LA BELLA VIA

My Baby Must Haves

Monique BellaviaComment

It's been just about a year since I've had Emerson, and before I had him I spent months pouring over recommendations for baby items and what to register for. Many things I purchased or received as a gift I used but other things I barely used or didn't use at all. After a whole year I think I've come up with a list of items that are a total must have. There are other necessities as well, such as bottles, breast pumps, swaddles, and diapers but there are so many brands and I just felt like the those things can be chosen on preference. These items are ones that I just couldn't foresee myself surviving the first year without. OK, that's dramatic I would have survived but these things just made it a whole lot easier!

Baby Registry Must Haves to get you through the first year and beyond


Home Made Sweet Potato "puffs"

RECIPESMonique BellaviaComment
Puffs

Emerson is 11 months old and he just loves to feed himself. I'm always looking for yummy healthy things to give him to snack on in his high chair while I'm bustling around the kitchen or something I can bring on the go. I came across a few homemade puffs recipes and I decided to create one of my own using my sons two favorite foods: sweet potato and banana. They were so yummy even I had a few!

puffs
  • 1 very large organic sweet potato or 2 medium ones
  • 1 banana
  • 1 cup of coconut flour (or flour of your choice)
  • 1/2 cup ground flax seeds
  • 3tbs coconut oil
  • 3 tbs coconut milk ( or another milk or water)
  • 2 tbs date puree - you can follow my recipe here. (optional)
  • Cinnamon to taste (optional)

Preheat your oven to 350. To get the sweetest flavor out of your sweet potato and banana you have to bake them. The sweet potato should be done in 45 min- 1hr depending on the size and banana could be baked for about 20 min. When it's all done throw everything in a food processor or blender and mix it till it's nice and smooth. You can use a zip lock bag with the corner snipped off or a pastry bag to pipe little "puffs" on a baking sheet (I used this one). Bake for 15 min and store in the fridge. They stay well for about a week.

The most natural sweetener

RECIPESMonique BellaviaComment
Medjool_Date_Puree1.jpg

Hi, my name is Monique and I have a sugar addiction. OK there I said it. A bit dramatic; yes. But seriously, I have an insane sweet tooth! My husband and I eat healthy. We have found the "diet" (a lifestyle really) that has worked for us. We eat whole real foods. Nothing from boxes or bags or pre-made dinners. We cook, we drink about a gallon of water each a day and we exercise. But I still have this one teeny tiny obstacle that I can't seem to overcome. My sweet tooth. I cannot go a day without a sweet snack. The problem is that once I cave, I almost always over indulge. It's such a problem that after every meal I always feel as if I need to finish off with something sweet. My husband doesn't have this problem (lucky him). I know it's OK to indulge here and there and I like to live by the 80/20 rule, but deep down I know my sweet tooth is a bigger problem than I would like to admit.  I NEVER feel good afterwards. I get bloated, gassy, sleepy, sluggish and irritable. Even though I know I will inevitably feel this way afterwards, my sweet tooth always wins over my logic.

     With all that said I have been seriously trying to make adjustments to this terrible habit. For instance I have switched from coffee to tea because with tea I can drink it with little to no sweeteners. Baked goods are out of the question in my house because I will polish off the pan before the thing has time to cool! BUT, I have discovered something that changes all that. It may not fix my sugar addiction problem, but I like to think it helps in some way.

  Medjool Date pureè. The easiest thing to make and is the perfect refined sugar swap. I add it to any baking I'm doing instead of sugar and I get all the sweetness without the guilt. It's also super easy to add some sweetness to green smoothies with this on hand. Aside from being the perfect all natural sweetener, medjool dates are filled with nutritional benefits. They have a ton of fiber, and are rich in magnesium which works as an anti-inflammatory, vitamin B6 which improves brain function, and they are fat free to boot! If you're like me and need some sweet treats try keeping this in your fridge as a go to instead of the sugar!

What you'll need:

  1. Package of Medjool Dates
  2. About 1/2 cup of water (depending on how large your package of dates is)
  3. A food processor or blender

Some people soak their dates first, I don't. My pureè came out just perfect so I don't see a need to do that. You have to pit your dates first. After you're all done with that just add them to a food processor with the water and let it blend them all up till it's nice and creamy. You can store it in your fridge in an air tight container for up to 6 months!

Lately...

LIFEMonique Bellavia1 Comment

I don't think I ever fully understood the reality of how much time just flies by after you have a baby. I cannot believe that right now I'm planning Emerson's first birthday. How has it been almost a year already?! It's amazing though how easily we settle into parenthood. I remember feeling like I wasn't sure I would ever feel at ease being a mom. When Emerson was just a tiny little thing, I was so scared of everything. Scared of failing, scared I'd make the wrong choices for him, scared I'd never settle into my new role comfortably. But as the months tick on by (feeling more like weeks), the fog just sort of lifts.  I feel like this is a role I was meant to play. This is the purpose of my life.

    Emerson's personality just shines brighter each day. Today he hesitantly attempted to stand on his own. Such a little thing, a tiny little move, him gently lifting his hand away from mine to steady himself. I didn't know if it was possible for your heart to swell with pride and break at the same time. But mine did. For sure, I felt both those things. An intense pain to stop time, and keep my little baby a baby for much longer, and also this pride of being a mommy to this amazing little soul. After he lifted that little hand, and had a fit of giggles and smiles because he was just so impressed with himself, he wobbled and fell down into my arms. All was right again. Back in my happy place with my baby folded in my arms with a huge smile on his face. I hope he knows I will always be there to catch him.

Bone Broth

RECIPESMonique Bellavia2 Comments

We're deep into cold and flu season and I've already been sick twice! Just a common cold so it hasn't been the worst but not fun either. My Husband NEVER gets sick. It's beyond me how we can share a bed and he is immune to it. He decided we needed some good old bone broth to boost our (my) immunity and help cure me of my sickness. Now if you don't know just what bone broth is, it's basically just what the name says; the broth of animal bones. There is an abundance of benefits of bone broth. It's rich in minerals and antioxidants, It helps digestion, boosts immunity, and detoxifies, and it's plain old delicious on cold winter days. Here's my husband's recipe. You can sub any animal bones for the ones he used but make sure it's from a healthy animal. Grass fed and organic is best to get the best nutrients out of it. We happen to like beef more than chicken because you get a more dense flavorful broth. Also you get a nice gelatinous broth with beef. That may sound weird, but when the broth gels, that means you've really sucked all the marrow out of the bones which is just what you want!

Broth Straining
Broth with Fat
bone broth
bone broth soup

What you need:

  1. 2-3 medium sized beef bones (a butcher may even give you these for free!)
  2. a soup starter kit - large carrot, turnip, onion, celery, ect.. (basically any veggies)
  3. 3-4quarts of water (enough to cover the bones)
  4. 2 tbs apple cider vinegar
  5. slow cooker

Add all the ingredients above and cook on low for 24 hrs (yes really 24 hrs). When it's all done you'll have this delicious smelling dark amber liquid. I don't care for the animal fat that gets released so I let it chill in the fridge over night and allow the fat to harden. In the morning I just break up the fat and strain it all out (you can, if you like, save the fat for cooking). This stuff is delicious and it can be used to make so many other dishes. I even add it to my 9 month old's baby food. My husband takes cold shots of the gelatin in the mornings, I add it to smoothies but my favorite way to have it, is to sip it nice and hot! Here are my favorite toppings for the perfect cup of hot bone broth:

  1. Chives
  2. Dash of turmeric
  3. Sprinkle of salt
  4. Thyme
  5. Cilantro
  6. Avocado.

The perfect winter treat!

9 months

LIFEMonique BellaviaComment
He Loves his bath time!

He Loves his bath time!

I'm a day late but this little man is 9 months old as of Jan 26th! Where does the time go?? Every day we are completely amazed by this little boy. Everything he does puts a smile on my face or makes me laugh. He is truly our little gift from god. Lately he's been a babble monster. He likes to talk to his little stuffed animal friends at 3am. You'd think that would be the most annoying thing on the planet. I mean, who wants to be up at 3am listening and watching a baby babbling away in the baby monitor? But its not. It's actually pretty entertaining. Listening to him have full on conversations with his little crew in his crib is quite hysterical. My husband and I will take the monitor and prop it on our chest and just giggle in bed watching what we dubbed "The Emerson Show." Aside from being so talkative lately, Emerson is showing signs of being ever so fearless. He has such a strong determination about him. He sees something he wants and he is determined to make it his. NOTHING will stand in his way. I can see his spirit coming through in all he does and watching it flourish is probably the best thing ever!

Here's a little video I made on my iphone.

Bye Bye Winter Skin!

BEAUTYMonique Bellavia1 Comment
Winter Skin.jpg

My skin is typically problematic. It's not the worst, but I do struggle with some cystic blemishes here and there. Since I've had my son, my skin has been up and down. Dry, oily, acne prone, and at times smooth and glowing. It changes daily! The winter does a number on everyone's skin. Harsh wind, and cold weather, we could all use a little refreshing in that department. It's super easy to do little natural things at home that are very cost effective. These two items are a staple in our house so its a no brainer. Just rolled oats and coconut oil!

  1. Add a little of both to a small bowl (I never measure)
  2. Heat it in the microwave till it's a paste (not a liquid).
  3. Gently rub into skin in circular motions and let it sit for 5 min or so.
  4. Rinse.

       You can do this nightly, but if it's too time consuming you can try this awesome mask. I add coconut oil to my hands just before rubbing in and I finish with a light layer of coconut oil.  In the morning I wake up with glowing skin! So far this winter I have gone through it with not a single big problem to deal with and no dryness!  I loved this product so much I had to get one for my sister for Christmas and she has also agreed, it's pretty damn awesome. It leaves the skin super soft, hydrated and refreshed. My new skin care routine is so simple and my skin is looking better and better.

Two Thousand Fifteen

LIFEMonique BellaviaComment

         A new year, a new start. Leaving behind 2014 is bitter sweet. In 2014 we welcomed the birth of our beautiful baby boy Emerson, we bought a house, and I believe, 2014 was the year my husband and I grew significantly. Not physically of course, but, as individuals, as a couple, and as parents. The changes I feel in myself are so big it's hard for me to wrap my head around sometimes. I see these changes in my husband as well. It's a weird thing to realize one day "I am a grown up". I turned 31 this year and I can honestly say 2014 was the year I grew up. I am a mother, a wife, a caregiver, and as my husband dubbed me "household CEO" (although I still like to bestow him with that title).           

        Everything has a different meaning now. I mean EVERYTHING. Things that were once in the forefront of my mind are so insignificant now, and things I never imagined myself thinking about, are ALL I think about now. It's not just becoming a parent, it's being a wife, and now a home owner. You know the saying "shit just got real?" Well, it sure as heck did! And in such a short amount of time too.

        I think part of us growing up is also coming to the realization that no one knows what's best for you but you. You spend your teens and early 20's one foot in adulthood and one foot still dependent. Then, even when your two feet in adulthood you reach back every once and a while. Because sometimes making huge decisions on your own is flat out scary! But together my husband and I have learned that WE are each others council. We both come from loving supportive families that have given us strong foundations to make good decisions. This past year taught us that with what we learned from our families, together, we know what's best for us. 

     2015 and beyond is looking so bright for us Bellavias. So bright I need some sunnies to think about it! (so corny I know!) But it feels great to be heading in such a positive direction with my little tribe. Nothing in the material sense but, spiritually, emotionally, and health wise. We are committed to living a life of positivity all around and It's lookin' and feeling good!  The hubs and I have some very specific personal goals that are exciting for us to reach as a family. I have some personal ones I'd like to accomplish on my own and I know my husband has a bunch of his own as well (some involve crickets, but I wont even go there!). For right now though, on this first day of 2015 I'm going to soak up every last minute of today, with my little clan. Were gonna eat some good food, hopefully a nap for baby, and some good old conversation about our dreams with my soul mate. Happy New Year's everyone!

A few shots from our Holiday...

Jumping in

LIFEMonique BellaviaComment

I can't believe it's been almost a month since have been back at work. I guess lack of sleep will blend weeks and weeks together to form one big blob of I don't know what.

         I don't think I was fully prepared for how hard it would be to go back to work full time. And if I could press rewind and start all over I wouldn't do it cold turkey. I would start slowly, couple days here and there. Get my feet wet until I was fully submerged and it no longer felt like it was shocking my system. But that's just me.

          Week two was the hardest. Most people thinks it's probably week one, but no, it's definitely week two that really takes a toll. See, during week one your still high on showing off those baby pics and wearing clothes without spit up or poop for entire days. Sure, leaving your little bug is painfully hard. It doesn't feel natural at all, but week two is when it gets really really hard. I guess because it's final. You just think to yourself, wait, this isn't going to change, every day I will leave him and be here in this office - Every. Single. Day! Its daunting, and seriously hard to swallow.

                      I know it's easy to say "then quit and stay at home" well for most, the number one reason why that's out of the question is it's just financially not feasible, but for others, being home all day doesn't feel quite right either. It's like, when I'm home all day I feel lost and alone, and all sorts of weird. I also felt like I couldn't be the best mom I could be without the other part of me, the work me. But being at the office also feels all sorts of weird. Like something is missing. There's a giant hole right smack in the middle of my chest every day all day. I guess most women probably battle this internal fight. Your nurturing maternal side vs your strong independent woman side. It plain old sucks.

           Then there is the pumping and breast feeding juggling act you have to throw in the mix! Nature naturally fills you up with these happy little endorphins when you breast feed so that you'll grow to like it and look forward to it. It's pleasurable in a way that's really hard to put into words (after you get past that god awful painful first month). To watch my son be nurtured directly through me is just an incredible feeling that I wish upon every women. Its empowering, reassuring, and just feels so right.  But then reality and modern life has to go and screw it all up by making women go back to work 12 weeks later! So we buy these shmancy gadgets called "breast pumps" to come and replace your little babe and suck the milk out of you a few times a day. It's awful. It's painful and it's stressful squeezing in the time, trying not to rush, making sure you fully empty your breasts, and the big one; hoping against all hope that you are providing enough to feed your babe. I totally get why women give up. It's hard! I won't even get into my bouts of mastitis, milk blisters, and oversupply cause the list goes on.

         Regardless of how sleepy I am, how sore I am, how stressed I am, I will continue to give it my all for as long as my body will allow me, because I know one day when he's big enough to ask me about his early days I will sigh and dream of this wild and exciting but very short time in his life. The good, the bad, the ugly. I'm embracing all of it because for me this is mommy hood, a new exciting adventure and I wouldn't wish for it any other way. I hope all you new Mammas, and Mammas to be feel as incredible as I do in your new roles. No matter if it's full time mommy, or working mommy, whatever mommy you choose to be is the one that will fit perfectly.

Working Girl

Monique Bellavia1 Comment
12 weeks flew right on by and I am officially entering in the grown up work world again tomorrow! I am an emotional mess about it. On one hand I am so excited to be back in the city doing what I love, having grown up conversations without being covered in spit up or baby poop. But on the other hand the thought of leaving my baby in the care of someone else and missing those milestones and not getting those smiles and giggles all day is killing me. One thing is for sure, I will not feel guilty about wanting to have my own life and career. It's so bitter sweet but If I don't do this, and at least give it a really good shot, I know that in 5 years when Emerson is in school I will regret that missed opportunity, and that is something I don't think would be fair to me or him.
      I am wondering how this juggling act will be. Right now since I am breast feeding I haven't put Em on any schedule. I just feed when he's hungry, let him nap when he's sleepy, and go for walks when he's awake. I haven't let my husband do any night feedings, mainly because I've become so hooked on the closeness and bonding I get while nursing him in the middle of the night. But now real life starts. Up at 5 am, out the door by 6:45, back home by 6, bath time by 8....how we are all going to adjust to this new schedule, only time will tell.  John has been nothing but supportive and I know he's going to be so helpful in the mornings and evenings. We're both going to be a mess the first week, but It will get easier. If it didn't every other working mom out there wouldn't do it! Wish me luck on my first day, any and all advice is more than welcomed!

Our Big (little) Arrival!

Monique BellaviaComment
             6 weeks ago we welcomed our first baby into the world. Life has completely changed forever. Little Emerson Cole Bellavia surprised us a week early. I honestly did not believe I was even in labor. I really thought I would go late! But to my surprise my water broke at work, only ever so slightly. I work in the Empire State building, so I left for the hospital as per Dr.'s orders. Even though I was convinced I was still not in labor. No contractions no nothing! John left work and met me at Penn station. Well, on the walk there my water broke for real! Waterfalls in the middle of Manhattan. So I waddled faster to Penn, more waterfalls. This continued till I finally made it there and sat on a bench till our train came. Still no contractions. When we got to the hospital I was only in labor 8 hrs, and then he arrived! It was surreal and not at all how I expected it to go. I had it pretty easy for my first time, and I am so grateful for that. Emerson has flipped our lives on it's head. Some days are stressful, some are easy breezy, but we are taking each one as they come. We are completely obsessed. I can honestly say I have never experienced a love like this one. This goes way beyond unconditional. It's painful how much I love this child. Life could not be any better!


Thankful

Monique Bellavia3 Comments

                 Well it's been some time again. But I'd like to try and get back in a groove on here. Fall is coming to a close and summer is pretty much a blurry memory. A lot of exciting things are happening over in Bellavia world.
             We spent the summer looking for houses and deciding where we'd like to settle down. In August we found out we have a little one on the way! It's pretty much been a roller coaster ride since then. So many ups and downs with this house and the painstakingly long process the banks put you through now. But it will all be worth it when we have a place to call home!
             The baby ride has also been um....fun! Yes I'm SO over the moon excited, but the morning sickness was the worst! I'm the type of person that just never gets sick or throws up and that was a feeling I was not expecting. Now I seem to be coming out of that cloud. My energy is coming back and I'm almost back to normal with my eating (accept for marinara sauce, that is the devil!).
       I have SO SO much to be thankful for this thanksgiving, as I'm sure everyone does. Blame it on the hormones but when I think about all the good in my life, my family and friends, this little miracle growing inside of me, my wonderfully supportive and giving husband, it just brings tears to my eyes and once that starts, I cant stop it! So I will end here with a very happy thanksgiving to all you lovely readers (if you are in fact still visiting my little world here). I'll be back again soon! I always always come back!

New Items on Society 6!!

Monique Bellavia1 Comment
Hello Lovers! I'm going to completely ignore the big elephant in the room (aka: my blogging absence) and just let you in on a new design of mine that's available on society 6. She's a new magazine Cover Girl illustrated by me. I just lover her so, and can already see some other "cover girls" in the future along with note cards, so stay tuned!! xoxo


Summer Skin Essentials

Monique BellaviaComment





Let's face it, summer is sexy, and fun. Bare skin, hot weather, sun kissed cheeks all make me feel extra feminine. But it also can do some serious damage. Between being over exposed to harmful UV rays, accumulation of sweat, and greasy sunscreens, we are more prone to breakouts, heat rash, eczema break outs, and other irritations. I've been testing out these products for a few months now and I can attest that my testy sensitive skin has honestly never looked better. In addition to the products listed in this post I still adhere to most of the skin care regime that I posted about here. I can't live without my Clarisonic and Philosophy cleanser. But I have stopped using the No 7 Protect & Perfect Skin care items. And my Tanda zap has not been needed lately because I haven't had any break outs. That's a total win for me!

  1. Clearasil Ultra Salicylic cleansing pads: I use these after I scrub with my clarisonic and cleanse with toner. In the AM I use only this after I shower. It leaves my skin feeling so fresh and eliminates extra oil. If I ever do have a blemish they seem to disappear over night!
  2. CeraVe AM & PM face moisturizers: After the Clearasil pads, I put on two pumps of this AM or PM moisturizer. These are so lightweight oil free. Also they contain ceramides that help maintain moisture on the skin. They also contain a patented formula that creates a protective barrier on the skin. And the price tag is not too hefty!
  3. Too Faced Coconut Body Bronzing Oil & St. Tropez Self Tanning Foam: Since I protect my skin every time I'm outdoors I don't tan much. I use these two tanning produtcts to give my skin a nice glow. I even use the tanning foam on my face at night even though they make one for the face. I have yet to have any irritation.
  4. CeraVe Body & Face Suncreen: I use this brand for my sunscreen because they contain all the good things that the face moisturizers have. They are also non-comedogenic and oil free!
 I hope you are all having a wonderful summer and protecting that gorgeous skin!

Nutella Peanut butter Graham Non-Dairy Ice Cream

Monique Bellavia2 Comments
Ok So I'll admit I have an addiction to making ice creams. It's insanely easy, so much fun, and absolutely delicious! Not all my Ice creams turn out good (like the mint Julep non dairy one that took me forever and never actually froze up! I didn't even bother posting about that one!) but when they do turn out well, I feel its my non-diary ice cream maker duty to inform my lovely readers. I think I'll make it a weekly habit this summer to post a non-dairy ice cream recipe. What do you guys think about that? I know it will certainly make my husband happy!
        This recipe was inspired by my Husband's love for peanut butter and my love for Nutella. Of course we added a cookie for crunch. Because the BEST ice creams always have a crunch factor. We had some grahams so that's what I threw in. Now, Nutella isn't actually non-dairy. I particularly don't mind that. But if you do and you really want to make this 100% non-dairy, feel free to make your own version of Nutella as opposed to buying the store bought version.





Ingredients

  1. 1 can of full fat coconut milk (to get the closest to real ice cream don't use the light version)
  2. 1/4 cup unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  3. 4 tbs raw honey
  4. 1 tsp vanilla extract
  5. 4 tbs coconut cream - This will make your ice cream creamy and also add some sweetness. This stuff has a lot of sugar so you can omit and just adjust your honey if you don't care to use this. It is also very calorie heavy so if your concerned with that, I would suggest omitting.
  6. 4-5 cracked graham crackers. (leave them in chunks)
  7. 1/4 cup peanut butter I use this one. It's the best tasting peanut butter I've ever had!
  8. 1/4 cup Nutella (or you can make you own non-dairy one following this recipe)
Directions
    Combine your coconut milk, honey, coconut cream, and vanilla and whisk till everything is incorporated. Add your cocoa powder and whisk until it's all incorporated.  Pour your mixture into an ice cream maker and mix according to the directions adding in the graham crackers during the last 5 minutes of mixing. Mean while, pop your peanut butter and Nutella (in separate bowls) into the microwave for a quick 30-50 seconds so it's a more liquid consistency. Pour them into your ice cream maker at the same time. Only let the mixer go for another 2 min max. You don't want the peanut butter and Nutella blending in too much. You want to aim for a swirl effect. Your ice cream will seem melted because you heated the extras. That's ok. Just transfer your ice cream mix to a container and freeze for an extra hour before serving. Enjoy!!

Happy Friday!!

Monique Bellavia1 Comment
Happy Friday lovelies!! I hope you all had a wonderful week! The weather has been heating up here in NY and I'm so loving this little taste of summer we have. The Hubs and I plan on hitting the beach this weekend, here's what else I'm looking forward to...
1 / 2 

Do you lovely readers have any special plans? I'd love to hear!