Oh baby, baby: 10 steps for taking the perfect biometrical passport picture for your baby

One of the beautiful things of being a parent is the ability to discover the world anew through the eyes of your little baby. This includes taking your baby on trips abroad and introducing them to travelling. Granted, they might not be fully able to indulge in the experience when they are very young, but I believe in the mantra “Happy and relaxed parents equal a happy and relaxed baby”. One thing that is not contributing to a relaxed state of mind however is the question how to get your baby to pose without movement or giggles for a biometrical passport picture to enable your traveling. While some countries are fine issuing travel documents without pictures, the US at least requires a biometrical picture for baby passports as well. This natural makes you ask yourself how to approach this. To spare other parents the photo booth experiments gone wrong journey we took at first, I wanted to share our solution for this challenge, which is also recommended by the US State Department aka acceptable for the task at hand.

You need

  • A white or light cream colored blanket or bed sheet without pattern
  • A rattle or a set of keys
  • A smartphone
  • Patience
  • A baby

Step by step

  1. Dress your baby so that the neck area is free and the full face is visible on the picture later
  2. Lay the blanket or bed sheet on a flat surface. I recommend using your bed as the head of your baby will ever so slightly sink into the mattress which enhances the chances of him/her looking straight up into the camera
  3. Check your phone camera settings to ensure the pictures are all in high resolution (min 300 dpi)
  4. Place your baby in the middle of the blanket and make sure there is plenty of blanket space around the baby to allow for an all-white background
  5. Place yourself with the camera directly above the baby
  6. Make sure you hold your smartphone in a straight angle from above and that part of your babies shoulder area is in the picture
  7. Use the a rattle of a set of keys at hand to grab the baby’s attention
  8. Fire away with your smartphone, take at least 10 pictures in rectangular and horizontal, so you get at least one or two useable pictures out of the session and don’t have to redo it
  9. Upload the picture to a passport photo website like this one – this page offers a free service as well as a paid one and allows you to rotate the pictures ever so slightly until the eyes of your baby are perfectly aligned with the edges of the photo and to zoom in and out until the head fills the picture in the required proportion. Make sure to preselect the right size and format required in your case
  10. Either send the digital photo to the passport issuing authority for your country or print it at home or in a store

Oh baby, baby: Reclaiming your body postpartum

Everybody and every body is different, and so is the time it takes to recover from giving birth and shedding the weight we put on during the pregnancy. I had gained a whopping 21 kilograms/46 pounds, which meant that I added one third of my original weight to the scale. And while I lost most of his extra weight within the first 3 months after the birth, it is still a long journey to bring the body back to its initial, pre-preggo state.

One of the most effective and time-saving ways of redefining your waistline is hula hoop. And not the simple hoop we used as kids, but a weighted fitness hula hoop. The most amazing thing about it: 15 minutes per day is enough. The second most amazing thing: it strengthens and trains your inner abdominal muscles and works on the exact part of your body that has been most affected by the pregnancy. The hoop exercise works on your inner core and thus gifts you with a nicely trained middle. After all, fit is the new skinny! I already worked with a fitness hoop 2-3 times a week before the pregnancy, in addition to my gym workouts, and I can only wholeheartedly recommend it to everyone and every mom as an awesome way to trim your core to get that hourglass figure. This is the one I am using. It comes in 3 different weight options. Besides the added weight, it also has a wave design, so while spinning the ring also massages the love handles in your middle to trigger fat-burning in that area. However, only start this workout if your doctor gives you the okay to work on your abs again, otherwise you could do yourself more harm than good.

Do not get disheartened if it takes you a few attempts to get the hang of how to keep the hoop up. It’s not that you forgot all your skills from childhood (assuming you learned) or that your hips are too stiff, but merely that the added weight of the hoop requires a tad bit more training and muscle work to make it work. Click here for a great tutorial video.

P.S. Not its original purpose, but moms usually tend to get neck and shoulder pain from constantly lifting, shifting and holding a growing and not very cooperative baby. One way to help you loosen up those stiff muscles and ease the pain is to hold the hula hoop in front of you like a giant steering wheel and twist and turn it for a couple of minutes as if you have to swiftly maneuver a large, heavy semi-truck through an obstacle course.

Disclaimer: Before starting any type of postpartum workout ask your midwife or ob-gyn if it’s safe for you to start exercising or if there are any restrictions in your case. They need to check if there is any diastasis recti. This is vitally important, otherwise any exercise you engage in is actually doing your body more harm than good, especially in the long run and sometimes many years down the road. Basically it is all about making sure that the two abdominal muscles are reconnected. Do not do any ab training before this split that’s created during pregnancy is closed. This can take anything between a couple of weeks or several month depending on your body – so there is no rule of thumb on how fast yours abdominal integration will happen. Give it the time it needs. Just because a friend of yours took 5 month to recover, it might be still fine for you to restart after 3 weeks. Again every body is different, so check what applies in your case.


Oh baby, baby: What do you NOT need for your newborn

Since most checklists focus on all the stuff you supposedly need for your baby, I want to focus here on some stuff you do NOT need – at least as far as our experience goes. Although granted, the judgement of what’s overrated, in the end, always down to the individual, I nevertheless wanted to share our experiences, as some of these can be found on baby or parenting checklists and we found them to be non-essential at best and recommend that you save your money and rather invest it elsewhere, like in diapers for example. Every family is different, so take this post as our experience that might be helpful for you, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that some of this wouldn’t work for you nonetheless.

What you don’t need (as far as I am concerned), although it is often suggested, is a white noise machine to help calm your baby. If you’ve got a laptop or smartphone, YouTube is full of white noise videos that can be multiple hours in length of things like a vacuum cleaner sound aka white noise. White noise is soothing for babies since they were exposed to constant “noise” in the womb, like your heartbeat and the pulsating of the umbilical cord.

Pacifiers would also fall into the no-need-to-buy category. You seem to get a ton of these as presents for your newborn, and so it is quite unlikely you will end up without a pacifier or two in your household. However, who is to say you will actually need them? For most babies, this is an acquired habit that you later need to train them to drop. So why not simply make do with the pacifiers you get from friends and family along the way, without investing in a pacifier collection yourself? Plus, some breastfed babies could get confused when confronted with a pacifier, due to the different sensations from similar motions. Our baby refuses pacifiers flat out. At first I was a little sad, as babies do look quite cute sucking on them but, well, she looks incredibly cute anyway (I know, parental bias), so that’s okay.

Maybe this one is debatable, but I do not think it necessary to invest in specific nursing pajamas when you are breastfeeding. Like any maternity-related clothing, the price is jacked up compared to normal night gowns or PJs and if you think about it: in what way is a nursing pajama set superior to a normal, loose-fit T-shirt? The truth is, it isn’t. It’s not like you need to ensure minimal boob exposure when you are at home, feeding your baby in your own bed. The only time when there might be a slight justification would be in the hospital, but even then, if you simply wear a large, loosely-fitting shirt, you will barely show anything and you anyhow have a baby covering you up. Plus, you will most likely only be there for a couple of nights.

You also do NOT need baby shoes. I’d list this under gadgets, despite them being a clothing item, as they are really just an aesthetic gadget if your baby can’t walk, BUT you will get bombarded with cute tiny shoes as soon as you enter any baby-themed store. Let’s get real though: your baby is not walking, not crawling and otherwise not doing anything that would remotely require shoes, so why bother him or her with the restriction they impose on the feet? Let the toes wiggle freely! Not even going on a stroller walk or car ride will require shoes, as your baby will have a blanket or socks to keep it warm and to be honest, we grown-ups merely got used to wearing shoes, but being without them is definitely the more comfortable choice for your little one. If you can’t resist the urge to buy a pair for your munchkin, get some that s/he can also use when old enough to walk. Although when they learn to walk, they should do so at home and without shoes, as they will get a more natural feel for it and it is better for their feet.

Lastly, I wanted to mention stuffed toys: while you no doubt want your kid to have stuffed animals, there is actually no need for you to buy them for your baby. Why? Because you can more or less count on friends and family doing this job for you. People love buying those cute, fluffy kiddy companions and it is not like a baby needs a million of those anyways, so I recommend holding off with buying them and simply sit back and relax, as your nursery will soon fill up with them, without any action on your part.

While you certainly will find it helpful to have a great information resource around to quickly inquire about “Why is my baby always crying for 2 hours every evening without being hungry” or “is it normal, if…” and “when do babies start…”, most likely your go-to source will not be a book about baby development. At least I find myself consulting the wonderful Ovia app and sometimes google. While just trusting random google sources might indeed not the best mode to sail the sea of parenthood, there are great websites and apps out there that do indeed provide valuable information that can support you along the way. Don’t get me wrong, there are truly wonderfully written books out there that explain everything you could possibly want to know about your baby’s development, but 9 times out of 10, your first thought will probably be “I will google this real quick”. Just make sure to check an actually credible sources.

Honorary mention: The wipe warmer was already mentioned in my baby care post, but I wanted to repeat it here, because it is really not necessary to have one. I mean, how cold can wipes get in a normal household?! Same goes for a baby bath tub thermometer. The uselessness of this reveals itself when you think about how often you use a bath tub thermometer in your own bubble bath. Since the answer is probably “never”, this also answers how often you will use it to check the temperature of the baby bath with it.

 


Grilled Mac & Cheese sandwiches with tomato soup

This dish is one of those hidden champions for days when you don’t feel like leaving the house again to go food hunting at the grocery store, yet you feel like some soul food. Now anyone can have a grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup to dip or Mac & Cheese any day when you need a quick dinner fix. But how about elevating your impromptu dinner game to the next level and combining the three and thus creating an exciting new twist. The recipe makes 4 servings as a main course or 8 smaller servings as a starter. My favorite idea for this dish: 16 amuse-gueule/hors d’œuvre if you serve the soup in tiny cups and cut the sandwiches into 4 pieces or use thin baguette slices. It’s simple, yet I doubt your guest will have ever had this exact, mind-blowing combo.

Ingredients

For the sandwich

  • 1 cup of Mac & Cheese sauce (for my version of the recipe, please click here)
  • 1 cup of elbow noodles
  • 8 slices of sandwich bread or 16 thin slices of baguette
  • Butter

For the soup

  • 20 fresh tomatoes
  • 5 cups of vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 cup of cream
  • 2 chopped garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon of dried basil
  • ½ teaspoon of ground pepper

I suggest starting with the tomato soup: chop the onion, garlic and tomatoes into dices. Then melt the butter in a pot and add the garlic and onion. Fry for 5 minutes at a medium temperature while stirring. Then proceed by adding the tomatoes and let everything cook for another 5 minutes while continuing to stir. Afterwards, add the vegetable broth and tomato paste, as well as the spices. Let everything simmer for 15 minutes. Take the pot off the heat and use a blender to smooth the soup until you reach a texture you like (since there are two types of people in this world, those who prefer smooth as silk when it comes to tomato soup and those who like chunks in it). Lastly, add the cream to your soup. You most likely won’t need extra salt, as the vegetable broth will provide that.

As for the sandwich, cook the noodles for 7 minutes and prepare the Mac & Cheese sauce. Ideally, this should be a thicker sauce, just like for a Mac & Cheese dish that you would bake in the oven and that would be a bit stiffer. For a recipe to follow, check out the recipe for my version of Mac & Cheese, which is the one I use for this dish. Mix the sauce with the cooked noodles in a bowl and set aside.

Butter each bread slice on one side (and don’t be stingy with the butter) and get a pan to medium heat. Place a generous load of Mac & Cheese on the non-buttered side of 50 percent of the bread slices and place a second bread slice on top, the buttered side facing upwards. The Mac & Cheese layer should be about as thick as a finger. Fry the bread until golden brown and press a spatula on it ever so gently to make everything glue together nicely.

Enjoy!


Berrylicious smoothie

Whether you are busy multitasking or – like me – a mom with a newborn, a smoothie is always a great way to replenish your vitamin stores.  It’s your quick fix of a healthy meal. The good news: the preperation is so fast, that you will always find the 2-3 minutes it takes even if you have plenty of to-do’s on your list. This recipe makes 2 generous helpings.

img_20180505_115948_009-200716722.jpgIngredients

  • 2 cups of low-sugar oat milk
  • 1 cup of frozen blueberries
  • 1 cup of raspberries
  • 1 banana
  • 2 tablespoons of cacao

As per all my smoothie recipes, the frozen berries ensure that your drink is chilled, but not watered down due to melted ice cubes. Blend all in a mixer and enjoy!