Crock Pot Applesauce (No Peeling, No Sugar)


Anyone who’s spent time with Isaiah knows that he’s obsessed with apples. He eats them whole…core and all.

Actually, remember this article that came out recently? It was no surprise to us, because Isaiah had already figured it out.

Add Isaiah’s love for all things ‘apple’ to Samuel’s current stage in baby food, and I figured it was about time for me to make my own applesauce. That, plus, we’re single handidly keeping the squeezable applesauce company in business. So the savings would be nice.

I’d been seeing a lot of “crock pot applesauce” recipes floating around, so I decided to give it a whirl. Believe it or not, I actually flew blind on this one–so I wasn’t quite sure how it would turn out (the only thing I looked up was how long to cook the apples).

I knew a few things going in: a)I wanted to use the peels (because I’m lazy AND that’s where most of the fiber comes from) and b) I wanted little no sugar. So with those two things in mind, I got to work.

And guess what? It turned out AMAZING.

Here’s what I did:

Start with 10 washed apples (and of course, you can double the recipe). Chop them up into 1 inch (ish) pieces, peel and all. Throw them in the crock pot with 1 cup of water, 3 tbsp of lemon juice, 2 tsp cinnamon, and 2 tbsp REAL maple syrup. 

Then cook on low for 4 hours.

After 4 hours, mash the apples with a potato masher until you reach your desired consistency. Note: you can also pour into a food processor if you really want to grind up the peels as much as possible. Personally, I like the chunkier texture. 

I also think the word “chunky” should be removed from the English language. Just sayin’.

That’s it. It’s really that simple. You can serve it cold, or warm. And it would be SO GOOD over vanilla bean ice cream.

Or…buy these re-usable squeeze containers and take it with you as a snack.

It’s official. I’m never buying applesauce again.

Helping Your Toddler Adjust to The New Baby…


If you had asked me what I was most worried about when I was pregnant, I would have answered, “Isaiah.” I was so nervous about how he’d handle a new baby. In fact, I lost sleep over it. (As if you need to loose any more sleep when you are pregnant…)

Truth be told, it’s going so much better than I ever anticipated.

Now trust me, I’m no fool. I know that once Samuel starts crawling, walking, and “borrowing” Isaiah’s toys…the story will change pretty quickly.

But for now, I am happy with their peaceful existence.

Before Samuel arrived, I spent hours researching the best ways to help Isaiah adjust. And now that we’re a few months in, I thought I’d share what has really worked best for us. A cheat sheet, if you will. Because that’s the EXACT sort of thing I was looking for, but never found.

1. Prepare before little one’s arrival:

In Isaiah’s toy bin, I’ve always kept my favorite doll from when I was a little girl. I know, he’s a boy, and most boys don’t like dolls. But I figured, why not? 

Well, when I started to explain that a new baby would be coming, that doll came in very handy. I was able to use the doll as a visual, and explain that the new baby would be small and fragile. We practiced being gentle, and sometimes even being quiet (pretending that the doll was “sleeping”). So once Samuel arrived, Isaiah already had some idea about how things would be.

Note: I’d also throw “reading” in this category. Isaiah’s favorite books were the ones that didn’t go over the top. Like this one, or this one

2. Involve them:

This one’s an old favorite, but I had to include it in the list since it’s worked so well. Give your toddler the role of “helper.” Isaiah has been Samuel’s bath time helper since day one. And he takes his role very seriously. It allows him to have some responsibility, and allows Mommy to praise him for his behavior and involvement. And a little praise goes a LONG way.

3. Talk to the new baby ABOUT big brother/sister: 

This one was huge for us. Whenever you are talking to baby, and big brother/sister is within earshot…brag about them! For example:”Samuel, when you get bigger, I bet your brother will teach you all about baseball. He’s a REALLY good baseball player. He knows how to hit, and catch, and run all of the bases!”

It builds up their ego, and reminds them in a subtle way that they are unique and special.

4. Build up the big brother/sister role:

Remind them why being the big sibling is the “better deal.” For example: We would tell Isaiah…”It’s a good thing your are the big brother, because you get to go swimming with Daddy today. Samuel is still too little to be in the sun, so he’ll have to wait until he’s a little bigger to go.”

This made Isaiah feel so special. And reminded him that being the big brother, does in fact, have it’s perks. 

5. Listen to them:

Every night, we try and have “talking time.” Sometimes it’s at dinner, sometimes it’s before bed. But it’s simply a time to talk to Isaiah, and most importantly, listen. I’ve found that he wont initially share things on his own (every child is different). But if you ask the right questions, he’ll open right up. So to me, it was extremely important to let him share his feelings about the new baby. What he liked, what he didn’t like. It allowed me to reassure him, and most importantly, it validated his feelings and made him feel heard.

The sibling relationship is a tough one. And I know things wont always be pretty. But it was so important to me to get them going on the right foot. And so far? We’ve had success. I love how much Isaiah adores his little brother. I love that he wants to include him in everything, and his favorite part of the day is “brother time.”

It melts me. And I want to be able to remember it always. Especially for when they are arguing over the Wii remote one day…

Rainbow Mobile “How To”

First things first…

I was so honored to have my homemade bubble wand pinned by the fine folks at FamilyFun Magazine!


(I was all, really?!?! Really.) So exciting and such a big deal to little ol’ me.

I just had to share. ;)

Now, for those who may have missed it…I already shared our special story behind this mobile. But I definitely thought a “how-to” was in order, as well.

It was a much easier project than I anticipated. I had an exact mental image of what I wanted this mobile to look like. And believe it or not, a good friend sent me a picture of something similar that she found, with our new little one in mind (without even knowing our full story). Can you say ‘meant to be’?

It was just a tad too pricey, and also meant to hang like a typical mobile. My vision was for the clouds to float from the sky, so…I decided to make my own version.


To make, all you need is white thread, scissors, white twine (to hang) and white or pearl mini-beads.

I bought two sheets of felt in white, and several other colors that coordinated with the nursery (one sheet of each color).

Then it was time to cut. I eyed the cloud shape, and after cutting the first one…used it as a pattern to cut all six pieces. Then I did the same for the rainbow drops, cutting two of each color.


After cutting, I  paired the pieces and begin sewing (by hand), leaving one section incomplete for stuffing (both in the clouds and the rainbow drops).


I used plain cotton to lightly stuff each one, and then completed the final stitches.

All that was left was to string the drops to the clouds (I used beads to disguise the white knots in the colored rainbow drops, which can be seen below), and secure each cloud to the ceiling using white twine and eye hooks.

Samuel Aars-3

The whole project took about 3 hours, from start to finish.  And I couldn’t be happier with the result. These mobiles are so very special to me–a beautiful reminder of our baby boy, and what we went through to get him here.

Now…I just hope Samuel likes them as much as I do. ;)

Sweet Samuel

I’m waaaaaay behind on posting these. In fact, I am working on Samuel’s “two month” post right now. But I couldn’t let another day pass without sharing them. My sister did a fantastic job, yet again, capturing our precious new addition (and his furry sister).

We’re hoping to do a family session sometime this fall. I had just returned home from the hospital when these were taken, and needless to say, wasn’t feeling up to being photographed. But I cannot wait to capture our family of four. (Oops. Five. Sorry, Hershey girl)


Samuel Aars-16

Samuel Aars-2

Samuel Aars-12

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Samuel Aars-18

Samuel Aars-30

Rainbow Mobile

Samuel Aars-3

We kept our nursery pretty much the same for Samuel, but I wanted to make a few changes to make the room special for him.

One of those changes was the mobile…

I’ll be honest, I cried a little when I took down Isaiah’s flying planes. But the new mobile was so perfect, it softened the blow. ;)

I’ll be posting a “how to” in a few days. But first, I thought I’d explain the meaning behind it. And as I do, bear with me…it’s a hard place to revisit.

(Deep breath)

Last July, we lost a little angel.

I was three months along when we got the news. You can imagine our shock, since we were out of the normal “danger zone.”

I was devastated. And scared. Terrified that something was wrong, and that more children wouldn’t be in the cards for us.

I once saw a painting depicting miscarriage. It was of a woman, arms cradled and empty, with a hole where her heart once was. And nothing could better describe how I felt, and on some level, will always feel.

One thing is for sure, I will always love that child. He changed my life for the better–reminding me that life is short, and not to be wasted. He spurred me to make a major life change, and for that I will always be grateful.

The week after we found out, I had to get away. Somehow, it seemed like exactly what I needed to begin healing. So Michael and I jumped on a flight to California, where we could take a break from the tears, and forget–if even for a few days.

On the plane ride home, the reality returned. All I can remember is staring out the window, and crying. I spent the entire flight praying–for peace, for comfort, and for any kind of hope that we may see another child in our future. I begged God for some kind of reassurance.

And no lie. At that very moment, a rainbow appeared out my window. Have you ever seen a rainbow from a plane? It’s stunning. And surreal.

I immediately remembered that in the Bible, a rainbow was considered “God’s promise” (Genesis 9:13).

And in that moment, I cried. Even harder than I already was. Thankful.

Soon after we got home, and much to my surprise…I learned that babies born after a loss are traditionally called “rainbow babies.”

More tears.

Fast forward three months. We found out we were pregnant, and in my fear, I quickly turned to the memory of that rainbow. It comforted me. It gave me peace. And it gave my heart hope. I was terrified to relive our pain, and every time the fear consumed me–I remembered the day I saw his “promise” outside my window.

That day was July 8th, 2012.

And one year later, to the day. We welcomed little Samuel into our world. 

Indeed, God is good. And his plan is divine.

I stitched Samuel’s mobile by hand about a week before he arrived. Each stitch was somehow thereaputic. A reminder of that very special rainbow. And inspired by something my sweet Grandpa Keener used to say…

“No rain. No rainbows.”

Well, we had our rain. And now, we have our rainbow.

Our special mobile is a beautiful reminder of sweet Samuel, for which I will thank God, every day of my life.

 And she named him Samuel, for she said, “I have asked him of the Lord.”
-1 Samuel 1:20

Peet Potatoes and Nanas

A few of you have asked about making baby food…

I love making Isaiah’s food. We started Isaiah on solids at 6 months, right about the time I stopped nursing. I think deep down, making his food was one of my ways of coping with that change. Regardless, I love knowing where his food comes from and just what goes into it. Which is 100% pure L.O.V.E.

Just kidding. It’s carrots.


For me, the large batches are key. I’m a busy, full-time working Mom…so anything I can do to make our home life a little easier is well worth it. I’ve mentioned before that I use the Baby Bullet, which has been a lifesaver for me. It comes with everything: large batch blender, small batch blender, and small portion containers.

I absolutely love the fact that the small containers have a dating system, so you know when the batch was made.


My one gripe: it only comes with one freezing tray – which is no bueno when it comes to making large batches. Not only that, but the freezer tray has odd sized portions* (I explain more below). To solve the problem, I went ahead and invested in three Beaba system freezer trays. Everything else about the Baby Bullet is perfect. It’s inexpensive, a breeze to work with, and a cinch to clean. It even has it’s own milling blade to make cereals.

We started Isaiah on the basics (sweet potatoes, bananas, and apples) introducing one food at a time for four days each, to watch for any allergies. You can find lists of ‘stage one’ foods most places online, but here’s the short list at our house.

Stage One:
Sweet Potatoes

and also a helpful list…

Foods to Avoid in the First Year:
Peanut Butter
Egg Whites
Whole Milk

So far Isaiah’s been your pretty typical baby. Loves his “peet potatoes” and “nanas” but won’t touch anything green except for Zucchini. Wonder where he gets that from?

I’ve included a few of my “recipes” on this page, but for those who are interested…here’s my process (in a nutshell).

-I buy all organic fruits and veggies and wash them well in a white vinegar/water solution. I peel most everything before boiling (you can also steam to maximize the vitamins and nutrients) except for some fruits, like apples. I’ve found these are easier to slice and boil, allowing the peels to come off in the water.


-After boiling I simply blend and pour into the freezer trays. It’s that easy. Each tray holds 7 portions (one portion equals one small store-bought jar – Isaiah started off at half a portion per sitting, along with 2tbsp rice cereal).


-Now I’m sure everyone finds an organization system that they like best, but this is what works for me: once frozen, I pop out the portions (trays are flexible rubber) and store two portions in one labeled snake-sized Ziplock.


-Once I’ve accumulated a stack of baggies, I store them all in one big Ziplock labeled by food. This makes it easy to thumb through two rows of freezer bags, and find the food you want.


-Every three or four days, I take out a baggie of fruits and a baggie of veggies and place each frozen serving into an individual Tupperware container. Then I place them all in the fridge to thaw slowly. Note: this is a personal preference. I don’t like thawing in the bags, because it becomes a sticky mess. Trust me, it’s much easier to spoon out of Tupperware than a flimsy plastic bag.

*And this is where I like the Beaba freezer trays best. The Beaba portions fit perfectly into the mini-Tupperware containers. The Baby Bullet frozen portions are a bit too tall, which means the
Tupperware lids don’t close completely. Manageable, but annoying nonetheless.


It’s that simple. Short of feeding baby…you’re done.

If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that some produce seems to make more puree than others – sweet potatoes for instance. Four sweet potatoes fills about three trays. But four apples fills about one. Go figure. Just keep this in mind before you rush to make 12 sweet potatoes, like I did. The good news is, we’re set on sweet potatoes until 2013.

All in all, it’s such an easy process. And I get such a secret thrill out of opening the freezer every day to an organized feast of baby goodness. But then again, I’m strange like that.

Here are a few basic recipes. I’ll be adding more to the list once Isaiah starts to expand his “menu.”

Happy blending!

Baby bests: Dad’s picks

So after I wrote my list of baby bests I realized that there were more. A lot more. More specifically, Dad had his own list of items to contribute. So here goes. The floor is yours, Michael…. (hold onto your hats.)

When Allison and I went to register for our impending bundle of joy at Babies ‘R’ Us, we were handed a brochure “advising” us of the essentials. It did not take a Rhodes Scholar to soon realize that the essentials included something from every isle. Well played, Geoffrey.

So we, in retrospect, have developed our own list of essentials. Stuff that, if we had to do it all over again, we wouldn’t do it without.

Best argument solver: One Line a Day book


In any good marriage, someone has to be right. In my marriage, I hope it’s me. Which is why this handy little sentiment catcher is invaluable. Set up as a daily journal, I record a few short sentences about Isaiah’s milestones every night. (OK, I often have to catch up at the end of the week.)

Not only is it a treasure chest of my thoughts all the way back to the day he was born, if Allison and I can’t agree on “when he first rolled over” or “what he weighed at his 90 day appointment”, there it all is in immortal ink to prove me right. A difficult thing to do without substantial evidence. It’s become a fun game for us (“Go get the Argument Solver!”) but more importantly, we cherish having a record of our little miracle, jotted down 5 minutes at a time.

Thanks to my brother James and bride Krissy for the gift. I honestly wouldn’t have taken on the ambitious task (it has a daily entry spot for five years) had they not been smart enough to push me off the cliff.

Best burp cloths: Aden and Anais

I am in charge of, and love having, the last feeding of the night. And I must admit my immature delight when my son shatters the evening silence with a triumphant belch – the one thing keeping him from restful sleep. But not all burps are without liquid hitchhikers. In order to protect my clothes, the carpet, the chair, the neighboring rooms – I love this brand of burp cloth (thanks, Grandma B). Soft, large, and printed with zoo animals (for my viewing entertainment) I won’t sit down to the task without them, and often accuse Alli of moving them on purpose when I can’t find them.

Best diapers: Pampers Sensitive

We’ve tried an awful lot of diapers, and these are the clear winners in our book. No offense to you Huggies fans out there, but we’re Pampers parents. And we won’t buy anything but the Sensitive. Partly because Isaiah seems to favor them, and partly because the Regular kind have a…unique…chemical smell when peed in. And I only had to pee in three to figure that out.

Look I made it through a whole diaper post without a joke about what a dirty job it is. Well, almost.

Best Backup Diapers: Pampers Extra Protection

On exactly June 29th (thanks, Argument Solver) Isaiah stopped sleeping through the night because a size 1 diaper became too overwhelmed with liquid to keep it in, and a size 2 diaper was too loose-fitting to retain it. Cue panic. We worked very hard to get our sleep back. Duct tape was considered.

Again at the suggestion of Krissy, we discovered this wonderful invention called Nighttime Diapers. I now own stock in Pampers. Actually I can’t afford it. But I do have restful dreams about owning stock in Pampers.

Best Nursery Item: mp3 player alarm clock

Part of Isaiah’s nighttime ritual is lullaby music. We’ve read classical music makes babies smarter. There also needs to be a dash of Disney tunes to make him a faithful toddler consumer. (There is the economy to think of.) Thanks to this stereo and our gender-neutral hot pink iPod, the evening quiet is spared my singing.

Best Daddy item: the man’s diaper bag

Isaiah’s brilliant Godparents, Maria and Brandon, insisted this be their pre-baby gift to us. They deserve the child-rearing Medal of Honor. 
The beauty of the man bag is twofold: 1. I don’t look like a complete ninny with Teddy Bears hugging Duckies in a cocoon of World Peace. “Gee, look at that man holding a baby with the cool bag. Is he carrying a laptop? A minibar? A machine gun? He’s probably taking his son to some big, important meeting where they sign things and such.”
Insecurities aside, the more important reason: 2. When there is no sharing of the bag – Mom has her own – there is no blaming the other when you’re the parent who went to church without a Paci or Diapers packed in your survival equipment. Trust me, when in a bathroom stall, wondering how someone so small could make so much, it is always your spouse’s fault if you don’t have wipes. With your own bag, you have to deal with the sobering fact that you got yourself into this mess, you’re gonna have to get yourself out.
I hope the list helps, or at least encourages you that raising a child isn’t difficult provided you’ve surrounded yourself with generous people smarter than you.
And speaking of…Alli back to you. I need to check my bag for diapers, I think you removed some when I wasn’t looking.