Monday, November 17, 2014

Recipe for a great holiday

The shadows have grown long.  The colors are falling from the trees.  Thanksgiving is in the air.  I can almost smell it!

Yes, I said smell.  That's because one of my favorite parts of the holidays is the food.  As a special treat this year, I'm sharing some of my family's should-be-famous recipes.

You can't have Thanksgiving without the dressing.  No, seriously.  I think it's a law in like 27 states.  My mom always cooks the dressing, not only for our gathering but she is also required to make the dressing for several of her friends' Thanksgivings, too!  Not sure if this is a secret family recipe, but I'm sharing it anyway.  Hi, Mom!

Cornbread Dressing
4 eggs / 6 tablespoons vegetable oil / 6 cups self-rising corn meal / 1 quart buttermilk / 16 slices white bread / 3 cups chopped celery / 2 large onions / 1 cup chopped bell pepper / 1/2 cup butter

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Combine eggs and oil; stir in meal; add buttermilk and mix well.  Pour batter into 2 (10 or 12 inch) iron skillets; bake about 35 minutes or until brown on top.  Cool cornbread on rack; crumble.  Cool oven to 250 degrees and toast white bread until thoroughly dry; crumble and add to cornbread.  Saute celery, onions, and pepper in butter; combine with breads.  At this point dressing may be frozen in 2 (1/2 gallon) containers.  When ready to bake, add the following ingredients to each 1/2 gallon of dressing mix.

1/2 cup butter / 4 tablespoons dried parsley / 3 teaspoons poultry seasoning / 1 teaspoon thyme / 1 teaspoon sage / 4 eggs, beaten / 3 tablespoons baking powder / chicken broth (approximately 35-50 oz)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees; mix all ingredients well, using enough chicken broth to make a consistency of unbaked cornbread.  Bake for 35-45 minutes.

MOM'S NOTES:  She only makes one batch of this dressing, so she will half all the ingredients at the top except for butter.  She uses the full 1/2 cup to saute veggies.  She then freezes as explained.  The night before making, she takes out of freezer to thaw.  About an hour before serving she adds all the other ingredients (seasonings, butter, eggs, and broth) and bakes as directed.  This makes a 9 x 13 and a 8 x 8 casserole.  She always freezes the 8 x 8 after baking.  Such a nice treat to have dressing in March without all the hassle! 

One of Emma's favorite dishes is my mom's mashed potato casserole.  I have tried making this myself but I must not be doing something right because that girl can put some down when my mom makes it!  This also happens to be my brother's only request every Thanksgiving.

Mashed Potato Casserole
8-10 medium baking potatoes / 8 ounces cream cheese / 1 cup sour cream / salt and pepper / 2 tablespoons butter / paprika

Peel, slice, boil, and drain potatoes.  Mix with cream cheese, sour cream, and butter.  Beat until fluffy.  Season to taste.  Sprinkle lightly with paprika.  Bake at 325 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

Next up is the sweet potato casserole.  I think I might introduce Baby Sage to some sweet potatoes before Thanksgiving so he'll be ready for this.  I know he'll thank me later.

Sticking with the casserole theme, I always have to have squash casserole, so I will be making that this year.

Squash Casserole Recipe
1 cup water  / 2 teaspoons salt, divided / 1/8 teaspoon sugar / 6 medium yellow squash, sliced / 7 tablespoons unsalted butter / 4 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded / 8 ounces sour cream / 5 medium green onions, chopped / 1/2 cup parmesan cheese / 1 cup bread crumbs

Add 1 teaspoon salt and sugar to water.  Simmer squash over low heat, covered, 15 minutes.  Drain squash and return to pan.  Add 4 tablespoons butter and blend with squash.  Stir in cheddar cheese, sour cream, green onions, 1 teaspoon salt and parmesan cheese.  Pour squash mixture into a casserole dish.  Top with bread crumbs and remaining butter.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

All of the recipes up to this point have been in my family and on our Thanksgiving table for as long as I can remember.

One dish that has been added recently is pretzel salad.  Ann (known as AA by Emma) makes this, not just for Thanksgiving but for every holiday.  I had never heard of pretzel salad until I moved to Decatur.  But it is delicious!

Strawberry Pretzel Salad
2 cups crushed pretzels / 3/4 cup melted butter / 3 tablespoons sugar, plus 3/4 cup sugar / 8 ounces cream cheese / 8 ounces whipped topping /  2 (3 ounce) package strawberry gelatin dessert mix / 2 cups boiling water / 2 (10 ounce) packages frozen strawberries

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  For the crust, mix the pretzels , butter, 3 tablespoons of sugar.  Press this mixture into a 9 x 13 pan and bake for 7 minutes.  Set aside and allow to cool.

In a mixing bowl, beat together cream cheese and 3/4 cup of sugar.  Fold in the whipped topping, and spread over the cooled crust.  Refrigerate until well chilled.

In a small bowl, dissolve the gelatin in the boiling water, and allow to cool slightly.  Add the strawberries and pour over the cream cheese mixture.  Refrigerate until serving time.  

Oh, and of course there'll be turkey.  At least we hope there will be.  Sage is handling the turkey for the first time ever this year and will be smoking one on the Big Green Egg.

Well, there you have it.  I'm not sure if I was suppose to share all of those.  Guess I'll find out soon enough.

What are you most looking forward to this Thanksgiving?  What are some of your favorite dishes/recipes?

Monday, October 27, 2014

Halloween is near!

Carving pumpkins.  Picking out a cute costume.  Sneaking some of your child's candy.  Is there anything better than Halloween when you're a mom?

This will be my first Halloween with two kids, which means that for the first time, I get to coordinate costumes!  I won't even attempt to hide my excitement.

Emma absolutely loves the movie "Frozen" so choosing a theme this year was easy.  Emma will go as Elsa, while Baby Sage will be Olaf.  Oh, he is going to make the cutest snowman!

I actually found a lady in Illinois to make Emma's costume.  The only issue was getting a 2-year old to sit still so that I could take measurements.  So if it isn't an absolute perfect fit, you'll know why.

This will be Emma's first year to go trick-or-treating.  Last year, we felt she was still too young (even though she had the most adorable little pumpkin costume!).  We will probably take her to visit a few of our favorite neighbors within walking distance.  Then it's off to G-Daddy and AA's house.  You know grandparents always have the good stuff!

I love Halloween and am looking forward to a fun night.  I'm anxious to see how Emma does trick-or-treating.  And of course, I'll be taking lots of pics of the kids and their coordinating costumes.

What costume did your child (or you) pick for Halloween this year?  Will they be trick-or-treating?

Whatever you have planned, most of all be safe.  And Happy Halloween from Cloud 9, Elsa, and Olaf.

Monday, October 13, 2014

A few of my favorite things (about fall)

What do I love about fall?  How much time do you have?

I love the weather.  We've had a few fall-like days already.  I just wish it would stay that way!  There's something about fall weather that makes me want to sit out on the porch and enjoy a big glass of red wine.  It's the perfect time of year for enjoying our screened-in porch.

I love going to the beach this time of year.  It's no longer so hot, but sill nice.  Not to mention not as crowded.  We have gone to the beach in October every year since we started dating.  These days, we share our October beach trip with another couple and their little girl.

I love Halloween!  It has always been my favorite holiday, and now that I get to dress up two little ones, well that just makes it even better.  I will be coordinating their outfits this year.  Stay tuned to find out what they will be.

And of course, there's football.  It kind of takes over the South in the fall.  Football provides a good reason to get together with friends and socialize.  I sometimes get so involved in conversation with friends that I forget to pay attention to the game.  Oops!  But not to worry, eventually someone's husband will yell at the TV and get our attention.

Fall is all these things and more.  It's a trip to a pumpkin patch, mums on the front porch, watching the leaves start to change and the fall breeze that blows them out of the trees.

My only problem with fall?  It doesn't last long enough.

What are your favorite things about fall?  Do you have any fall traditions?

Monday, October 6, 2014

A Balancing Act

Let's be clear:  All mothers are working mothers.  It's just that some of us also have jobs outside of the home.  Earlier this year, I went from being a working mom of one to being a working mom of two.

Baby Sage is three months old now (almost three-and-a-half).  And even though I haven't gone back to work full-time, I pop in the store to work on displays and other things during the week.  Of course, Baby Sage is normally strapped to me in his carrier on those days.  Or AA rocks him and holds him while he sleeps.  (It's a tough job being a grandparent!)

Otherwise, I am working from home a lot, planning in-store events, posting on social media, and updating the Cloud 9 website with new products.  Emma is going to school three days a week now, so I mostly work on those days while Baby Sage sleeps -- also known as, when he is between meals.

Of course, there are many times I don't get anything done and can feel frustrated.  But it is such a blessing to be able to work from home as much as I have and have my sweet baby boy with me that the frustration never lasts very long.

Now that my busiest time of the year is creeping up and we often have multiple shipments arriving daily, I have been going into the store on Sunday afternoons to get some work done.  I try and go during nap time, but some days I wind up being at the store longer than that.  I feel guilty for not being home to spend beautiful Sunday afternoons with my babies.  Although sometimes (when Emma isn't her happiest), I don't mind it as much.

I think it's all about a good balance of work and family time.  That's what I strive for.  And though it's not always easy, I wouldn't have it any other way.

What are some things you do to ensure you get quality family time amidst housework, errands, a career, and all the other things moms have to do?

Monday, July 28, 2014

All About Baby Sage

Baby Sage turned one month old on Saturday.  Two months will be here before we know it.  (Like really, I don't think he'll even know it.)  So allow me to introduce you to our newest bundle of eating and sleeping, and joy.

It seems we have forgotten what it was like to have a baby and it's only been two years since Emma.  But we love having a baby in the house.  They smell so good!  And we forgot how much they love to snuggle up on us and the sweet little noises they make.

As best I can tell, Baby Sage's two favorite things are eating and sleeping.  Now we may spend more time sleeping, but let me tell you, that boy does not miss a meal!

He typically wakes around 2 AM and again at 5:30 to eat.  He weighed 8 pounds, 9 ounces when he was born.  And at his two week checkup, he was already up to 9 pounds, 1 ounce, and 21 inches long! Our pediatrician says he is going to be a fast grower.  I agree!

Otherwise, Baby Sage is pretty laid back, just like his daddy.  I guess their name isn't the only thing they share.  When he isn't napping, he loves to play on his play mat and look at the fish hanging above it.  Another favorite spot is in my carrier, and of course, I like having him that close, too!

Now as for Miss Emma, she absolutely loves being a big sister!  Or, as she calls it, "a little momma."  She gathers pacifiers, blankets, bottles, you name it.  She likes being Momma's big helper.

She is so cute.  Sometime she will just sit next to Baby Sage and stare at him while he sleeps.  Of course, other times, she decides he needs his pacifier while sleeping and tries to shove it in his mouth.  Being gentle is something we are working on.

But overall, Emma has handled having a baby brother so well, and that has helped make our transition from one child to two go pretty smoothly.

So far.

I'll get back to you once Baby Sage becomes mobile or stops sleeping so much.

Photos taken by Lauren Tomasella Photography.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Heat Safety Tips for Infants

"The Heat is On" has been our theme this month at Cloud 9.  Of course, that always seems to be the theme for summertime weather in Alabama.

We did a blog post a few weeks ago about keeping your little ones safe in the sun  But today we want to focus more specifically on heat safety, and the dangers of overheating.

Young infants, and newborns especially, don't have as many glands as adults, and they're not yet fully able to regulate their own body temperature.  Therefore, they are at an increased risk of overheating.  This is something I'm mindful of with Emma and Baby Sage.

Emma loves to play outside, but we have to make sure she plays safe.  We typically walk down to the park as a family in the evening just before dinner, letting her play when it's not the hottest time of the day.  I also make sure Emma always has water with her.  Of course, she usually gets too busy playing and I have to remind her to drink periodically.

Here are a few more heat safety tips to help keep your little one safe:

-A general rule of thumb is to dress your newborn in the same amount of clothing you're wearing, plus one layer.  If you cover your baby's car seat with a blanket or something else to transport due to rain, be sure to remove that as soon as you're inside.  It doesn't take long at all for little ones to get hot!

-If you're using a wearable carrier to transport your little one (which we totally recommend!), make sure to dress down a layer, and choose one that is breathable.  Your body heat will help keep your little one warm.

-Bedtime is one of the most important times to make sure your infant does not overheat.  Overheating in bed has been linked to SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), so it's something I talk about a lot.

-An ideal temperature for your baby's nursery is between 68-72 degrees.  We swaddle Baby Sage (and did Emma, too), but if you choose not to swaddle, make sure you go for a sleep sack or warm sleeper - skip the loose blankets.  We carry a lot of these great products at Cloud 9.

Sometimes, no matter how many precautions you take, your newborn may still get too hot.  Be sure to watch for these signs of overheating, and if you see them, get him or her medical attention immediately:

  • Hot, dry skin
  • Very high fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Agitation
How do you keep your little ones from getting too hot?

Monday, July 14, 2014

Traveling With Baby

It seems like almost everyone I know is either at the beach, about to go to the beach, or just got back from the beach.  It's July, the heat is on, and it's that time of the year.

Traveling long distance can be tough for children.  Here are a few tips making travel easier for small children:

 -Having activities kids can do in the car, both by themselves or interactive games everyone can play. 

-Plan to stop every couple of hours to allow your child to get out of the car and stretch.  Finding a local park or just letting them play at a rest stop can also allow children to burn off some energy.

 -If all else fails, and you're traveling with your spouse or another adult, pull over and have someone sit in the back seat with the child for awhile.  A little company can go a long way.

 -When possible, try to plan the trip so at least part of it takes place during nap time for your child.

 That last tip has worked well for us.  When we travel with Emma, we always try to hit the road right around her nap time.  She typically drifts off to sleep before we even get out of Decatur.

 When going to the beach, we usually leave in the evening after my husband gets off work, and Emma sleeps the entire way.  We've been very fortunate, I know!

 Another thing to consider when traveling with toddlers is choosing the right car seat.  I couldn't believe when I read that 73% of car seats are not used or installed correctly!  Here is a site with some good tips on choosing a car seat:

 When I was researching car seats, safety was the most important factor for me.  I read lots of reviews and talked to other moms.

 Emma was in a rear-facing seat until 18 months.  Then she wanted to face forward.  I loved looking in the backseat and seeing her smiling face back there.

 Once she outgrew her infant car seat, we looked for a car seat that would grow with her.  Again, after talking with lots of other moms, we decided to go with a Britax Roundabout.  It could be rear-facing and forward-facing!

 In a couple of weeks, I'll be driving Emma and Sage to the beach, by myself!  I'll be joining my husband's sister and mother, and my mother down there.  It's a girls trip!  Well, plus Baby Sage.

 Right now, Sage is eating about every 4 hours and sleeping the majority of the day.  So maybe he will sleep that well in the car to make for an easy trip.

 A girl can hope, can't she!

 I hope you have happy, and most of all, safe travels this summer.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Becoming a big sister

The impending arrival of Baby Sage means Mommy and Daddy are getting a new baby.  The grandparents are getting a new grandchild.  But these things have happened before.

However, one thing will be happening for the very first time:  Miss Emma will become a big sister.

Emma turned two on May 29th and I'm not sure exactly how much she understands about Baby Sage yet.  But I'm so excited just to see her reaction to him!

Will she be scared?  Curious?  Protective?  Think he's a toy?  All of the above?

We found out we would be expecting baby #2 the week of Halloween.  But we didn't really start talking to Emma about the baby until Mommy started showing.

We would tell her Mommy was carrying a baby, and eventually she started pointing to my belly and saying, "Baby."  Then once we found out the sex, we told her she would be having a baby brother.  She loves to tell people her brother's name when they ask.

Sometimes she will go into the nursery, sit in the glider and say his name.  Hearing his name come out of her mouth is absolutely the sweetest thing!

She has a baby doll that Santa brought her for Christmas.  Well, the doll's name USED to be Emma.  But now its name is Sage.  It's so funny and so sweet all at the same time.  I guess kids are like that a lot though.

I'm afraid her world is going to be rocked when we bring home a real baby.

Although maybe she's already adjusting.  Because Emma has been a momma's girl from day one!  We were practically joined at the hip.  But recently she has turned into a daddy's girl.  She wants to be with him all the time now.

That has made me feel much better because I've been so nervous about my attention being divided and Emma feeling neglected.  I don't want her to feel like I've abandoned her for another baby.

Of course, our world may be rocked, too.  We don't know anything about boys at our house!  I guess we will learn, right?  I've heard stories from people who have boys and can only imagine the adventures that await us.

If you have more than one child, what did you do to make sure you weren't neglecting the older one(s)?  How did the older child(ren) react to the new baby?

Monday, June 9, 2014

Preparing the nursery

Baby Sage could arrive any day now.  We are so excited!  I've been busy trying to finish his nursery.  He will have basically the same nursery as Emma, with a couple of changes.

We planted hydrangeas alongside our house when we bought it.  They are a beautiful blue, and I've been keeping a fresh vase in Baby Sage's nursery.

I also bought him a hand-knitted mobile with sheep hanging from it.  Hopefully he will learn to count really soon so he can count sheep and help him get to sleep.

He will have the same crib Emma had.  It's an iron crib with gray and white bedding.  We're using a piece of furniture for a changing table so that when we are finished with the nursery we can use the furniture in another room.

And of course, there are a few must-haves from Cloud 9 for Baby Sage.

We will be using the Aden + Anais Swaddles.  We swaddled Emma until she was four months old.  She slept better and was calmed so much easier this way.

We'll also be using the Mum + Bub skincare products.  I absolutely adore the smell of their body wash and lotion.  I associate that smell with Emma and can't wait to use it on Baby Sage!

And no wardrobe is complete without lots of adorable bonnets, diaper covers, and day gowns.  Day gowns make diaper changes super easy, not to mention they look beautiful on precious babies.

In addition to preparing the nursery, I've also had lots of fun getting Emma's big girl room together.  I can't believe it's already time for Emma to be in a bid girl room!

Her new bedding is called Jungle Boogie.  It has lots of animals along with stripes and polka dots.  I had Brian from the Cottage House find her a dresser and paint it green.  It makes a cute accent piece for the room.

On her wall, I've framed and hung artwork that Emma created at school this year.  I plan to use a different frame for each piece so that as we continue to add to the wall it will be more of a collage look. I think it says a lot to Emma that we find her artwork important to hang.

We've also put all of her books on ledges.  This has been so helpful in creating more space and keeping her books organized.  Now she can see them all and simply points to which book she wants to read at night.

I hope Emma and Baby Sage will find their new rooms to be fun places where they always feel safe and know that they are loved.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Nesting Instinct

Closets cleaned out?  Check.

Bathroom drawers organized?  Check.

Cookbooks alphabetized?  Well, not quite.  Not yet anyway.

That's just some of what's been going on at our house.  But it's not spring cleaning.  Rather someone's nesting at our house.  (It's me.)

The nesting instinct, of course, occurs in many animals as well as humans.  In a world that has become so technologically advanced, there's something very basic and refreshing to me about a mother's instinct to prepare for her baby.

I've been nesting since March in anticipation of Baby Sage, organizing everything I can get my hands on.  I cleaned out my closet so thoroughly that I think my husband has more clothes hanging now that I do.

I'm sure he thinks I'm crazy.  But he just goes along with everything and lets me do my organizing.  I was even mowing the grass for awhile, until my OB (and my husband) advised me not to.

It's even spilled over to Cloud 9.  I guess when I'm at work I feel like I need to be getting things ready, too.  So I've cleaned out catalogs and paperwork and organized back stock.  It looks like a whole new stockroom back there!

I just fear I'm going to go into labor soon and want everything ready and clean!

I keep a list on the kitchen island of things I think of that need to be done before Baby Sage arrives.  I just hope I'm not forgetting anything.  Like defrosting our frost-free refrigerator?

Did you nest, or are you nesting?  What are some of the things you cleaned or organized?

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A Day at the Beach: Sun Safety

In last week's post, we discussed swimming safety.  This week, our focus is on the sun.

While the dangers of water are usually immediate, the dangers of sun are generally more long-term, but still very serious.

There are actually benefits to being out in the sun, but too much time in the sun can damage the skin and increase the chance of developing skin cancer in the future.  So whether at the beach, by the pool, or just in the yard, it's important to protect our children from too much exposure to the harmful UVA and UVB rays of the sun.

Here are a few simple steps you can take:

  • First, try and plan outdoor activities in the mornings or early evenings.  UV rays are at their strongest and most dangerous during the midday hours (10am-4pm).  I see lots of parents at the beach taking their children in before lunch and/or bringing them out late in the afternoon.  That's good to see!
  • Always apply sunscreen.  Make sure to use one with both UVA and UVB protection and high SPF.  For the best protection, apply literally 20 to 30 minutes before your child goes outside.  Be sure to reapply as needed throughout the day, even with "waterproof" or "water-resistant" products.  We carry the Supergoop sunscreen at Cloud 9, SPF 30 and 50.  We use it with Emma and love it!            
  • Cover up.  Hats, long pants, a beach cover up--those are all good choices.  I personally love the long-sleeve rashguard shirts that we carry at Cloud 9.  They provide a UPF of 50 and can be worn in and out of the water.  We also have a great selection of adorable hats and bonnets.
  • Seek shade.  An umbrella or tent is a must-have for a beach trip with young children.  Both the CDC and the Mayo Clinic recommend that babies under 6 months of age simply be kept out of direct sunlight as much as possible.  And even with toddlers and older kids, it's a good to limit their exposure and have a shaded area where they can cool down.
  • Don't let the clouds fool ya.  Have you ever been out at the beach on a cool and cloudy day only to wake up to a sunburn the next morning?  Cloud's don't block the sun's UV rays, they only filter them.  So just because it's not sunny and 90 degrees doesn't mean you're not getting sunburned.

Remember, just a few serious sunburns can increase your child's risk of developing skin cancer later in life.  It's up to you to protect them.

If you have other sun safety tips, leave a comment below.  We'd love to hear them.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

A Day At The Beach: Swimming Safety

There's nothing like a day at the beach.  Of course, if you're bringing along a little one (or two, or three...), it's a slightly different experience.  Typically, it involves more sandcastle-making, heading back to the room for mid-day nap, and most importantly, watching out for their safety.

I love the beach!  And fortunately, Emma is a big fan of the water, too.  She'll just take off and run into the ocean with no fear!  The waves knock her down and she just laughs and laughs.  Of course, her dad is standing right beside her the whole time, if not holding her hand.  We never let her go into the water by herself.

We also spend a lot of time at the river.  My husband's family has a cabin there.  And anytime we're there, Emma ALWAYS has a life jacket on.  We're trying to teach her to both appreciate and respect the water, so she's going to be taking swimming lessons this summer!  I think she's gonna love it.

Whether you're talking ocean, pool, or river, or lake, the water can provide tons of fun, but it can also be dangerous.

Here are a few basic swimming safety tips for kids (and parents):

  • Never leave a child unsupervised in or near the water.
  • Have your child wear a personal flotation device (PFD) that fits properly and is approved by the U.S. Coast Guard.  Never rely on inflatable toys to keep your child safe in the water.
  • Don't allow children to run near the pool, or on a pier or boat dock.
  • If you have a pool make sure it's completely enclosed with a fence that's at least 4 feet high.  Always lock the gate after each use, and make sure there's no way your child can climb over the pool's fence.  
  • You may also want to take an infant/child CPR course.  Believe it or not, it's different than CPR for adults!

For more water safety tips for babies and toddlers, visit:

So have fun in the water this summer, and be safe!  

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Child Abuse Prevention Month

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month.

I've had the privilege of getting to see and meet lots of precious children when their parents bring them into Cloud 9.  And of course, there's my own Emma (and soon, Baby Sage).  It is unthinkable to me that anyone could harm any of these innocent and defenseless little ones.

And yet, it happens.

According to the National Children's Alliance, more than 676,000 children were victims of abuse or neglect in 2011.  An estimated 1,570 of those children died.  That's more than 4 kids each day who die in the United States as a result of abuse or neglect.

We are fortunate to have a wonderful organization right here in Morgan County that is truly dedicated to education and prevention of child abuse.  I'm referring to PACT: Parents And Children Together.  You can read more about PACT, the programs they offer, and how you can help at

I hope we would all take time to familiarize ourselves with the signs of child abuse and neglect.  Here are a couple sites which list some common signs of child abuse, as well as lots of other good information:

You can never know when you might come in contact with a child who is being abused.  You may be the only advocate that child has.  If you suspect abuse, report it immediately.  It could make all the difference in that child's world.

The ChildHelp National Child Abuse Hotline number is 1-800-422-4453.

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month.  But child abuse prevention should be every month.  Every day.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Easter with Emma

We traveled to Mississippi this weekend for Easter at Momma G's.  I made sure to alert the Easter Bunny so he'd know where to bring Emma's basket.

Arriving on Friday afternoon, Emma talked me into getting some frozen yogurt.  OK, so I might have been the one who suggested it.  But we both enjoyed it.  And isn't that what counts?

Saturday morning, we dyed Easter eggs.  We decided to do this outside because:  (a) it was such a beautiful day, and (b) due to any mess that Emma might make.

And make a mess she did!  Eventually, we just stripped her down to her diaper so it wouldn't get all over her clothes and let her go at it.  I'm still not sure if there was more dye on the eggs or on Emma.  But she had a blast.  And isn't that what counts?

After a warm bath and a nap,  Emma spent much of Saturday afternoon playing in a baby pool on the back porch.  Unfortunately, we hadn't packed a bathing suit, so we kind of "rednecked" it a little and let her run around naked.

Sunday morning, Emma woke to find what all the Easter Bunny had brought her.  She got a Pete the Cat Big Easter Adventure book, some Babiators, a Pears + Bears tunic cover up, Bella Bliss swimsuits, a Cissy sun hat, Alto and Triplet beach toys, and a lunch box--pretty much everything she'll need for a beach trip!  She was very excited about it all.

Next, we hid eggs in the house and let Emma hunt them.  She was really getting into this!  She cracked a few because she was literally throwing them into the basket.

After that, it was time to get ready for church.

Following church and lunch, we hid eggs again, but this time outside.  When Emma came outside to start hunting them, we discovered that our lab had already found a few eggs and enjoyed them for a snack.  Oops!

Emma was exhausted after such an action-packed Easter weekend.  As we got in the car to head back to Alabama, I looked in the backseat and her little eyes were closed before we even pulled out of the neighborhood.

It's hard to believe that in just a year she'll be showing Baby Sage how to hunt eggs.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Easter Bunny at Cloud 9

The Easter Bunny paid a timely visit to Cloud 9 this past Saturday.  And as you might expect, some were excited, a few were scared.  But enough about the dads who showed up.

It was a beautiful spring day outside, and we had lots of fun things going on inside!  There were free cookies from Mel's Sweet Treats, the aforementioned floppy-eared one, and everyone who shopped Saturday got a 15% discount from Cloud 9!

(The Easter Bunny really liked the cookies from Mel's.  I thought he only ate carrots and lettuce, but apparently not!)

Emma seemed to like the Easter Bunny about as much as she liked Santa Claus.  We did finally get a decent pic of her once mommy held her and made the Easter Bunny promise he wouldn't pinch her.

That's OK, though.  The Easter Bunny told me he would be coming to visit Emma anyway.  In fact, he said he had plans to visit all the kids who came to Cloud 9 on Saturday.

And he let me know that many of them would be receiving items from Cloud 9 in their Easter baskets.  Mister Bunny said he doesn't have elves to help him like Santa does, so he thanked me for our Easter Basket Ideas of the Day which he said came in very handy this year!

I tried to take as many pictures as possible, and posted lots on our Facebook page.  Click here to check them out:  You might see your child, or even yourself!

It was a fun day, and we do hope to have the Easter Bunny back again next year.  A big thanks to everyone who came by on Saturday, and I hope all of you have a Happy Easter.

Monday, April 7, 2014

It's a girls night out!

Cloud 9 invites all moms and moms-to-be to our special Cloth Diapering event on Thursday, April 24th, from 5:30-7pm.

If you're considering using cloth diapers or are even the least bit curious, we encourage you to join us for what is sure to be a very informative evening.  We will be partnering with Suds Diaper Service for this event.  And we'll also be providing yummy snacks!  So come enjoy a girls night out and learn more about cloth diapering and what Suds has to offer.

You can get all the details on our Cloth Diapering event on our Facebook page:

You might have heard me mention before that we use cloth diapers with Emma.  And it has saved us so much money!  According to a recent study by Consumer Reports, parents can expect to spend $1500 to $2000 or more on disposable diapers by the time the baby is out of them.

But there are many other benefits.  Not the least of which is cloth diapers are better for the environment.  In fact, disposable diapers are the third most common consumer product found in our landfills today.  A diaper disposed of today will not be completely biodegraded until around the year 2500!

Cloth diaper users also tend to have fewer issues with diaper rash.  And you never run out of diapers, because you just keep washing and reusing the ones you have.

Speaking from experience, the cloth diapers of today are not the cloth diapers of 50 years ago.  Many advances have been made.  And, today's cloth diapers are adorable!

Here's a good site with a ton of information about cloth diapers:

We hope to see you April 24th for our girls night out/Cloth Diapering event (It'll be more fun than it sounds, I promise!).

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Spring Break!

Spring break is this week for most of north Alabama.  Since she doesn't yet have her own blog (that I know of) I can let you know that Miss Emma will be spending part of her spring break with her grandmother ("Momma G") in Mississippi.

I think she's excited.  But if not, she will be as soon as she sees the bubbles and sidewalk chalk Momma G has for them to play with.  They are also planning to go see Mother Goose at the library!

This is a time of year when many families will be traveling.  Including little ones on road trips can be challenging, but often just requires a little extra preparation and, um, parental ingenuity.

And whether you're going on a vacation or plan to enjoy a little "staycation" at home, Cloud 9 has lots of toys for children to play with, indoors and out.

If you have a little garden helper around the house, check out our new Green Toys Indoor Gardening Kit.

If you do happen to be headed to the beach - this week or later this summer - don't leave home without some (or all) of our Quut beach toys:  the Ballo, the Alto, the Triplet, and the Cuppi.

Rest assured, you'll be the coolest mom (or Dad) on the block or beach when you pull these toys out of your beach bag.  (Hint:  The Cuppi has been know to be a fave of some kids for bath time, too.)  You can view the entire line of Quut beach toys on our website.

Need more suggestions?  Just click on "toys" then "outdoor toys" on our website.  We have a great selection of bathing suits, too.  And don't forget the Supergoop Sunscreen!

What is your family doing for spring break?  Do you have any tips to share for traveling with kids?

Monday, March 17, 2014

Makin' the Easter Bunny's job easy!

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Just when I though spring had finally arrived for good, I woke up this morning to 35 degrees and drizzle.  Thankfully, we did have some spring-like weather this weekend for our "Stuff the Basket" event at Cloud 9.

These were a few of our hottest sellers:

Babiators:  These "kid" sunglasses are one of the hottest items of the season.  They come in two sizes:  0-3 years and 3-7 years.  I have it on good authority that Emma will be getting a pair of these in her Easter Basket.  

Beaufort Bonnets:  These come in white, pink gingham, pink seersucker, and blue seersucker.  We did sell out on Saturday, but we will have another shipment coming in time for Easter!

Bishop Beach Towel:  You can't rock your Babiators without one of these monogrammed towels.  We still have a few of these remaining, so hurry in.  

Pete the Cat's Big Easter Adventure:  Emma will be getting the latest Pete book, too!

Lollacups:  Available in several bright colors:  bold red, good green, posh pink, brave blue, and happy orange.  

A big thank you to each and every one of you who stopped by the store Saturday for the event.  And if you weren't able to make it, I have great news:  We have decided to extend the "Stuff the Basket" discount on in-store purchases through this coming Saturday, March 22nd!

So there.  We've made it really easy for you, Easter Bunny!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A "spring" in my step

At long last, the weather is turning a bit warmer.  The days are getting longer.  Spring is in the air!

There's so much to love about spring.  Well, everything except for this pesky time change, that is.  But technically, that falls in winter now anyway.

I'm excited for spring clothes!  When I think of spring, I think of seersucker, gingham and linen.  I look forward to dressing Emma in adorable bonnets, bubbles, and sun sets.  And monograms.  I love monograms!  So much, in fact, that I think I might do an entire post later dedicated to monograms.

Then, of course, there's Easter.

This will be Emma's second Easter.  She was only ten months last year, so this will be her first time to hunt eggs.  I'm so excited!

And are you ready for this?

We have chickens!  Not only that, but our chickens lay blue and green eggs, so we may not even have to dye any this year!  Actually, we probably will anyway.  Dying eggs for Easter is a memorable childhood experience for me that I want to pass on and share with Emma.  Plus, I think we need a few pink eggs for her, and none of our chickens can do pink, as far as I know. 

We have lots going on for spring at Cloud 9.  Like us on Facebook, and follow us on Instagram and Pinterest for contests, cute outfits, special events and more!  I also heard through the grapevine that the Easter Bunny might  be paying a visit to our store!  Keep watching for details.

What are some of your favorite things about spring?

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Read Across America Day

Reading is a wonderful thing.  How else can you visit faraway places without ever leaving your bed?

Yesterday (March 3rd) was Read Across America Day, an initiative created by the National Education Association (NEA).  It's observed on the school day which falls nearest to March 2nd, which happens to be the birthday of Dr. Seuss.  No coincidence.  

What started as a one-day event, Read Across America has grown into a nationwide program promoting reading year after year.  This year, over 45 million, students, teachers, parents, and fans of reading in general celebrated the event.  

The goal of the NEA's Read Across America program is to help children know that reading is important and that reading is fun!  Oh yeah, and you're never to old - or to young - to pick up a book and read to a child.  AND a child is never to young to be read to.

We started with Emma when she was just a baby, and continue to read to her every night.  Either Mommy or Daddy crawl into bed with her and read a book before turning the lights off and tucking her in.  We plan to continue to read to Emma, and will start reading to Sage as soon as he is here.

In addition to simply being something we enjoy doing with Emma, I know that reading has many benefits.  According to the NEA, students who do more reading at home generally have higher math scores than others.  Not to mention scoring higher in reading proficiency!

Unfortunately, statistics show that as kids get older, they don't read for fun as often.  The NEA suggests making reading fun, so that story time is something that you and your child look forward to.

Emma is getting her first Pete the Cat book (a Cloud 9 fan favorite character, for sure) in her Easter Basket this year - Pete the Cat:  Big Easter Adventure.  She already loves our finger puppet books and I'm sure she is going to be a big Pete fan, too!

We have a great selection of books for children at Cloud 9 - both in-store and online.  So whether you read from a Nook, or from an actual book, stories about crooks, or books to help you cook... (OK, I'll stop now).

What are your child's favorite books?  What are some of your favorite books when you were a kid?

Monday, February 17, 2014

Healthy hearts and healthy babies

February is American Heart Month and Wise Healthcare Consumer Month.

Let's begin with the heart.

We probably all have known someone who's had a heart attack, suffered a stroke, or undergone heart bypass surgery.  Even today, heart disease remains the leading cause of death of men and women in the United States, and according to the CDC, it's most prevalent in the South.

While those facts are sobering, this is a good time to focus on being proactive, doing everything we can to ensure we're around a long time, for ourselves, our children, and our grandchildren.

The good news is there are several risk factors for heart disease that we can control, including diet, blood pressure, cholesterol, and exercise.

It's the latter I want to focus on today.  The Surgeon General recommends adults should engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week.  When I first read that, my eyes bulged out!  That can seem impossible, especially when you add children to the equation.  

One of the easiest ways I found to exercise after I had Emma was to walk with friends while pushing her in a stroller.  She loved it, and this way I was able to make sure I got in some physical activity while not having to worry about where to leave her.

I used the Bumbleride Indie stroller with Emma.  But I've already decided that once the new baby arrives, I'm going to use a baby carrier.  That way, with Emma running around, I can at least keep one child with me at all times.  We carry the BabyBjorn Carriers at Cloud 9 -- original, active, and miracle.  

As I mentioned earlier, February is also Wise Healthcare Consumer Month.  I'll be honest:  I'm a mom, and I want to choose the healthiest products that I can for my child.  That's why we try and offer many health-conscious products at Cloud 9.

Two product lines that I use all the time with Emma are Aden+Anais (lotion, hair & body wash, ointment and laundry care) and Supergoop, which is a new line we just recently started carrying.  

We love both of these product lines and they have worked well for us.  You can check out all our health-conscious products online at  If there's a product we don't offer that you'd like for us to carry, please leave a comment and let us know.

Here's to healthy hearts and healthy children, for many Februaries to come!!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Teething Pains

You've tried everything in the book you can think of to get your baby to stop crying.  Rocking, walking, singing, - and nothing seems to calm her down.  You absolutely cannot figure out what is wrong when it finally dawns on your sleep-deprived brain:  she's teething.

February is National Children's Dental Health Month.  As a mom who has been through the pains of teething.  I wanted to share with you some tips and information I've found.

First, here are some common signs and symptoms of teething.  By the way, if your baby is one of those that woke up smiling with teeth without every crying in the night, you can keep that to yourself :)

-gum rubbing
-ear rubbing
-facial rash
-decreased appetite
-running a temperature

Many babies will instinctively try to soothe their pain by grabbing for and biting anything within reach. But remember, hard toys can sometimes damage a baby's teeth.  So you might try some softer alternatives, such as a chilled plastic teething ring, teething biscuits, or even a cold, wet washcloth.

We also carry several products at Cloud 9 designed to help children through teething, and I can tell you that each one of them has been tested in my own home.

Sophie the Giraffe:  Sophie is especially great if your baby is cutting molars!  Her long neck and legs can reach those far spots.

Natursutten Chill-it:  These are BPA-free and can be chilled for your child's comfort.

Chewbeads Mulberry Teether:  Cute and functional, many babies play with these when they aren't teething.  And let's be honest:  isn't that always the thing your baby wants to put in his mouth?  

Lifefactory Silicone Teether:  These are great because you can put them on your wrist so it's always close by.

The important thing to remember about baby teeth is that they are important to your child's long-term health.  A lot of people think that it doesn't matter if their children have a lot of cavities, they are just going to lose those teeth anyway.  But your child's gum health starts early.  The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and the American Academy of Pediatrics suggest your child have his or her first dental visit by age 1!

What helped soothe your child's teething pains?  I'd love to hear your tips and ideas and what has worked for you.

Monday, February 3, 2014

It's a trunk show!

I don't care what the groundhog says, spring is on the doorstep!  And I am so excited to announce that Cloud 9 will be hosting a Kayce Hughes/Pears + Bears Spring Trunk Show the week of February 11th through 15th!

I just love their clothes!  And since we don't have room to stock the entire collection, this will be your exclusive opportunity to come see their spring line without having to travel to Nashville.  It'll all be right here in store at Cloud 9 for you to check out at your convenience.  

The trunk show will include not only the Kayce Hughes children's line, but also their women's collection and brand new line for tweens, too!

You'll be able to view the items and place your order at Cloud 9 during our regular store hours that week.  That's 10 am to 5 pm Tuesday through Friday, and 10 am to 4 pm on Saturday.  Orders should arrive 2 weeks after the trunk show.

Check out our Facebook event page for more details:

I hope you'll spread the word.  And I look forward to seeing you at Cloud 9 for the Kayce Hughes/Pears + Bears Trunk Show, February 11th through 15th.  

Monday, January 27, 2014


As an expectant mother, I knew one of the most important things I could do for Emma was to take care of myself.  As a mom-to-be, staying healthy increases your chances of having a healthy baby and a pregnancy free of complications.

Of course, that's often easier said than done, especially with those pregnancy cravings we may have.  Mint chocolate chip ice cream with a side of black olives, anyone?

The good news is that pregnancy cravings are completely normal, and a lot of times they can be for foods which provide needed nutrients, such as dairy or meat.  With Emma, I craved milk.  I never drink milk!!!  But when I was pregnant, I would drink glasses and glasses of milk every day.  I guess I was fortunate that my craving was for something healthy.

Here are a couple of tips about cravings which I found helpful:  If you do have an unhealthy craving, you might try to ward it off by eating something healthy in its place.  If you give into an unhealthy craving, try to limit your portions and don't punish yourself mentally.

Something I always tried to do while pregnant with Emma is exercise.  I had a good group of friends, and we would walk 5 miles about 3 times a week.  It wasn't always easy, but I knew it was good for me and my baby and I also got to enjoy some time with friends.

Of course, you should always discuss your exercise routine with your doctor to be sure you don't overdo it.  Here's an informative article about exercising during pregnancy:

Lastly, the benefits of sleep for the mother-to-be and baby are numerous.  A lot of the tips for getting a good night's sleep -- cut down on caffeine, drink less in the evenings to reduce overnight bathroom trips, etc. -- apply to anyone, pregnant or not.  

But pregnancy can bring additional challenges to sleep, including thinks like sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, and heartburn, to name a few.  Try and make it a priority to get a good night's sleep.  Again, it's yet another thing that's often easier said than done, but when done, can pay big dividends.

Find more helpful sleep tips here:

Was there something that helped you sleep while pregnant?  How do/did you deal with cravings?  I'd love to know, especially now that I'm expecting again!!!