Top 7 things that make my life easier right now

We all know we get by with a little help from our friends.  I thrive off of getting good tips and guidance from other moms.  And when I stumble upon something that works great for me, I love to share it with others.  So here are the top things that come to mind right now when it comes to making my life easier.  I hope you’ll chime in, too!

Keen shoes: I buy a lot of used things like clothes and toys, but I generally buy new shoes (or very gently used ones).  I think the marketers at Stride Rite convinced me that until age 5 or something, it’s very important for kids to have new shoes as they learn to walk and run (away from you).  I looked and looked for summer sandals that would work in and out of the water, protect my kids’ toes, have a whole heel, be comfortable and durable, and had good reviews.  I found Keens, and though pricey, they are worth every penny.  I have washed them in the washing machine and they don’t smell at all, even though my kids wear them just about every day without socks.  They still look new and I’ve had them a couple of months.  I am a believer.  I found mine online at for much less than they sell in retail stores.

Water Wow products:  These are great because you fill these “pens” with water and they draw, and unlike Color Wonder markers, they don’t need lids and won’t ever dry out.  The color is already built into the pages.  Eliza has not gotten bored with them, Zach is now using them, and every friend who has tried them has loved them.  They’re especially great for car trips and restaurants when your kids, like Zach, are still in a phase when they eat crayons.  I stumbled upon a couple of packs of these at Kohl’s and just went back for more.

The Good Nite Lite: Thanks to a reader recommendation, I FINALLY ordered one of these a few weeks ago and have been using it with Eliza.  It took three nights for her to understand that she couldn’t get out of bed until her “sun” came up.  Now she doesn’t come out of her room until after 7, and is sleeping past then sometimes.  It is magical.  I can’t wait until Zach is able to understand what it is.

Deceptively Delicious: Every time I tell someone I bought this cookbook, I hear something about some lawsuit.  I don’t care who’s suing whom; I care about getting my kids to eat semi-well-balanced foods.  I hear there’s another cookbook just like it called the Sneaky Chef.  Buy that one if you think she came up with the idea first.  The bottom line is it is genius and it is making me think more creatively about how to add nutrients to everyday foods my kids like.  And when I do my meal planning, I am looking to it right now for at least one or two meals a week.

Coated tablecloths and place mats: These are fairly expensive tablecloths that have acrylic coating, so they wipe clean like a countertop would.  I have ruined all of my machine-washable tablecloths with stains.  Not only are these coated linens machine-washable, but a sponge works really well at getting food off.  They are Ah-MAY-zing and well worth the money.  My kids spill spaghetti sauce on them, and hours later I wipe them perfectly clean without a trace of stain.  I have Le Cluny place mats that can be found online here, and I have a Sylvie Jourdan tablecloth.  You can find them on eBay.

Bull Frog Marathon Mist:  We are super anal-retentive about sunscreen.  I have tried kid sunblock after kid sunblock, and my kids always seem to end up burned or splotchy at best.  But I recently bought this continuous spray SPF 50 sunscreen and it’s fabulous.  It is so easy to spray on evenly, soaks in without feeling greasy, and protects them like nothing else I’ve found.

Evita, the silver bullet

My minivan:  I rock a swagger wagon, and am proud of it.  I’ve named her Evita because she has liberated me.  There really is nothing else like it for utility and value.  You tell me what other vehicle can haul 8 people, allow you to take out all the seating and transport 5 X 8 sheets of drywall or a dining room table and six chairs (like we did), and tow a 3,500 pound boat, all while getting 20+ miles to the gallon.  On a day-to-day basis, it’s also awesome that I can leave my double and single stroller in it with the back row folded down and fit all 6 bags of groceries I buy at the same time.

Breaking out without breaking the budget: creative ways to get me-time

This morning Zach woke himself at 5:40 by pooping.  I changed his diaper, put him back in his crib with a few toys, and told him he needed to give me at least another hour.  By 6:24, he was crying again loudly, so in an effort to keep him from waking up Eliza, I covered his mouth firmly with my hand and stubbornly yet gingerly made my way down the creaking stairs.  I actually sat him on the sun room floor in his hysterical state and yelled at him to stop crying because it was too early for me to deal with it.  Of course, Eliza found her way down the stairs a few minutes later.  This has for some reason been the story of my mornings for about two weeks (since he got the chicken pox).  Well, not the yelling part, but the getting up part.

Needless to say, I need a break.  But I always need a break.  Every parent – working or not – always needs breaks.  I love my job and I love my family, but I have to get away sometimes.  It can be really challenging both financially and emotionally to break out of the house.  But I know I have to find ways to do it.

So, here are three suggestions:

1. Swap babysitting with a friend – I think my mom friends and I talk about this way more than we actually do it, but it really does work.  I’m going to challenge myself to commit to doing this for two date nights a month (so with two friends a month).  On Valentine’s Day, I babysat for a friend with three kids.  I put my own kids to bed, drove over to her house, and from about 7:30 until 9:30, she and her husband had a date night for I’m guessing about $30.  Her two eldest were awake and we just watched a movie and read books and they went to sleep at 8:30.  Then I read a book in the peaceful quietude for an hour.  It was actually a lot more restful than being in my own house.  What’s funny is my friend thanked me profusely, but said how much she felt guilty about having me care for her kids.  How silly is that?  I’ve put lots of my friends who don’t have kids yet to work so Greg and I can get alone time (thanks Jenn, Josh, Amy, Andy, Brandon and Gaby – just to name a few!).  There’s nothing to feel guilty about.  Real friends help each other out – even if that means sitting in your house for you so you don’t have to be there.

2. Start a Mom’s Night Out – Just today, I finally sent out invitations to the neighborhood moms I know for a monthly night out.  I polled everyone for their weeknight availability and we set a standing date and time of 8 p.m. on the third Monday of every month.  There are only two rules – stay under $20 a person and 20 minutes of travel time.  Starting it that late means that kids will be sleeping or close to it when we meet.  We will all rotate the responsibility to plan the event, and I’m sure we’ll do late dinners out, coffee shop meetings, and the like, but even doing chick flick nights or manis and pedis in someone’s home would be enough of a break.

3. Share babysitters – It’s a lot of fun to get together with moms during the day while your kids play with a babysitter.  You can do this pretty inexpensively and possibly even find a mother’s helper who is home-schooled or can come over after school.  My friend, Tracy, organizes bi-weekly meetings like this at her house where we drink tea and (in theory) knit.  I LOVE these.  We all pitch in for the babysitter and rotate bringing snacks.

If you have a great idea of how you balance your budget with your need to get away, post it here in the comments section!  I’ll probably read what you write sometime around 5 or 6 tomorrow morning – unless Zach decides to have some mercy on my tired soul.

Baby products (and beyond) that you can’t live without

No matter how much you prepare for a baby, there’s no real way to prepare for a baby.  It’s impossible to avoid some trips in the early weeks to the baby superstore or drugstore for things you either didn’t know you needed or thought you wouldn’t need (like a nose suctioner), only to find out you did.  Or, there are lots of things you find out you need to try various types of before you find exactly what works for you and your baby (such as pacifiers, bottles or nursing pads).  Then there are the things you simply can’t buy in advance (like mass quantities of nursing bras because you don’t know how big you’ll be).  Maybe I’ll make lists of those separately.  But for those who like to be prepared (like me), there are ways you can minimize your stress.  This post is about the things you can definitely anticipate you will use and should have ready to go.  They will make your life easier and from my limited experience with two babies, here they are:

If you are planning on nursing:

1. Boppy or My Breast Friend nursing pillow – You can take this one to the bank – and the hospital.  If you want to nurse, a nursing pillow is essential when you spend half your day with a newborn attached to your nips.  You have to be able to get comfortable.  With Eliza, I carted the Boppy all over the house with me.  With Zach, I bought a spare from a consignment shop so I had one upstairs and one downstairs.  A neighbor of mine just had her second baby, and she loves My Breast Friend because she can strap it to herself and nurse the baby (or just let her fall asleep at the breast) and walk around with her arms free.  The Boppy does not strap onto you, so you can only use it while sitting.

2. An electric pump – If you have any nursing issues, want the convenience of being able to give your baby a bottle at some point while nursing, or if you have to go back to work, a good quality pump is non-negotiable.  With both Eliza and Zach, I required a hospital-grade pump to get my milk going in the beginning with 2 jaundiced kids.  But you should probably rent one of these as they’re super expensive and not needed for very long.  The consumer electric pumps are perfect for the job once your baby is a few weeks old and nursing is established.  And if you introduce a bottle around 4-6 weeks, you will most likely have a much easier time getting your baby to let you get out.

3. A lactation consultant – Find a friend who’s had a baby and get the name and number of one to have on-hand should you need help.  I had terrible issues with Eliza and if I had gotten help on her first, second or even third day of life, it would have made such a difference.  Your hospital or birthing center should also have a lactation consultant on staff who can help you while you’re there.  Even if you think everything is going peachy-keen, still get a consultant to watch you nurse and give you pointers.  You can be latching improperly the first day or two in the hospital and seem fine, and then get home and experience agonizing latching pain and bleeding and chafing because you’re doing it wrong.  Get all the free help you can wherever you birth your baby, and then have someone you can follow-up with just in case.  If you do a home birth, have your midwife help and do a follow-up.

4. A fashionable nursing cover – If you’re going to have to nurse in public, or are just more modest about nursing, it’s nice to feel like you have something stylish to put on when you’re generally wearing sweat suits everywhere.  If you lay a blanket over you, your baby can wave his arms and move it out-of-place.  Having something that straps around your neck makes a difference.  I like Bebe Au Laits (in stores) and

No matter whether you nurse:

5. A pediatrician – The practice we ended up choosing does not visit the hospital where we delivered, and it made things harder having our kids real pediatricians not see them until they were 4- or 5-days-old (both were born right before the weekend).  When searching in the last trimester, make sure you find someone who can visit your baby in the hospital or birthing center with you.

6. Sleep and swaddling blankets – Whether it’s summer or winter, loose blankets are a no-no in the crib.  It’s nice to have blankets you can zip up around your baby, as well as swaddling ones.  Some babies like being swaddled, and others prefer to have their limbs free.  You will want to try both.  For summer I like the Aden + Anais muslin sleep blankets and swaddling blankets.  Any of the fleece sleep blankets are great for winter.  I would get 3 different kinds of swaddling blankets because some babies seem to break free from some fabrics, while others really hold together.

7. Lap pads – I bought a pack of these thinking I would give them to people to put on their laps and protect themselves from spit ups or other various and sundry fluid leaks.  They are useless for that because they’re about 1 foot square.  However, I decided to use them on top of my changing pad covers right in the area where I changed diapers.  To this day I still do it so I don’t have to wash a whole changing pad cover when a diaper change gets messy.

8. Burp cloths – Again, Aden + Anais makes some great ones because they are shaped to fit around your neck and they have snaps so they convert to regular bibs.  I also used cloth diapers as burp cloths and kept piles of them everywhere around the house because Eliza spit up ALL.  THE.  TIME.

9. Diapers and wipes – Don’t buy mass quantities of these before your baby arrives.  Get one small pack (24 or so) of 3 different brands of disposable newborn diapers.  These should get you through roughly the first week.  Try them all to see which one seems to work best.  If none of them leak for your baby, then go with the least expensive option that you like.  Most babies grow out of the newborn size within the first 2-4 weeks (and some are born too big for them anyway).  Having a huge supply of newborn diapers doesn’t make a lot of sense.  You will need to go to the store to get diapers in the early days no matter what, so don’t freak out about needing a supply to get you through a month.  It’s silly.  If you are planning on using cloth diapers, I would recommend trying 3 different types as well.  If you’re comfortable with it, you could borrow the outer casings of a few different brands from friends who have used them and just buy the inserts so you don’t spend a lot.  Some of my friends swear by FuzzyBunz and bumGenius.  Econobum is another brand.  There are also hybrid systems that combine the convenience of disposable with the earth-friendliness of cloth, such as the Flip System and G Diapers.  (I did not have good luck with G Diapers, but that’s just me.)  I would also try 3 different brands of wipes.  Some babies have sensitive skin and do better with less wet wipes than others.  Once you find the brand you like, then buy the huge, economy-size packs.

10. Some changing station on every floor of your home – Keep a basket with wipes, cream, diapers, and some sort of changing pad (it could even be a receiving blanket you lay on the carpet) in all the major areas where you will be spending time so you don’t have to climb flights of stairs 12 times a day just to change a diaper (especially if you end up having a C-section).

11. Netflix – When you spend hours and hours in the early days feeding your baby, you often want to keep the lights down while you do it so the baby can go right back to sleep.    I remember trying to read Sarah Palin’s book in the faint shine of Zach’s night-light (because I wanted to read something that wouldn’t wake me up too much).  During the day, it’s also nice to have something to do when you’re feeding.  This is a great time to catch up on past seasons of shows you like or movies you’ve been wanting to see.

12. Bjorn or Ergo Baby or Moby Wrap – You can register for these and return the one(s) you find you don’t like or don’t use, or you might find you like having options depending on what you’re doing.  There is no price value I can place on being able to carry a young baby while having both hands free to do dishes, vacuum, make yourself a sandwich, go to the bathroom, or take a hike through the woods.  I personally loved the Bjorn and never had luck with either of my kids in a sling.  But I never tried the Ergo Baby.

13. A baby swing or bouncer – Again, you will need to do some things that require you not be holding your baby.  It’s great to have somewhere safe to strap the baby down while you do something.  Bouncers are more portable and smaller than swings (and some bouncers actually swing babies, too).  If you want to have your baby nearby while you load the dishwasher, and also when you go to the bathroom, a bouncer is great.

14. A portable crib – Although I have a regular pack-and-play, I would highly recommend the PeaPod Plus if you like to travel and want something light.  At home, it can be another option for a safe place to set your baby (away from pets, for example).

15. A stroller for your car seat – One of my most favorite pieces of equipment was my Snap ‘N Go stroller.  Although it doesn’t specifically say it is compatible with Chicco car seats, it worked for me.  Babies sleep a lot, and often fall asleep in the car.  Having to transfer your infant and wake her up to move her to a stroller is no fun.

Obviously, there are some things I’ve left off the list such as a crib, a car seat and clothing.   But I think it would be hard to forget those, and I don’t have a specific recommendation for any of them.

What have I forgotten?

Baby products you simply don’t need

A friend recently sent me a Reader’s Digest article about baby products that are a waste of money (thanks, Irene!).  I agreed with every one of them, and it got me thinking that the list wasn’t exhaustive enough.  Thus, I’m posting the list here, as well as adding my own additions to it.  Right now I have at least half a dozen friends who are pregnant (three with their first children), so this is for you guys (or I should say gals)!

Reader’s Digest list:

1. Diaper Genie – You have to buy specific brand trash bag refills for this.  I used a Diaper Champ that allows you to use regular medium trash bags.  I used it a little while for Eliza, and then realized that no matter what you do to mask the smell, you just have to get diapers out of the house on a daily basis.  My kitchen trash can became the receptacle for all diapers.

2. Pee pee Tee Pees – Sure, Zach peed on the wall and on me a few times while getting changed, but you can just keep the dirty diaper over a boy’s anatomy while you change him and quickly recover the area with the new diaper.

3. bottle sanitizer

4. bottle warmer

5. wipe warmer

6. baby powder

7. diaper caddy

8. receiving blankets – I would recommend Aden + Anais swaddling blankets,

9. hand mittens – My lactation consultant chastised me for ever putting these on Eliza, saying a newborn only has so many ways to learn about the world, and one of them is touch)

10. baby food processor (I have another post about the Beaba)

11. baby video monitor – You don’t NEED to see your baby while he sleeps.  An audio monitor will suffice.  If you WANT to, that’s a different thing entirely.

12. Baby Einstein DVDs

13. shopping cart cover – You bring the cover home, which now has all those germs on it anyway.

And now, my additions …

14. a portable crib with any bells and whistles – the one I got was $170 because it had a changing station attached to it, a music player, a vibration machine … and I never needed any of those things.  I’ll say it a million times: you want your kids to learn to fall asleep without help, so getting in the habit of putting them down with sleep crutches is just dumb.  (My disclaimer here is I’ve never had a child with colic, so I’m sure if I did I would be willing to try anything.)

15. crib or bedroom ambiance toys – ocean wonders, noise makers, etc. all become sleep crutches.  It depends on you if you want to have to travel with these things for life.

16. special detergent – find a scent-free detergent you can use for the whole family and be done with it.

17. backseat mirror for the car – they’re safety hazards because they can cause accidents (because they distract you) and in an accident they can become airborne weapons.

18. car seat head supports – unless you have a preemie or your baby is underweight for your car seat and your pediatrician recommends this, you do not need it.

19. sleep positioners – aside from them being ridiculous to begin with, recent research has warned they are safety hazards.

20. Special stroller organizers or umbrellas – Honestly, marketers will try to sell you ANYTHING …

21. strap covers for car seats or strollers – My opinion is car seat makers have to meet strict standards to keep your kids safe.  Why add anything unnecessary to such a piece of equipment?  My kids are perfectly comfortable in their seats without these.

Stay tuned for a list that’s just the OPPOSITE – all the things you just can’t live without!  And I’m curious if you have any baby products you got that you found to be useless.

TIPS: Homemade baby food can be a cinch

Yes, it’s convenient to buy baby food for when you’re on-the-go or when you just don’t have time to make some fresh food.  But if you do a little planning and you cook big batches at once, you can feed your baby less expensively and more wholesomely.  Below are some tips for how I do it.  If you have anything to add, I’d love your feedback!

1) You should have on hand, at the very least: a) a steamer insert for a lidded saucepan, b) an immersion/hand blender (preferable), a blender, or a food processor, and c) a baby food cookbook.*  You do not need a special baby food maker (such as a Beaba cook – see my other post regarding this) or a food mill (though it does help with things such as peas and corn).

2) If you pick one morning and one night that are 3 1/2 days apart in the week to cook for your baby, you can make enough food for the entire week.  For example, pick Saturday mornings (when it might be easier to have someone else watch your kids) and Tuesday nights.  Or, if you’re not that much of a planner, you can cook as you need it or realize you are running out.  Sometimes I’m not good at planning ahead, but when I get low on Zach’s food supply, I’ll make it a take-out night so that after the kids go to bed, I have the energy to cook for him.

3) If you DO have several ways to cook baby food, you can make more batches at once and thus save time.  So, when I make anything on the stove, I also run something in my Beaba cook simultaneously.  Now that Zach is eating more “meals” (such as onion, carrots and chicken cooked in stock and finished with cheese), I can cook those in a large saute pan while I steam a vegetable in my stove-top steamer AND cook some fruit in the Beaba cook.  (If I were really ambitious, I’d also cook him a grain at the same time.)  I can make a bunch of food in about 45 minutes total from start to finish that way.

4) Some baby foods are super easy to make on-the-go and don’t need to be cooked at all.  If you know you’re going to be out for breakfast, pack some baby cereal and a ripe banana with a small mixing bowl and a fork to mash it together, and you’ve got a meal.  If it’s lunch, take a cooler bag and mix some fruit or veggie puree with some plain yogurt or soft tofu.  When we go out to dinner, I just heat up what I would have fed him at home to a pretty hot temperature, and when we get seated in the restaurant, I feed it to him and it’s still warm.

5) Once you know your baby likes a certain food or meal, then make larger batches at once and freeze the excess (that you won’t use within 3 days) in ice-cube trays wrapped in plastic wrap.  Then transfer them to plastic zip top bags once frozen and label them.  Or, if your baby is a little older and you need larger servings, you can freeze them in disposable tupperware.  I like the Gladware mini-round containers because they hold 4 oz. each.

6) I try to label my baby food containers with what’s in them and the date they were made.  I highly recommend using erasable labels by LabelOnce.  I found mine at The Container Store.

7) Once your child has had “first tastes” of the different food groups, try making it easy on yourself by picking food groups to feed at each meal instead of worrying about specific fruits, vegetables, grains or proteins.  For example, I now feed Zach some fruit and grains at breakfast every day.  Sometimes he also gets a protein with it from yogurt.  For lunch, he gets fruits and/or vegetables, and a protein from either dairy, meat or beans.  For dinner, he gets vegetables and a protein at the very least, and sometimes he gets grains and fruit.

8) Because it’s summer and lots of fruits and vegetables are fresh and in season, introduce your baby to these.  Zach is currently eating a lot of melons, peaches, nectarines, pluots and plums.  If they’re very ripe, they don’t need to be cooked and can be mashed together or with banana with just a fork.

I think that’s all I will list for now.  If you have any questions, let me know.

*I LOVE Annabel Karmel’s “Top 100 Baby Purees”

and I’m also starting to try recipes from the Williams-Sonoma “Cooking for Baby” cookbook as well.

Document life’s funny moments so you can remember them.

It’s really hard in this information age to feel like I’m doing enough to document all the greatest, fleeting moments as they’re happening.  Never before have we had such easy access to photos, videos, blogs, etc. to mark milestones.  So far, I’ve found a few things to be helpful.  For example, I actually kept a calendar on my refrigerator when I introduced Eliza to solids so I could mark what days I introduced each food to her.  Of course, I did this to keep track in case she had an allergic reaction to something, but also because, remember, I’m a control freak, so I wanted to introduce her to every fruit, vegetable, meat, bean, herb and spice I could think of between six months and a year, and there’s no way to remember if your child has yet tasted, say, cardamom or kohlrabi.  (Maybe I was only that adventurous in my memory, but whatever.)

So, I haven’t had a calendar up yet for Zach, but I’m going to go get one now for sure.  It’s nice to have a record of food introductions that’s easy to read.  But the other reason to keep a calendar handy is that it makes it super easy to jot down the dates of first teeth, first steps, first words, first anythings, and of course, funny moments.  (My mom suggested this.)  I have not been using a calendar for these things (yet!), but rather several different tracking devices.  My problem is I am a perfectionist, which is a really paralyzing disease because I end up waiting to do a lot of things until I have time to do them exactly as I imagine I should do them.  What this leads to is inaction.  I’m trying to get better about this, so I have a nice journal I use to record my favorite moments.  But I also have a couple of random notebooks around in case I can’t find the journal or am afraid if I wait until later I’ll forget.  Shoot, if I were at a restaurant, I would use a napkin to document the moment and just put it in my filing folder later.  (I’m cured!)  And I’m okay about not having everything in one neat and tidy place because all I really need to know is that someday, if I wanted to make a perfect scrapbook or baby book, I’d have the resources at my fingertips.  And finally, I have Zach and Eliza’s e-mail addresses.

Just after my children were born, Greg set up an e-mail account for each one.  I try to send them notes whenever I think about it (sometimes every few weeks, sometimes every few months) to tell them how they’re doing, or describe their milestones, or their personalities, or just how much I love them.  E-mail is so nice because it automatically time stamps your thoughts, so someday my kids will know exactly what I was thinking on a particular day in history.  We decided on Gmail accounts because the messages won’t ever be automatically deleted.

So, don’t get paralyzed by perfectionism.  The important thing is to keep a record – somehow – of the truly important stuff.  If you have ideas on tracking your kids’ greatest moments and milestones, please post them!

Baby food suckers beware.

Now that Zach is six-months-old (as of yesterday, sniff sniff) and started solids last week, there is a new pungency to his diapers.  (Incidentally, we are about to fast-track Eliza into potty training, which is another post entirely, but having two children creating such stenchy messes is too much to bear.)

As a type-A person, of course with Eliza I pretty much made all of her baby food because, well, it’s healthier, less expensive, and what any self-respecting woman who takes her stay-at-home job seriously would do (right?).  Now that I have even less time to plan and prepare Zach’s food, though, I’m looking for more shortcuts.  My mother-in-law bought me the Beaba cook baby food maker for Christmas with some of those individual, 1- and 2- oz. containers for freezing the food.  The Beaba cook is nice and convenient, easy to use, and easy to clean in the dishwasher.  I’ve already figured out that you don’t have to change the amount of water you are supposed to put in it for steaming depending on the amount of food you’re cooking.  And it’s nice that after steaming, you can then blend the food right in the contraption.

However, suckers beware.  From what I can tell, it is no easier than using a regular pot with a steaming insert on the stove, and then using my hand blender (I have the Breville handheld food processor) in the pot to mash up the food.  There are a lot of pieces in the Beaba cooker as well, versus an easily removable blender handle and a pot and a steamer insert for the other method.  And finally, the cooker only holds so much food.  It’s not conducive to making large batches of baby food, or cooking meals that have items that require varying cooking time.  So it’s lifespan is going to be short in my kitchen.  Thus, if you want to make baby food and save some money, buy a hand or immersion blender, which is much more multifunctional for years to come than a specific maker of baby food.

As far as freezing extra food goes (which is the point because for a little effort I get a lot of meals), these individual little containers are freaking frustrating and stupid.  You have to run each one under water to get it to pop out, which is highly irritating and time consuming.  Of course, washing them in the dishwasher is a pain as well because they could easily fall through.  For Eliza, I used ice cube trays I had on hand.  I wrapped saran wrap around them a few times, froze them, ran them upside down under a bit of water, and then easily popped all the frozen food cubes into a freezer bag.  Sometimes you really don’t need all these specialized contraptions.  This is one of those instances.  Just use your ice cube trays and some saran wrap.