A Birthday Celebration, Summer Update + Giveaway!

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I can’t believe it’s been a year already! The Homemade Haus officially turns 1 this summer! It’s been a heck of a ride, and I’m incredibly thankful for the encouragement and support I’ve received from friends, family and readers. You have helped make this an amazing adventure, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store in for the next year.

Speaking of what's next...

I’m a planner. I like lists and calendars. I get a goal in my head, and half the fun for me is plotting out how to reach it. The only problem? Sometimes I get a little overzealous and overcommitted, resulting in either crappy work or complete burnout. I don’t want that to happen to this site. I’m trying to be more careful, intentional and realistic in my work – and motherhood adds an entirely new set of challenges that I didn’t have to work through in my previous blogging experience. 

Favorite Things Giveaway

So, I’ve decided to take the month of July off from posting new content here for two reasons: to rest and to learn. I will be spending time intentionally resting and unplugging for part of the month as my husband, kids and I go on vacation. In other words, I will be actually reading books – you know, those paper things that don’t require Internet or an outlet to enjoy? No wifi, no Netflix…just family, the woods and a good book. I seriously cannot wait!

The second reason for this month off is to have time to focus on learning. I’ll be participating in a writing workshop, tinkering with the backend of the blog and finishing up some video tutorial classes I started months (some even years) ago. It’ll still be a very full month, but you won’t see the fruits of that labor in the form of new content, at least for now. 

With all that being said, I thought that the first birthday of The Homemade Haus and the kick-off to my month away deserved a giveaway! (After all, we launched this site with a giveaway…why not keep that tradition going?) Thanks to several amazing sponsors that I’ve had the privilege of working with this past year, one winner will enjoy a prize pack (worth about $120!) filled with a few of my favorite things! 

Favorite Things Giveaway

Here’s what’s included:

Enter using the Rafflecopter widget below! 

Product for this giveaway was provided in partnership with FreshGround Roasting, K'Tizo Tea, Sonoma Syrup Co. and The Spice House. All opinions are 100% my own. This giveaway is only open to US residents and will start Wednesday, June 29 and close at 12:00am on Wednesday, July 6 (CDT). The winner will be contacted via email or social media and will have 48 hours to respond before another winner is selected. 

Haus Favorites: NurturMe Organic Baby + Toddler Food [and a giveaway!]

OK, mamas. Let's talk baby food. Before my kids starting eating solids, I had grand ambitions to make all their food at home. Generally speaking (aside from the occasional late-night Wendy's run or pizza splurge), my husband and I eat real food, and I wanted to make sure our kids did, too. 

While I have made a decent amount of homemade baby food over the last couple months, I've quickly realized that I can't keep up with their growing bodies! Despite being such small humans, they sure do eat a lot! For my own sanity, I have to have ready-made foods on hand. On those crazy days when there's not much in the fridge they can eat with only two bottom teeth, when we're out and about or when my blender and I just need a break, it's nice to grab something quick from the pantry. I've also found I'm able to add more variety to my kids' diets with store-bought blends that I wouldn't necessarily bother to make at home.

We recently tried the Quinoa Squares, Yum-A-Roo's, blended meals and reusable eco-pouches from NurturMe, and so far, I'm a huge fan! NurturMe baby and toddler foods are certified organic, gluten-free, non-GMO and kosher, with no added preservatives, sugars or salts. It's exactly what I want for my kids - real food. 

At first, I was a little unsure about the dried blended meals, but my kids loved them, and the little packets make it super easy to bring baby food along when you're traveling. Simply mix each packet with enough water to make it the right consistency for your child. Or, you can use breastmilk or formula for added nutrition.

The Quinoa Squares were also a huge hit with my kids, and I definitely want to buy more of those (they're way more nutritious than many other snack alternatives, too.) I've just started giving my kiddos Yum-A-Roo's in the last couple days, because they were a little too young for them until recently. My daughter likes them, but my son seems to get a little frustrated when he attempts to pick up the little pieces. He tries, but definitely drops more than he eats. So, unfortunately, I can't tell yet whether or not those have unanimous kid-approval in my house. 

The last product we tried was the eco-pouch. Eco-pouches are environmentally friendly, dishwasher safe, refillable pouches that you can fill with NurturMe food or your own purees. Most importantly, they're so stinking convenient, especially when I'm out running errands or need to give the kids an easy snack. There are a few points to note on these, though.

First, they work a little better, at least for my kids, if the purees are the consistency of applesauce or thinner. I tried to put thicker purees in there, and my kids had a little trouble getting the food out. Secondly, they're pretty easy to fill, but I had a tendency to over-fill them the first couple times, which made a mess. They hold a decent amount of food (6.5 fluid ounces), and as long as you don't try to stuff way more in there, you'll have no problem. Oh, and put the cap on before you fill them! You'd think that'd be obviously, but I can't tell you how many times I've forgotten to put the cap on and suddenly the food starts leaking out the top! I blame mommy brain. Lastly, one thing I didn't realize at first was that they're only good for 15 uses. I was a little bummed that I couldn't get more use out of them, but even with 15 uses, they still end up being less expensive and way more eco-friendly than many other alternatives. 

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If you want to know more about NurturMe products, head over to nurturme.com. You can view nutritional information, pricing, order online or find a list of stores where you can purchase their products. You can also check them out on FacebookInstagram and Twitter

(My kids look like they're sharing, but they're more likely stealing food from each other.)

Now for the giveaway! If you've made it all the way to the end of this post, you probably either skipped ahead to find the giveaway details, or you're super interested in learning all you can about NurturMe. Either way, here's the info you've been waiting for!

In partnership with The Homemade Haus, NurturMe is giving 1 lucky winner a gift package worth $55! All the goodies in the gift pack are pictured below. All you need to do is follow The Homemade Haus and NurturMe on Instgram AND tag a friend in the comments of the recent Instagram photo I posted of my daughter (it'll be the photo of her eating from the NurturMe eco-pouch). 

The giveaway contest will only run until Friday at 12pm (CST), so what are you waiting for? Head to Instagram to enter!

Products for review and giveaway were provided by NurturMe. All opinions are 100% my own. I only feature companies and products I truly like and strive to be thorough and honest in my reviews.

All images in this post are my own, except the final image of the gift pack, which was provided by NurturMe.  

Haus Favorites: 7 Practical Items to Give Parents of a Newborn

My husband and I have been asked a few times since we had our kids, "What did you guys find you really needed those first few months?" or "I want to bring so-and-so something they really need. What should I get?". I'm definitely no expert in the realm of motherhood. However, I do have the benefit of not having to look too far back in my memory to answer those questions (I use the word "memory" loosely, of course). 

I'll qualify this post by stating the obvious: every mom is different and every baby is different. As much as you try to prepare for your little one (or little ones), you'll never end up using things you thought you'd love and you'll find other items surprisingly indispensable. I will also say that this list is obviously not comprehensive. These are simply a few gifts and supplies that were incredibly helpful for my husband and me after we had our twins. If there existed a "new parent version" of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, these items would be level one (at least for me).

So what are a few things we really needed those first few months? Here's my answer: 

1. Dynarex Disposable Underpad. No, these weren't (primarily) for me (I won't go into the postpartum details here). I honestly don't know why these aren't on every single baby registry imaginable. I guess it's kind of a weird thing to buy someone, but my sister got these for us when we came home from the hospital and six months later, I am still thanking her (thank you, Jenn!). We've used these mostly on the changing table. When you're a new parent and your kid seems to constantly pee or poop as soon as you take their diaper off (baby boys are especially guilty of this!), these underpads are priceless - especially at 3am. No changing sheets, no wiping down a changing pad. Buy these for a new mama and she will thank you. 

2. Diapers and wipes. Giving diapers and wipes is about as practical as it gets! Need gifting ideas for cloth diapers parents? Add another cloth diaper to their stash (more diapers means laundry less often), or buy other diapering items like flushable diaper liners. (Note that especially if you give disposable diapers, include a receipt so parents can exchange them for a different size or brand if needed.)

3. Breastfeeding accessories and/or baby formula. As a breastfeeding and pumping mom, I needed things like breastmilk storage bags and nursing pads. For formula feeding parents, giving a can or two of formula is incredibly helpful. (Again, include a gift receipt on this because parents and babies may prefer certain brands over others.)

4. Laundry Detergent. The amount of laundry you have as new parent is ridiculous. You can't go wrong with gifting a huge jug of laundry detergent (try to get a natural, fragrance-free version to avoid any skin irritation for newborns). If you know the new parents are using cloth diapers, give a cloth-diaper friendly detergent.

5. Restaurant gift cards, grocery store gift cards and homemade meals. If you can make a homemade meal for someone, do it. We had meals provided for us for about three months. It was absolutely incredible. After the first round of meals was used up, we had a stock of items in the freezer that family and friends had provided. After that, we had restaurant and grocery store gift cards to use. We were given gift cards to Trader Joe's, take out places and our favorite restaurants for date nights. It was awesome. 

6. Amazon gift cards or big box store gift cards. It's nice to have a gift card or two to buy baby supplies you still need or random items you never thought of but are so thankful you can find on Amazon or at Target. 

7. Coffee. I think since having twins, our coffee consumption has increased exponentially. Give the gift of (good) coffee and sleep-deprived parents will be grateful. My suggestion, as always, is FreshGround Roasting beans. You can even buy new parents a coffee subscription for a few months so they're well caffeinated after too many sleepless nights. 

There's a lot more I could say, and there are a lot more products I could talk about (and probably will in a later post). This is just a starting point. And if the thought of giving a pack of diapers, wipes or a gift card sounds boring to you, there are fun ways to do it. My neighbors combined forces and gave us a basket stuffed full of assorted baby necessities and a super generous pile of gift cards. It was thoughtful, useful and wrapped adorably (yes, we have the world's best neighbors). 

Whatever you decide to give, know that it's appreciated. The support and encouragement shown through gift giving is powerful!

What practical items would you add to this list? I'd love to hear in the comments!

Haus Favorites: 10 Cookbooks I Use and Love

I am a total cookbook junkie. I'll flip through a cookbook as if it was a magazine, reference one like an encyclopedia and sometimes even read another like a novel. I'm obsessed. 

I firmly believe that a good cookbook is meant to be cooked from - not to just sit on the shelf. The best ones have worn pages, oil splatters, smears of batter and markings in the margins. Sure, many are designed beautifully and chock-full of incredible photography (which I love), but even these cookbooks are only as good as their recipes. 

This list definitely includes cookbooks beautiful enough to simply look through, but trust me, you'll want to cook from them, too. This is by no means an exhaustive list. I'm sure I'll have to do a Part Two of this post eventually - I had trouble narrowing my list down to these ten! There's quite a variety here, so I tried to categorize them and include specific recipes or features that I loved about each one. 

Are you a cookbook collector? Which ones would you add to this list?

Back to Basics

1. Betty Crocker's Cookbook by Betty Crocker (General Mills)

For old-school, family-style cooking, you can't go wrong with Betty Crocker. There is an updated version, but to be honest, I can only speak to the version published in 1972. My mom used this cookbook regularly growing up, and many of the recipes in it bring back special childhood memories. My copy includes my mom's adjustments penciled in, so all the dishes she made taste even better. Whether it's this or another classic, the point here is to get your hands on a well-used, loved, splattered on and marked up hand-me-down cookbook with recipes that will be passed along for generations.

Made it, love it: Traditional Sugar Cookies, Chocolate Chip Cookies, Waikiki Meatballs, Lasagne, Italian Spaghetti, Oven-Fried Chicken

2. How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman

This is one of those cookbooks that I use like an encyclopedia. True to its title, it includes recipes and tips for cooking pretty much everything. Bittman provides many base recipes and offers suggestions for how to make changes, so it's a great resources if you're wanting to experiment in the kitchen. He teaches you about the best cooking methods for certain foods and how to buy and store specific ingredients. There's also a helpful glossary provided in the back. It's a must-have for the home cook who wants to improve their food knowledge and culinary prowess.

Ina Garten

She deserves her own category. If you don't already own an Ina cookbook, you need to. The recipes in these cookbooks are entertaining-worthy, but many of them are simple enough to make on an average weeknight. 

3. How Easy is That?: Fabulous Recipes & Easy Tips by Ina Garten

The title says is all. These recipes are pretty easy. I will say that in my experience, Ina's dishes don't involve a ton of ingredients, which is great. However, the recipe will only be as good as the ingredients, so it's worth buying the best quality that you can afford.

Made it, love it: Watermelon & Arugula Salad, Lemon Chicken Breasts, Jeffrey's Roast Chicken, Roasted Salmon with Green Herbs, Roasted Butternut Squash, Homemade Chicken Stock

4. Make It Ahead: A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook by Ina Garten

When I first bought this, the title sort of threw me off. I was thinking it meant, "Make it ahead and put it in the freezer to eat a month from now." Instead, the recipes are more of a "prep or assemble a day or two in advance and then cook the day-of." Although different from what I expected, I still very highly recommend this cookbook. Every recipe I've made from it has been outstanding and the "make it ahead" concept is helpful, especially when you're entertaining.

Made it, love it: Slow-Roasted Spiced Pork, Asparagus & Prosciutto Bundles, Ginger Shortbread, Breakfast Ricotta with Berries & Maple Syrup

Health + Special Interest

Both cookbooks that I recommend in this category are Paleo/Whole30 cookbooks, so I realize that my recommendations don't cover many aspects of health-conscious eating. As I said in the beginning, I'll likely be doing a Part Two of this post, so if you have gluten-free, nose to tail, vegan, farm to table or other health and special interest cookbooks, I'd love to hear about them in the comments!

5. Well Fed: Paleo Recipes for People Who Love to Eat by Melissa Joulwan

This one got me through my first Whole30 last summer. My husband did the Whole30 with me this year, and thanks to this cookbook, he was pleasantly surprised at how good clean eating could taste. 

Made it, love it: Cinnamon Beef Stew, The Best Chicken You Will Ever Eat, Moroccan Meatballs, Chocolate Chili, Char Siu (Chinese BBQ Pork), BBQ Pork Fried Rice, Italian Sausage and Eggplant Strata, Cauliflower Rice Pilaf

6. The Whole30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom by Melissa Hartwig and Dallas Hartwig

I did the Whole30 challenge for the second time this past June, and this book made it a whole lot easier. It provides all the information you need to do a Whole30 as well as great recipes you'll want in your repertoire (even if you're not doing a Whole30). 

Made it, love it: Spinach Frittata, Stuffed Peppers, Melissa's Chicken Hash, Grilled Coconut Curry Chicken, Banger Sausage Patties with Sweet Potato Mash and Caramelized Onions, Walnut-Crusted Pork Tenderloin, Roasted Root Vegetables in Curry Sauce, No-Fuss Salmon Cakes

Baking + Desserts

When it comes to anything baking, you can't go wrong with Joy The Baker. I have both of her cookbooks and they're my go-to when it comes to decadent recipes. Yes, I know that having both clean eating and indulgent cookbooks may be contradictory, but in my opinion, there's a time for both. 

7. Joy the Baker Cookbook: 100 Simple and Comforting Recipes by Joy Wilson

Made it, love it: Oatmeal Raspberry Ginger Scones, Single Lady Pancakes, S'mores Brownies, Mommom's Chocolate Bourbon-Spiked Banana Bread

8. Homemade Decadence: Irresistibly Sweet, Salty, Gooey, Sticky, Fluffy, Creamy, Crunchy Treats by Joy Wilson

Made it, love it: Raspberry Cream Cheese Brownies, Lemon Honey Brown Butter Cupcakes, Under-Baked Chocolate Chip Skillet Cake

Getting Creative

I wasn't sure what category to put these cookbooks in. They're sort of special occasion, yet many recipes can be made on a weeknight. The common theme, though, is that I go to these when I'm looking for a little something extra or different. They're ones that inspire me creatively and stretch me a bit in the kitchen.

9. The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman

I have yet to come across a recipe in here that wasn't absolutely outstanding. Not only that, but Deb's funny and endearing writing style will make you want to read this one cover to cover (you can also follow her blog). 

Made it, love it: Eggplant and Three Cheese Calzone, Balsamic and Beer-Braised Short Ribs with Parsnip Puree, Brownie Roll-Out Cookies, White Chocolate Pudding with Blackberry Curd

10. Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London's Ottolenghi by Yotam Ottolenghi

I have to admit that I haven't cooked from this one all that much, but I can't wait to dig in more. The dishes are incredibly creative, the photography is inspiring and the recipes require me to step outside my culinary comfort zone. It'll also really make you want to eat your vegetables.

Made it, love it: Yogurt Flatbreads with Barley and Mushrooms, Crunchy Pappardelle