Baby-Proof Decorating on a Budget

Back in January, I wrote a blog post on baby proofing our apartment, because yes, I'm that person who starts baby proofing before there is even a child in the house. We didn't add cabinet locks, outlet covers, or furniture padding until she started scooting (about two months ago), and we still don't have oven knob or door covers or all the wiring hidden, but that's definitely going to be needed soon since she's now crawling and pulling up. On a related note, I thought it might be helpful for other parents to hear some of the inexpensive ways I've found to keep our apartment feeling stylish yet both adult and child-friendly. I mentioned some of these back in January, but now that we have an all-out crawler (with constantly sticky fingers) in our house, I have a better idea of what works and what may not.

First of all, it's not rocket science or the most unique idea, but I have found that storage ottomans are awesome with babies. We have a round patterned one from Target's Threshold line that I bought over a year ago and it's still holding up well to a baby, two adults and a dog. You can see it next to the couch in the picture (with our new baby-proof bar cabinet to the left) below.

I have this ottoman packed full of the majority of Adeline's toys, about half her picture books, clean burp-cloths, and two throw blankets. When I take the cover off, she loves to pull herself up on the side and toss all of her toys and books out. She weighs 18+ pounds and it's sturdy enough with four peg feet to support her pulling up on it, is the perfect size as a side table for our small living/dining room, and is easy to clean off all the sticky baby hand-prints. Unfortunately it doesn't look like this style is still available online at Target, but I thought any of their below storage ottomans, all under $80, would work similarly well for toy and book storage.

Tufted Storage Ottoman in Charcoal (Available in Other Colors)

Flared Leg Storage Ottoman in Blue Print (Available in Other Color)

Round Tufted Storage Ottoman in Gray Textured Weave

Now for a well-rounded and honest post, I have to share the one thing that is not currently working as well in our living room with a mobile baby. I have this giant textured basket from Crate & Barrel (that I think I bought at the outlets in San Marcos) that used to hold throw blankets and decorative pillows in our master bedroom in Austin, and now holds baby blankets and a pillow in our living room here. I love the look and texture next to our tv stand, it can hold a ton of stuff, but Adeline also wants to pull up on it and it's not as sturdy as the ottoman. It is also made of these rustic woven leaves and she regularly tries to break little pieces off to stick in her mouth.

I am not ready to give up this piece, but I'm trying to decide if either I can somehow anchor it to the wall so she can't pull it over, which doesn't deal with the eating it issue, or if I need to relocate it to our bedroom and find a different storage piece for this corner. I'll let you know what I figure out and share some updated apartment photos when we return from L.A. in the spring. I also have some paint and new decor ideas for this place come next year, so I can't wait to share further over the coming months. In the meantime, I guess at some point I have to start packing and prepping for our short-term move. Wish me luck! 

The Newborn Must Haves

Yesterday we went to lunch with friends, currently expecting their first baby this winter, and they asked for our list of baby must haves. I couldn't initially come up with anything. We're in the 8-month "getting into everything" phase and goes from smiling to screaming in seconds mode, so I haven't thought much about the first few months in a while. But once we returned home, and I was turning on her noise machine to put her down for an afternoon nap, I thought "oh yeah, a noise machine is totally a must have!" So once she was asleep, I sat down at the computer and put on my "early days with baby" memory cap to come up with a list of the things newborn and 1 - 2 month old Adeline (and I as a new mom) totally couldn't live without. First, let's start with the most obvious items: everything we used to put Adeline to sleep the first few weeks and months. 

#1. White Noise Machine
Multiple friends recommended various noise machines and in the end, we registered for the Marpac Dohm white noise machine. It has been great! We still use it consistently today. I especially like the two different noise level settings, I use the softer one for naps and louder ones for bedtime to give her a little more distinction between the two. Bonus tip for dog owners: we actually got Aurora her own noise machine (a less expensive version) and we turn it on all night above her kennel. It actually seems to keep her calmer at night and she stopped the random 3 AM "barking at a stranger on the street" fits.

#2. Velcro Swaddle Wrap
I know everyone feels differently on this, but I had several friends recommend various brands of the simple, no frills swaddle blankets and we received a few. I found these helpful in the early days to tuck around her in the bassinet at night (similar to how the nurses did around the bassinet mattress in the hospital). But beyond that, a few days out from the hospital, neither of us could remember how to use those blankets to actually swaddle her like we were shown in our baby prep class. I am so glad that friends recommended the Summer Infant SwaddleMe Velcro Blankets. They were super easy to use, kept Adeline nice and snug, and she slept so well in them for the first few months. The Velcro eventually gave out, and once she was getting close to turning over, we had to transition out of them, but oh man, these were the best thing ever. 

#3. Video Baby Monitor
Even in a small apartment, we have found a video monitor really helpful, especially in the early days, when our neurotic new, lack of sleep parenting worries came up and we wanted to check she was still breathing without sneaking into her room to check and accidentally waking her. I won't reference our monitor here, because there are tons of options and price ranges to choose from and none seem particularly terrible. Ours is pretty small and simple. The second monitor type purchase we did just make a few weeks ago though was for a home security system. It's wifi enabled so we can check in on her from our phones when out, and that has given us a lot more peace of mind when leaving her with sitters (we obviously trust the sitters, it's just easier to glance at our phones and see her peacefully sleeping, instead of texting/calling the sitter hourly). I'm happy to share further details on that in private messages if anyone is interested.

#4. Pacifiers
This is completely a personal choice, as we did hear a lot about things like "nipple confusion" and not giving the baby a pacifier or bottle for at least 6-8 weeks. Thankfully Adeline didn't have any issues with that, because she had so many latching issues in the beginning, I had to pump and give her bottles regularly and pacifiers totally were part of our bedtime process after the first week and into the first few months (she gave up pacifiers around 3 or 4 months when she discovered her thumb). The Avent Soothie Pacifiers were great and even when Adeline stopped using them, she still enjoyed chewing on the outside rim, until we figured out what she was doing. And yes, we totally had the super popular WubbaNub, which are adorable, and I was honestly a little sad when she stopped using that one.

#5. Overnight Diaper
I don't even remember who recommended overnight diapers to me, but whoever it was, thank you! Once our pediatrician said Adeline could sleep through the night without being nursed (around 10 lbs I think), we switched her to overnight diapers so she didn't need to be changed in the middle of the night either. And she started averaging 8 - 9 hours at night around 2 months (if my memory is correct)! We've also used overnight diapers for travel (plane and 2-hour car rides) in case of blowouts and (knock on wood) haven't had one in the middle of a trip yet. They aren't available in newborn sizes, but that makes sense since you'll still be changing their diapers at night for the first month or so anyway.

#6. Daytime Sleep - Rock N Play Sleeper
I had multiple friends recommend the Fisher Price Rock N Play Sleeper to us, and it was seriously a lifesaver in the beginning. I know this seems annoying, because they don't fit in it for very long (especially if you have a long baby), but Adeline took the majority of her naps in this the first two months and I even put her in it and brought her into the bathroom so I could shower a few times early on. I've heard some people also have them sleep in this at night in the beginning, but Keith read mixed things on that (babies should sleep flat, could potentially fall out, etc) so I can't recommend that, but for the daytime naps it's amazing! It folds flat which is great for smaller spaces, and if your baby is anti the rocking feature (like ours was), just keep it unplugged.

#7. Nighttime Sleep - Bassinet
We initially planned to put Adeline in her crib from day one. Then we got home and she looked teeny-tiny in the crib, and even though her room is directly off ours, we freaked ourselves out and didn't do it. Keith ran out and bought the Chicco Travel Crib and it worked perfectly right up against our bed in our narrow room. It was easy to collapse, the sheet was removable for cleaning, and I liked the mesh liner that allowed me to peak in at her throughout the night in the beginning. She only slept in this for 6 weeks until we transitioned her to the crib, but it was such a comfort to have her alongside us at night, and it made the constant nighttime feedings that much easier in the beginning.

Those are the main items I could think of that were most helpful in the first month or two for Adeline's sleep. Babies sleep a lot in the beginning, but after a few weeks they gradually are awake more during the day, and then you need a few things to entertain them. Adeline is actually not a huge fan of most toys, she's all about those empty water bottles and crinkling the plastic container of wipes. However, there are a few toys she has continued to like from about a month onward, so I recommend the following:

#8. A Rattle
I still remember when Adeline figured out how to pass the Oball Rattle ball from hand-to-hand. I didn't even realize that was a big developmental milestone, but I happened to catch it on video and was totally "that parent" at her next check-up who showed it off to the pediatrician. This was one of the first toys she really interacted with, she still loves chewing on it, and now that she's crawling, she flings it across the floor and then crawls after it. Of course, every kid is going to be different but for Adeline, this one has been a hit.

#9. Sophie the Giraffe
I know $24 seems a little pricey for a rubber chewing toy, but seriously, ALL kids seem to love this giraffe. And yes, Adeline even loves her still today!

After the sleep-time necessities and a few toys, here are three things I didn't get in advance, even though pretty much every friend (and every baby must have list) said to get the first two. Don't be like pre-baby me. 

#10 + #11 Nasal Care
Adeline had SO many boogers in the beginning (for some reason, she doesn't as frequently now) and there were definitely times we would put her to bed at night and one nostril would whistle because the other was stopped up. I recommend having some baby nasal spray (#10) on hand for occasions such as this. The spray helps loosen up the boogers and makes it that much easier to get them out with the Nose Frida (#11). Yes, this thing looks totally disgusting and I refused to register for one. I got some other nasal aspirator, which totally didn't work and after a few tries, I sent Keith to our local pharmacist for the Nose Frida. Sure it seems gross, and the first few times, it may gross you out a little. But it totally works and no you don't inhale any of the snot. Seriously, just get it.

#12. Coconut Oil (buy in the oil section at your grocery store)
On all the baby must have lists, I never saw this and yet, I still to this day use it so frequently. Best part? This is for both baby and mom! Our pediatrician actually recommended using coconut oil on every crease and crevice after bath time (behind knees and elbows, around neck and tummy line, behind ears), because Adeline would get a bit of dry spots in those areas. Also, the pediatrician recommended coconut oil for diaper rashes, and we never wound up having to use butt cream again after we started using the coconut oil for that. This is also the perfect segue into my final and most important must haves for the first few months. Coconut oil isn't just great for babies skin, it's also great for mom's skin! My lactation consultant recommended coconut oil to aid in nipple healing (yep, I said nipple on my blog...) and it still comes in handy today. Breastfeeding is immensely easier now than it was in the first two months, but there are still times where Adeline is a little too hungry, eager or aggressive and I need a little oil application for several days in a row afterward. Totally does the trick, much cheaper than lanolin, lasts a really long time, and is totally fine for baby to have too.

#13. Nipple Shields  
No, not everyone will need these, but it's something that is rarely mentioned to expectant moms and I think would be helpful to have on hand just in case. This is not one size fits all, so buy different sizes and keep them in the packaging with receipt in case you don't need them. Adeline had lots of latch issues for the first two months and breastfeeding was excruciating. I do not say that as a scare tactic, because our breastfeeding journey changed so dramatically thanks to lots of external help. I only share this, because for some reason it seems like a lot of woman don't talk about the discomfort, pain, awkwardness, engorgement, chapping, and yes, even blood. Some are very fortunate and don't experience most of that, but the majority seem to experience some if not all. And if you don't have help and foresight, it would be really easy to feel alone and even give up. Which leads me into my final two biggest and most important recommendations for the early days with a newborn.

#14. Hire a postpartum doula
If you have a great community of family and friends nearby that are more than ready to lend a helping hand, and your partner can take some time off to be home with you, then you may not need a postpartum doula. Mine was a lifesaver though and I fully credit her with helping me not give up breastfeeding after one week (she introduced me to the nipple shield). We don't have family in town, and our closest friends here had a baby as well, so having the help of a doula was so wonderful in the first few weeks, especially when Keith went back to work after a week. My doula went grocery shopping, prepared meals for me, took Adeline on walks so I could nap. Seriously, so wonderful! And if I had suffered from postpartum depression, I can only imagine how even more amazing it would have been to have her around. Remember that you can't take care of your baby, unless you're taking care of yourself too.

#15. Finally, and most importantly, get several names of amazing lactation consultants. I waited two entire months before contacting one that a friend recommended. The nipple shields helped Adeline latch, but they didn't take away the pain. And sadly, it took me getting to the end of my rope and just about ready to totally give up breastfeeding, before I contacted the lactation consultant. I honestly didn't expect at that point that anyone could help. My goal originally was to nurse for six months, then once I started, it reduced to 3, maybe 4 months at most. The consultant showed me five new nursing holds and within one hour, the pain was gone. Gone! Not only that, but now she's on call for me any time I have a question (like about clogged ducts - ugh!), she FaceTimed with me the day after to help remind me of some of the things we discussed, and offers regular nearby meetings if you want to do a baby weigh in and just check in on progress. No it's not cheap, but some insurances will cover the lactation consultant up to 100%, so it's definitely worth checking. And look at it this way, if working with a lactation consultant completely changes your breastfeeding experience and allows you to nurse for 12+ months, that actually winds up saving you a ton on never having to buy formula! And no judgement whatsoever on giving your child formula. I just know it's expensive and if you really didn't want to, then hiring a consultant could be the saving grace. I only planned to nurse for six months before even giving birth, and eight months in now, I have no plans of stopping anytime soon. Also, for the first two months, I dreaded nursing. It wasn't bonding or some beautiful experience for me, it was painful and difficult. I didn't experience the bonding feeling until about 3 - 4 months in, and now, after eight months, it's actually difficult for me to imagine weaning her. That is a HUGE change from six months ago!

As I said earlier in this post, don't be pre-baby me. Buy the Nose Frida and have a few names of highly recommended lactation consultants to call if your breastfeeding experience isn't improving after a few days. There are plenty of items I bought and wound up not needing, or used for a short time and haven't used since (like the pump and bottles in the first few weeks of establishing my supply), so perhaps I'll write another post soon about the newborn must-not haves.

What items or resources did it take you having a baby to realize you actually did need? Anyone else anti-Nose Frida and now you've also seen the light? Please do tell.

Future House Goals

If you've been a reader for a while, then you know that I love interior design and home projects. When we were still living in Austin, I was constantly thinking of future projects for our house, up until we decided to sell it. I don't think of as many projects for our apartment here, other than baby-proofing and how to better organize. I'm definitely getting a little decorating itch as I've been stalking houses on Zillow lately. And I haven't even been looking in any particular area, because I am definitely not ready for the responsibility of home ownership anytime soon. Plus we're still on a 5+ year projection of buying again (we've got a few more ideas up our sleeve before settling more permanently). But, while I've got the itch, I figured it might be fun to share what our future house dreams currently look like. 

Tiny House by House Kaboodle

Keith and I have both been enjoying having so much less space here. There's less to clean, less clutter, less spots to lose our keys and sunglasses. We moved from a 2,100 square foot house to a (maybe) 800 square foot apartment, and we love it! Even with an additional family member, we definitely never want to go that large again. Partially our priorities have changed, but also now that we've lived together in two smaller apartments and one larger house, we've realized we just don't require that much space. Having the experience of multiple living situations, we've realized that if/when we buy again, we won't have a designated guest room, a formal dining room, or bonus rooms we don't need. Some of that may make sense and some of you may be asking, but where will we sleep when we visit? So here's a breakdown of our thoughts on a smaller footprint.

No Designated Guest Room
In Austin, we had a 4-bedroom house for two people. That means, we each had our own office plus a guest bedroom, which was infrequently used for guests and mostly used for extra closet storage (i.e. more stuff). I don't want to always live in a space that requires us moving our breakfast table to blow up a mattress for guests in our living room (current situation), but I also don't see the purpose of having an entire bonus room that sits empty most of the year (Austin house). In the future, we'll probably look for a 3-bedroom or a 2-bedroom with a study. That means we'll have an office area for Keith with a (comfortable) fold-out couch for the occasional guest. 

Office and Guest Room by Decoist

Office with Guest Space by Freshome

No Formal Dining Room
Our dining room in Austin was probably my favorite room in that house. The globe light alone was one of our biggest investments (aside from landscaping and redoing the sunroom). And I spent two weekends in a row stenciling an entire wall. But, we only really used it for the occasional dinner party or when we were babysitting our nephew and niece. Our breakfast table for two got a lot more use. I love the idea of a banquette seating area essentially in the kitchen, that allows you to pull up an extra chair or two for up to 6, is a great space for Adeline to spread out and do future homework while I cook, and has plenty of room for my occasional crafting projects. I never used my office in Austin and often worked in the dining room or garage, so that would make a lot more sense. 

Breakfast Nook by Lamps Plus

Breakfast Nook in Kitchen by Guiding Home

No Bonus Rooms
This may be the area where I'm being the most naive, but I don't see the need for a designated game room, workout room, sunroom, family plus living room, etc. We had an entire sunroom in our Austin house that we used as a gym, but it mainly served as the dog's room when we were out running errands. Sure it was nice having a treadmill in the house, but we've been without one for well over a year, and it's been working just fine. We have a gym membership, run on the trails through the park, have a weight bar and various dumbbells at home, and I am actively involved with a local workout group. Bonus rooms are just one more space to clean, and I prefer cleaning to take as little time as necessary. 

Small House Floor Plan by Top Home Ideas

Two-Story Small House Floor Plan by Dehouss

As you can see from the floor plans I found online (merely as a visual reference), we're picturing a much smaller future, longer-term second house. Some people dream about having more rooms, more area to spread out, we dream about less stuff and more land to run around. When it comes down to it, our main goal is to remain debt-free and pay with cash. We're certainly not millionaires, so as you can imagine, depending on the area we eventually do buy in, that means a pretty small footprint (1000-1500 square feet at most is the plan) with probably quite a bit of work needed. And currently, that sounds perfect to us.

What's your dream house look like? What are some of your main priorities? 


Keith and I love to travel! We honeymooned in Iceland, and since then, have been to Paris, road tripped cross country three years ago, backpacked through Europe last spring, and have flown with Adeline to Wisconsin, Texas and soon L.A. Our goal as a family is to make at least one domestic trip annually and one international trip every other year. Since our last international trip was last spring, we're due for another one next year. And of course, I being the the planner in our household, I've already started brainstorming where we should take Adeline for her first cross-ocean trip. 

Initially, we discussed traveling to Scotland next summer as Keith has never been (I studied abroad there and visited a friend there six years ago). We talked about possibly going around Edinburgh Fringe Festival, going to St. Andrew's Highland Games, and of course getting in a whiskey tour. Unfortunately, due to Keith's work schedule, it seems pretty likely he'll be on another editing job around that time. So, now that we know we'll be in Los Angeles from November - February, we're expecting Keith to be off work for at least part of March, all of April, and perhaps part of May. The best way to plan a trip is first know the time of year you'll be traveling. Once we established April/early May as free months, I proposed the idea of an international family trip. And Keith thankfully was on board with the idea. 

Lisbon, Portugal by Sun Surfer

There were several countries we cut out of our Europe backpacking trip, and so, I've been itching at the chance to plan a future visit ever since. Since we'd be flying over in late spring, I thought it would be best to be in more Southern Europe for nicer weather. So, in the past few days, we started discussing the idea of traveling to Portugal (edited, because initially I said Poland) and Spain next spring. I found a list of what one blogger considers the 10 most beautiful places in Portugal, and am absolutely enchanted with their description of Sintra. Of course, I'm also excitedly anticipating entire day's dedicated to wine tasting in each country. Keith is currently most excited to visit Barcelona as that's been on his bucket list for a long time. 

Sintra, Portugal, no link on Pinterest

Barcelona, Spain by Noelle Floyd

We are hoping to spend two weeks exploring Portugal and Spain, most likely stay in a variety of Airbnb rentals, and try to visit a mix of both larger, better known cities and smaller, more local towns. Neither of us speak any Portuguese or Spanish, so over the next few months, I may try to start using the free Duolingo app in an attempt to pick up at least a few words and phrases. A friend told me about it a few months ago, and I was practicing my French every few nights, but in the past month or two, I haven't been as consistently keeping up with it. On our Europe trip last year, some of my favorite experiences were taking long walks and hikes, so I'll definitely be looking for areas where we have lots of walking options. We also both enjoy trying new foods, eating where the locals eat, and finding time to relax with some coffee/tea and pastries.

Setenil de las Bodegas, Cadiz by Alessio Angiolini

Ronda , Malaga by Cycling Holidays Spain

The next step in the travel process is an initial budget draft and determining how much we'd have to set aside over the next 6 - 7 months toward this trip. If the budget and monthly savings seem doable, then I'll start drafting an initial itinerary. That is, of course, always my favorite part. I'm very nervous about the idea of traveling internationally for up to two weeks with a (then) toddler and am still not 100% sure it's our best idea. Thankfully the blogger realm is making me feel a little more confident as a lot of people seem to have done this. For anyone reading this who's been to either of these countries, please share all your favorite cities and things to see/do! And for anyone who has flown cross-ocean with a toddler, please share all your tips. More details, as they unfold, coming soon! 

Gluten-free Vegan Banana-Zucchini Chocolate Chip Cookies

My mom visited us in New York for the week of her birthday, and I baked her gluten-free brownies for her birthday cake as she likes to limit her gluten intake. My sister also limits her gluten intake, my grandmother has a gluten allergy as do several of our friends, and I know that dairy allergies are a common issue for breastfed babies. All of these things led me to the idea of coming up with my own twist on a gluten-free vegan chocolate chip cookie recipe. I'm not vegan and don't typically bake gluten-free, but I enjoy doing it for friends and family, and I always enjoy a good baking challenge. One of my favorite cookie recipes are these Quinoa-Coconut Chocolate Chip ones, so I started with that recipe and went from there.

The first two rounds of cookies, I jumped right in with little research. I bought some gluten-free flour (mix of brown and white rice), the first batch of cookies were sweetened only with honey, and I added 1 banana and 2 cups of shredded zucchini to make them even healthier. I used coconut oil in place of butter and applesauce as the egg substitute. I bought vegan dark chocolate chip cookies at the corner grocer. Baked 1/2 a dozen of those, then 1/2 a dozen generally the same, but I added 1 tsp of chia and sweetened with 1/4 cup of white sugar and 1/4 cup of honey. I think the vegan chocolate chips were the worst part, but the honey was wrong too. The chocolate chips were sweetened with Splenda and left a strange aftertaste. I've used honey as a healthier sweetener in other baked goods, but in these cookies, it was just too strong and overpowered the other ingredients.

The second two batches of cookies, I started implementing more research. I read about the best and worst sugars, types of gluten-free flours, and taste tested three different types of vegan chocolate. I added an extra banana to both batches, decreased the zucchini to 1 3/4 cups, made one batch with the original gluten-free flour and one with 1/3 coconut and 2/3 rice flour. One batch had semisweet vegan chocolate chips and one had vegan carob chips. I used coconut oil in one and avocado in place of butter in the other. The sweetness improved, and they no longer had a weird aftertaste, but because of the extra banana and applesauce combination, they were super cake-y and kind of just fell apart in your hands. Thankfully, Keith and I both agreed the mix of gluten-free flours had a better taste and the semisweet chips were by far the best of all the vegan chocolates we tried.

I made it to the last two batches and we finally found a winner! For a cakier cookie, you can certainly try this recipe with two bananas or one banana and 1/4 cup of applesauce, but for the crisper texture I was going for, I recommend either banana or applesauce as an egg substitute. I've previously used applesauce in baked goods as an egg substitute, but didn't realize bananas can also serve that purpose for vegan baking, so the banana and applesauce together were kind of overkill. The last two batches I tried coconut cream in place of butter for one and vegan butter for the other. I read a lot of information online about butter substitution, and in cookies especially, found that oils actually result in cakier cookies. Since I was going for a crisper texture, I decided to try some vegan options closer to actual butter. I also found out that it helps enormously to pat-dry your shredded zucchini before adding it to the other ingredients. Yes yes, you can all shake your heads and laugh at me now. So finally, after taste testing way too many cookies and vegan chocolate last week, here is the winning recipe for my Gluten-free Vegan Banana-Zucchini Quinoa Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies. Enjoy!

Winning cookie pictured on the right!

Winning cookie pictured on the right!

Makes 1 dozen cookies
1 cup Gluten-free All-purpose Flour (I used King Arthur)
1/2 cup Coconut Flour (I used Bob's Red Mill)
1 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 cup Vegan Butter (I like the soy-free Earth Balance)
1/4 cup Coconut Sugar
1/4 cup Granulated or Cane Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla
1 (very ripe) Banana
1 3/4 cup Shredded Zucchini (pat-dry with paper towels)
1 1/2 cup cooked Quinoa (room temperature)
1/2 cup desiccated Coconut (unsweetened)
1 cup Vegan Semisweet Chocolate Chips (our favorite brand was Pascha)

Preheat oven to 375° and line baking sheet with parchment paper. 

Whisk together flours and baking soda in smaller bowl. Cream butter and sugars in larger bowl until light and fluffy. Add vanilla, banana, and zucchini to butter, mix about 2 more minutes. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, 1/2 cup at a time. Lastly stir in quinoa, coconut, and chocolate. Scoop spoon size balls of dough onto sheets an inch or so apart, and bake for 15 minutes on middle rack. Once removed from oven, keep cookies on baking sheet for 5 additional minutes before moving to wire rack to cool (crisping trick!).

Alternative Options: For a gluten, non-vegan option, use a mix of whole-wheat and white flours in place of the gluten-free flour and add 1 egg. Also, if you're not a coconut fan, skip the coconut and add dried cranberries or nuts instead. Let me know how yours turn out in the comments below!