HANGRY when they don’t eat, try being around a toddler when they want food. It’s not pretty. Save yourself from your sweet LO getting upset and/or maybe having a full on meltdown by always having your diaper bag/purse/car/stroller stocked with snacks for little fingers.

And as much as I enjoy making homemade snacks for Milly, these are my go to store bought snacks we buy regularly and highly recommend. This post is not sponsored but even if it was-please always remember I only work with companies I use and love. You can scroll down for the full shopping list or keep reading to hear why I love each one of these snacks.

I keep bowls of these Sunkist Delite® mandarins on hand. They are so juicy and delicious. They end up in my purse, the diaper bag, stroller and our car cup holders. They are always a win and Milly loves peeling them herself. This is one of those snacks I keep a few of with me cause one is just never enough! Plus these little citrus gems pack a nutritious punch.

At the end of the day, those popular puffs treat containers are bulky and are really just cereal in my opinion. I allow Milly to pick out her own cereal and then pour it into her snack cups for on the go crunchies. I don’t know what it is about little cereal with holes in it that makes kiddos lose their mind but Milly enjoys Trader Joe’s Strawberry Yogurt O’s .

Many of these snacks are ones I enjoy too just to be honest. And these Tillamook Sharp White Cheddar slices are so good for a little afternoon pick me up. Add a few crackers in your purse and some fruit and it’s a make-your-own cheeseboard. Haha! These are individually wrapped which make it so convenient to just grab and go and each slice has 5g of protein!

This next treat should get its own post because Happy Baby Organic Yogis Freeze-Dried Yogurt & Fruit Snacks make Milly do whatever I need her to do. It’s like a dog to a bone! If she’s squirming when I’m trying to put her in her carseat, if she’s losing patience in the line at the post office…anytime she’s absolutely “over it” I take a little Yogi out and she’s all smiles. I only use these for those necessary moments so these are not for snacking but my little secret mama weapon. I think if I ever let her snack on them they’d lose their power so they live in a special container in my purse and car and I always make sure I’m never out.

The first time I discovered these Once Upon a Farm Fruit and Veggie Blends we were at the grocery store and I let Milly pick one out to snack on while we shopped. Her favorite flavor is Peter Banana Pumpkin Eater. All organic with 3 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber, they’re like cold pressed smoothies for kids. I also put them in her whole milk yogurt popsicles.

Just like her father, Milly loves peanut butter. I keep these Lance Whole Grain Wheat Peanut Butter Cracker Sandwiches around for both of them, really! She usually only eats two at a time so it takes a while to go through 1 pack but they’re always a sure thing with her. These are classic cracker sandwiches made with whole wheat flour.

Another whole wheat flour snack we like are Annie’s Organic Cheddar Bunnies. We purchase a lot of Annie’s Organic products including their macaroni and cheese and graham crackers. I prefer to buy the big box and portion it out myself and sometimes I’ll make my own snack mix with a few of these other dry treats for a little something different.

Great for grab and go with no work are Blueberries. If you follow me on Instagram you know that this is Milly’s favorite! Available year round, I buy these by the box full. I especially like bringing these when we go out to eat incase the food takes too long I know Milly will enjoy some bluebs without spoiling her appetite. When she was teething I liked keeping them in the freezer for relief from those swollen gums. They’re also great to add into her oatmeal and smoothies.

Speaking of oatmeal, Milly just got on an oatmeal kick so especially for an on the go snack, I like Quaker Real Medleys Oatmeal Cups. Just add hot water and you’re set. I add fruit for extra yumminess too. This oatmeal is sweet enough for it to feel like dessert and it’s been a good in between meal for when our schedules are wonky. It’s also a great food to practice self-feeding and using a spoon.

We don’t buy that many snack packs but these Mama Chia Squeeze are a fun little find I spotted by the applesauce. High in omega 3’s, protein and fiber this is also a wonderful vegan and gluten free snack. You can serve them refrigerated or room temp. Usually Milly only drinks half of a pouch so I also mix these into her yogurt popsicles and smoothies.

Maybe it’s cause she’s a Cali girl but Milly loves avocados! She has avocado toast at least 5 x week so it’s no surprise she loves Wholly Guacamole Classic Minis. I pack these in her lunchbox with cucumbers or crackers for dipping and she gobbles it up!

Last summer when we were in NYC shooting my Food Network show, “Let’s Eat!” these Nature Valley Breakfast Biscuits with Almond Butter were in my dressing room. I brought them back to the hotel for Mr. A and Little A to have and they both immediately liked them. Slightly sweet with creamy almond butter between the granola biscuits, each pack comes with two which is perfect. We’ve been rotating them in our snack pantry ever since.

I’ve talked about this a lot on Instagram but often times when I go to Starbucks to get myself a grown up drink, I will ask for a tall water with freeze dried strawberries for Milly. She only drinks water and we do not offer her juice at this time so this kid friendly pink drink makes her feel like she’s a big girl. I like to have Simple Truth Freeze Dried Strawberries on hand for homemade versions or I will mix them into her snack mixes I create.

Milly has never been a huge fan of cow’s milk and this is probably because she was breastfed 18 months and Mama’s milk is much sweeter than cow’s milk but we also don’t drink cow’s milk in our home. I try to use it in my cooking and baking but we also started incorporating Stonyfield Organic Whole Milk Yogurt Pouches into her snacks. Sometimes Milly isn’t into the whole pouch thing (as I mentioned already the only pouches we buy are the Once Upon a Farm and Mama Chia) so I’ll squeeze these into a smoothie or her tumbler and she’ll guzzle it down. I think there is something to be said about being able to see what she’s eating.

I know you can buy Boiled Eggs already boiled and peeled but I prefer doing them myself. I’ve tried a ton of different brands and I really think they taste better when I make them. Heehee. They also don’t get that weird slime on them they get when you buy from the bags at the store. I keep my eggs unpeeled for on the go and usually bring a fun dip for them like hummus or Everything But the Bagel seasoning.

I grew up eating Mini Babybel Cheese so naturally I buy them for Milly. They taste so good and they’re softer than the sharp white cheddar ones so we like to keep options on hand!

Any snack that involves an activity or action is more exciting for a toddler. Justin’s Classic Almond Butter Snack Pack with Pretzels accomplishes just that. Reminds me of those dipping snacks I loved when I was a kid but these are so much better for you!

I buy these for me but Little Amazing loves them too. This Bar Saves Lives are our favorite since I’m not a fan of most traditional bars or energy bars. The kid ones have been out of stock at Target lately but we will share the grown up versions. The chocolate can be a little messy and anything with chocolate is considered a treat in our home so they are for special moments only.

I hope this list sparks some new ideas for snacks to incorporate into your pantry for your toddler. If there’s one you didn’t see on here that you love, please share in the comments below! I’d love to know your go to snacks incase they are ones we haven’t tried yet! And don’t forget to follow me on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter for daily updates. xoxo

SHOPPING LIST

Sunkist Delite® mandarins

Trader Joe’s Strawberry Yogurt O’s

Tillamook Sharp White Cheddar

Happy Baby Organic Yogis Freeze-Dried Yogurt & Fruit Snacks

Once Upon a Farm Fruit and Veggie Blends

Lance Whole Grain Wheat Peanut Butter Cracker Sandwiches

Annie’s Organic Cheddar Bunnies

Blueberries

Quaker Real Medleys Oatmeal Cups

Mama Chia Squeeze

Wholly Guacamole Classic Minis

Nature Valley Breakfast Biscuits with Almond Butter

Simple Truth Freeze Dried Strawberries

Stonyfield Organic Whole Milk Yogurt Pouch

Boiled Eggs

Mini Babybel Cheese

Justin’s Classic Almond Butter Snack Pack with Pretzels

This Bar Saves Lives

Tips for Traveling with a Toddler
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Five words. Keep calm and carry on! Seriously. Travel becomes so much easier and less stressful when you simplify all the stuff you don’t need and pack only what you will actually use. I hate checking bags. I have anxiety just thinking about all the extra time it takes to check them and then wait for them at baggage claim (if they don’t get lost-which is another thing I have anxiety about)! I’ve also done my fair share of traveling with Milly solo and the less crap, the better! I’ve never felt more like a badass than when I traveled with her by myself and didn’t need anyone to help me with my bags. It’s feels so good to do it all on your own! Watch below for my tips for traveling with a toddler and how to get away with just bringing a carry on!

Here’s what I carry on:

  • my carry on sized suitcase with spinner wheels (you can’t use a bag with regular wheels ever again!)

  • diaper bag back pack (again, you can’t travel with anything else! I mean you need your hands as free as possible.)

  • baby carrier (this is our favorite for so many reasons!)

  • And if you need a travel carseat and/or stroller or both (I know some folks borrow them from friends & family once they arrive at their destination), this is an investment but we are obsessed with it. Especially with the amount of travel we’ve done, this convertible carseat stroller combo is a must have!!! We have it in grey but there are so many beautiful colors and they are alway sold out!

A few tips but scroll down to watch the full video where I cover everything:

  • Plan outfits for your babe ahead of time and take photos of each ensemble. It might seem silly and stuff only fashionistas would do but it’s super helpful and makes getting ready each day easy peasy.

  • Pack toddler’s outfits in gallon size zip bags. It’s like the poor man’s version of vacuum seal bags but work just as well! It’s great for keeping worn or soiled laundry contained too!

  • Two shoe rule. This kind of applies to adults too. I usually only bring the shoes I wear and another pair. IF I absolutely need to bring one other option, I try to look through my closet one more time at any options that are versatile enough to work. If not, I figure it out.

  • Pack only the things you use on a daily basis (diapers, wipes, cream) with the exception of a small “Just in Case” bag. For us, it’s Milly’s toiletry bag where we keep a thermometer, toothbrush, medicine, essential oil rollers, Nose Frida, etc.

  • The diaper bag is really the most important thing you pack. You should have everything you need for at least 1 day of travel in there. You never know when you’ll face a delay, etc.

And for ideas on what to pack to entertain your toddler age 12-18 months, watch this video on how to assembly a “busy bag!”

I live for travel tips and hacks so if you have any more, spill! Leave me a comment with all the advice and then share this post with a mama friend. And if you haven’t subscribed to my YouTube Channel, you can do that here. I appreciate the support from my Mama Tribe! Thanks, xo Brandi

A few other travel related posts:

My Favorite Products for Traveling with a Baby

How to Survive a Trip with a Newborn

My latest vlog where we traveled to Seattle.

Three Ingredient Protein Balls for Little Ones

First of all, the photo above has nothing to do with this recipe except it’s a pic of Milly holding our favorite Momofuku Milk Bar birthday cake truffles from her first birthday. I haven’t had a chance to take pics of these protein balls so there you go! Hope I didn’t trick you.

If you tuned in to my IG LIVE yesterday with Dini Klein of Prep and Rally, you saw we made up a recipe based on our favorite no bake balls. These are super simple snacks we make for our babes (Dini’s daughters are 5 and 3, Milly just turned 16 months). All you need is dates, nuts and fruit (dried or freeze dried fruit). I like to keep these cold in the fridge and then take them out for a snack throughout the day. You can really have fun with what you put in them. Here’s my favorite combo but the sky is the limit. You can swap out the almond butter for peanut butter. I also love adding rolled outs. You can also use different nuts depending on your preference! The key is mixing it in the food processor until it starts to come together. The below is a guide more than a recipe because it just depends on how sticky your fruit is or how many dates you add. I’d love to know what you end up creating and if you make these, take a pic with your little one enjoying them and tag me on instagram @BrandiMilloy

Enjoy!

Protein Balls

By Brandi Milloy

  • 1 cup roasted, unsalted almonds

  • 3/4 cup madjool dates

  • 1/4 cup almond butter

  • 1/3 cup freeze dried strawberries

  • 1/3 cup freeze dried blueberries

Directions

  1. Into a food processor, add nuts, dates and almond butter and process. Add fruit and process some more until mixture comes together enough to form ball. If mixture is too “wet” add more fruit and nuts by the tablespoon. If mixture is too dry, add a tablespoon of almond butter or a few dates until desired consistency.

  2. Roll into balls and place in fridge to firm up and enjoy within 10 days!

Green Eggs & Ham Breakfast Cups
Photography Credit: AshtonStan.com

Photography Credit: AshtonStan.com

These are one of my go to snacks for Milly. Obviously they are great for breakfast but she enjoys them anytime. It’s a great way to sneak in a ton of veggies and you can make a dozen at a time. I use whatever I have on hand and there’s something about food shaped like a cupcake that makes toddlers love them! It’s the perfect size for their little hands.

Photography Credit: AshtonStan.com

Photography Credit: AshtonStan.com

These are also great for when you’re hosting a ton of people or when family is in town staying over. They’re great brunch foods! To make them even more decadent, sometimes I’ll add a little pie crust to the bottom so it’s almost like mini quiches. I love quiche. People don’t give quiche enough love. Scroll down for the recipe and then let me know what other variations you come up with. If you post the photo on instagram, be sure to use the hashtag #BrandisBites.

Photography Credit: AshtonStan.com

Photography Credit: AshtonStan.com

Green Eggs & Ham Breakfast Cuppies

By Brandi Milloy

Ingredients:

  • 12 large eggs

  • 1/2 cup milk

  • 1 heaping cup fresh spinach, chopped

  • 1 cup veggies or choice, chopped (like broccoli or mushroom)

  • 1/2 teaspoon seasoning salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh grated black pepper

  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg

  • 1 1/2 cups ham, sliced and chopped

  • 1 cup swiss cheese, shredded

  • 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

  • 2 teaspoons fresh Italian parsley, chopped (optional)


    Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375F and spray muffin tins with non-stick cooking spray.

  2. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, veggies, salt and pepper and nutmeg. Fill muffin tins equally with ham and cheese and then carefully cover each with the egg mixture, about ¾ of the way full.

  3. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until eggs are set cups are golden. Let cool for 5 minutes before enjoying! 

Photography Credit: AshtonStan.com

Photography Credit: AshtonStan.com




Our Favorite Books for a One Year Old
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We’ve been reading books to Milly since she was in my belly. In addition to this being great for bonding (especially for Daddy and baby), it can also help stimulate baby’s senses and brain development. Once she was born we continued reading to her throughout the day and before bed. Over time we’ve seen huge growth in her language skills, her connection to pictures, recognizing things and imitating sounds. Her thirst for knowledge and learning is amazing! I will spend hours on the floor with her reading just to watch the excitement and joy she gets from each story. We have our favorite classics of course like Dr. Seuss’s ABC and The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle but as Milly has gotten older she has her own favorites. And while we love going to the library each week to check out books and have different ones in rotation (I especially love checking out holiday or theme books out instead of buying them), these are the books I’m so glad we own and will cherish for years to come. The added bonus for a one year old is these are all hard back books which is key when your LO just wants to put every page in their mouth.

Little Blue Truck

We love the theme of this story which focuses on helping and togetherness all while learning the sounds of our favorite animals on the farm and of course, the little blue truck’s signature beep!

We’re Going On a Bear Hunt

I just adore this story so much. I could listen to Mr. A read it to Milly all night long. The adventure of going on a bear hunt and all the challenges they overcome along the way are great lessons for teaching courage and bravery!

The Pout-Pout Fish

This was the first book Milly ever kissed! Heehee. This story teaches you that it’s all about how you look at things and that sometimes all it takes is one person to make a big difference. It’s a very “cup half full” story and has wonderful repetition and rhyming.

Giraffes Can’t Dance

Similar to the theme of the Pout-Pout Fish, I love that this story teaches the beauty of differences and the unique qualities we each have. Such a powerful lesson to teach all of our children early on!

Little Blessings for Little Children

What we love about this book is that you discover something new every time you read it. The images are beautiful and the blessings featured are simple and pure. It’s a great book to reflect on all of the small things in our life that bring us joy and encourages a thankful heart.

Wherever You Are My Love Will Find You

This is one of those books that will make Mamas cry. It’s an opportunity to tell your children how loved they are and a daily read for our family. We adore several of her books.

Daddy and Me

All of Karen Katz’ books are great! She does lift-the-flap books really well. Milly loves the surprise element and getting to participate in the story. These can get torn by eager hands so be careful when leaving them out without grown up supervision.

`Baby Animals

These Indestructibles books are awesome! They can be chewed and pulled and won’t rip or tear. I like bringing these on trips or keeping in the diaper bag. Milly is such an animal lover and this book features a great variety of them!

Sophie la girafe: Colors

This flap book is super simple with a combination of colors, animals and everyday objects. Milly loves to lift the flaps to reveal the story and I really like that the author included unique names like Josephine, Margot and Gabin.

If You’re Happy and You Know It

This is a multi-cultural version of the traditional song which means it’s also an interactive music activity for us. Milly loves reading this book, clapping her hands and stomping her feet, etc. Featuring 36 different cultures it’s diverse, worldly and is truly a wonderful book.

Ring POPsicles
Photography Credit: Karen DeGrazio

Photography Credit: Karen DeGrazio

So Milly hates milk and I mean who can blame her when Mama’s milk is so good (breastfeeding joke-haha!) I’ve never been a fan of cows milk but give me all the cheese and ice cream. Love diary but not a cow’s milk drinker. We are basic b’s around here and love our organic almond milk, pea milk and always cereal milk. Ha! But when it comes to Milly’s health and how crucial it is for her to get essential vitamins and minerals (Vitamin D and Calcium) plus dietary fats for brain development (80% of your child’s brain development happens before they are 2 years old-whoa!), proteins plus all the other essential nutrients in whole milk- I had to get creative. Easy. Whole milk yogurt popsicles. This isn’t a new idea. My sister has been making these for my nephews for years and the last time we were in AZ visiting them they made Milly her own and she was all over them (her cousins and the popsicles).

Photography Credit: Karen DeGrazio

Photography Credit: Karen DeGrazio

What I like about having these on hand is they act as a “special treat/dessert” even though they aren’t really a dessert at all. I mean… the way I make them they are pretty straight forward. I like to buy a large tub of organic pasture raised plain whole milk yogurt and flavor it myself but you can also buy the flavored ones. I will add fresh or frozen fruit purees, fresh or frozen fruit and some spices if I’m feeling naughty.

Photography Credit: Karen DeGrazio

Photography Credit: Karen DeGrazio

These are one part organic pumpkn puree, two parts whole milk yogurt and a few sprinkles of cinnamon and nutmeg. Very PSL minus the L and 100% basic b again. Milly loves them! They aren’t sweet at all but super flavorful. A quick hack for making them even easier is just alternate squeezing a pouch of yogurt with your favorite fruit pouch and freeze! No excuses for not making your babes something semi-homemade!

Photography Credit: Karen DeGrazio

Photography Credit: Karen DeGrazio

I love these popsicles so much. Some days they are breakfast pops, other days an afternoon snack, her appetizer for dinner. I just love she’s getting another source of calcium in addition to other calcium rich foods she eats like greens, tempeh, almond butter, broccoli, pinto beans. Plus how freaking cute are these ring pop molds. Don’t think I wasn’t going to gush about how stinkin adorable these are!!!

Photography Credit: Karen DeGrazio

Photography Credit: Karen DeGrazio

Super affordable and didn’t need all 18 so we gave a set to our friends. The molds I got for my sis when her boys were small are these and I think I might like them better but you get half the amount of pops so just depends on what you need.

Photography Credit: Karen DeGrazio

Photography Credit: Karen DeGrazio

I love that they’re the perfect size for little hands and so soothing for swollen gums and teething mouths! Milly has fun trying to get to the frozen blueberries hidden inside so in some ways it’s a bit of an activity her.

Photography Credit: Karen DeGrazio

Photography Credit: Karen DeGrazio

I’d love to know what combinations you come up with. Let me know in the comments below and post your ring pop pics on IG and tag me @BrandiMilloy #BrandisBites.






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!

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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!

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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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. 

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

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 

Milly's 8 Month Update

I can not believe how quickly time has flown by! It's insane how quickly our baby girl has gone from a newborn to a crawling, cruising, solids eating little lady! Even since we shot this video (almost 4 weeks ago), she has changed SO much. She's eating everything now and on the verge of walking! SLOW down baby girl! I love hearing from you so let me know what you think of this video below. Also don't forget to subscribe to my YT Channel and hit that bell so you never miss a video and let me know in the comments below if you have any questions or suggestions for more videos I should shoot. 

New Mommy Must Haves

These are products I swear by especially if you're a new Mom! Keep in mind that just like how every baby is different, every mommy's needs are different too! I also think having my Mommy friends help create my registry prevented me from ending up with random things I didn't use. I love swapping products with friends so you can try and test things before you decide to purchase them. We borrowed a swing for the first three months that our friend's daughter didn't really use but Milly enjoyed! I encourage you to share all your must haves with other mamas and then let me know in the comments below what your New Mama must have is! Scroll down to learn more and shop each item and then don't forget to click the bell on my YouTube channel so you get a notification every time I post a video (2-4 times a month if I can!)