Category Archives: Life

How we spent our Christmas vacation

I’ll always remember this Christmas vacation. We didn’t do anything special or go anywhere exciting. We were right here, at home, for two glorious weeks. It wasn’t exactly what we’d planned. We were supposed to be in Vermont for New Years with my family. However, due to Remy’s surgery we needed to be here to care for him. (By the way, thank you so much for your sweet thoughts regarding my last post! Your comments here, on Facebook, and on Instagram meant the world to me.)

It’s crazy to think about, but those two weeks were the last stretch of time that Robert and I will have, just us, for a very long time.

That time gave us the opportunity to spend our days doing productive things while also spending tons of time relaxing. We slept in, watched a whole bunch of movies (Magic in the Moonlight was my favorite), listened to hours of Pandora holiday music, binged on the first two seasons of The Americans (love!), cooked delicious meals, ate bowls upon bowls of popcorn from our new Whirley Pop (highly recommend!), downed daily plates of homemade Christmas cookies, and soaked in the holiday season by our Christmas tree. We also celebrated Christmas Eve and New Years Eve with wonderful friends.

I tried to snap at least one photo per day to remember this precious time. You won’t see anything especially exciting here (or a stitch of makeup or anything except sweats). Yet it captures, for me, some of the most memorable moments of the past year, cone-headed dog and all.

12/22: Planning our Christmas Eve dinner. This was so fun! It’s the first time I ever cooked for Christmas and we wanted to go big. I’m so happy with how everything turned out. Everyone says you shouldn’t make a recipe for the first time when cooking for guests (our friends Erica and Zack were joining us from Christmas Eve). I don’t agree–as long as I follow a Barefoot Contessa recipe to the letter, even if it’s new to me, it’s always going to be great. Ina didn’t disappoint.

IMG_1117 Robert made this beautiful display for our holiday cards. I loved walking by and seeing so many friends and family up there all season long. Hey look, that’s us at the top right! IMG_1125 I went cookie crazy! Over several days I made: these Christmas tree spritz cookies (a classic from my mom’s side of the family), peanut butter blossoms, chewy molasses crinkles, and frosted sugar cookies (Robert’s mom’s recipe). IMG_113412/23. Ooof, that morning. We’d just dropped Remy off for his surgery and had no idea what the future held. In a teary/numb/zombie-like state we made our way to Glazed and Infused for some good old-fashioned emotional eating. Happily, we got the call a few hours later that we’d be bringing our fluffanutter home. IMG_1181 12/24. Christmas Eve! We had the best day!! I woke up ridiculously early (like 4 a.m.) thanks to a little baby practicing his swim flips in my belly. So I did the only logical thing and started cooking. I made several more batches of cookies and began prepping for dinner. Before our friends arrived that evening, Robert set the table.  IMG_1210Party time!! Appetizers included a cheese plate, olives, homemade spiced nuts, and Barefoot Contessa’s roasted shrimp cocktail and cocktail sauce. IMG_1218 Next course: Apple and butternut squash soup. This recipe from Simply Recipes is SO good. The pinch of cayenne at the end really gives it a kick! Sweet and spicy is always a win. The next course, not pictured (oops), was a simple green salad with a Barefoot Contessa vinaigrette. IMG_1221 Onto the main event. Barefoot Contessa’s Filet of Beef Bourguignon. Oh. My. Goodness. It’s the best thing I’ve ever made. Hands down. Game over. I served it with mashed potatoes and sautéed broccolini. We chased it all down with a plate of Christmas cookies. I’m just sad I didn’t get a photo of the four of us, but we had a great time.IMG_1225 12/25. Christmas Day!! Before Christmas, Robert and I never discussed whether we’d be getting each other gifts or not. Lately, we’ve focused more on experiences (like our anniversary trip) rather than material things. And we love that. So it’s funny that we ended up giving each other a bunch of (thoughtful) material gifts this year. IMG_1261 Also funny: We gave each other bathrobes! Here, Robert’s testing out his new robe with his new shower radio. The man loves his NPR. IMG_1263This pretty much sums up how we spent the rest of our Christmas Day: Watching movies, relaxing, and napping. I didn’t even cook anything because we had so many delicious leftovers from the night before. In case you were wondering, beef bourguignon only gets better with time. IMG_1272 12/26. We may be crazy, but we’re planning to cloth diaper our baby boy. I may do a separate post about this (although do you really want to read about diapers on a blog that also has food?…) After LOTS of research it just feels like the right decision for us. I had everything we’ll need for the first few months and I was excited to prep these prefolds and fitteds. Prepping involves four to five cycles in the washer and dryer in order to strip away the natural cotton oils and increase their absorbency. I’ve never been so excited to do laundry in my entire life, which may explain why I appear slightly possessed : ) IMG_1309The end result! I still stare at his drawers of dipes and covers daily. Also: nursery sneak peek! (Full tour coming eventually.)IMG_1427This spread is basically how we ate for those two weeks. So many snack lunches & dinners!! We had some real home cooked meals in there too, I promise. We didn’t eat a single meal outside of the house for more than a week. It was extremely gratifying. Also, I’m currently obsessed with romaine and iceberg lettuce salads. I know darker leaves are better, but I just can’t get enough of the crunch right now. IMG_1402New Years Eve! Once again, I’m sad I didn’t get a group picture. Our friends Lisa and Brian had a bunch of friends over to their home for NYE. They recently gutted and remodeled nearly the entire house (themselves!!!!) so it was a great way to break it in. Everything came out so beautifully! IMG_1397New Year, new house projects!! Over the holiday we got a freezer for our garage. Robert hung a tennis ball from the garage ceiling so I won’t drive into the freezer. So far so good : ) IMG_1409Painting the baby’s bathroom!! I still can’t believe our baby has his own bathroom (?!??) The walls needed some patching and painting and Robert got ‘er done. Eventually we’ll tackle the weird door-less vanity situation… IMG_1437Chicago has been brutally cold since the New Year, but we had a fairly mild holiday. Finally, on the very last day before returning to work it snowed several inches. Here’s Remy watching the big flakes fall from the sky. I love this picture because it’s less than two weeks after his surgery and he was basically fully recovered by then. Dogs heal so quickly! A snowstorm and another day spent warm and cozy inside was the ideal way for our holiday to end. IMG_1444

We Love Remy!

fowler_2014-43Whether you know me in real life or we’re friends on Facebook or Instagram, then you have a glimpse into how much I love our goldendoodle, Remy. It’s difficult to articulate just what this dog means to me. As crazy as it sounds (and yes, I know he’s a dog and not a human), Remy is a part of me. He just is.fowler_2014-06 Remy came into my life when I was 23 years old. I was living on my own in Park City, Utah chasing a dream of being a full-time freelance writer and part-time ski bum. While I was learning how to support and care for myself, I was simultaneously learning how to support and care for him. I can say, without hesitation, that pieces of me exist because of this dog. He helped cultivate my ability and love for nurturing, which I can’t wait to shower upon our son. He’s taught me how to forgive in the face of disappointment. He’s shown me it’s possible to find the good and the fun in almost any circumstance. From him, I’ve learned to accept others exactly as they are. And most importantly, he’s shown me how to love unconditionally. Over and over again.fowler_2014-34Remy’s been by my side through countless miles, a cross-country move to Vermont, and infinite life lessons. He was with me when I moved to Chicago in 2010. We even share the same birthday.fowler_2014-09Remy was there the evening I came home giddy from my very first date with Robert. He was there the first time Robert visited my apartment and we cooked dinner together. He was there the moment Robert asked me to marry him. And he’ll be there the day we bring our baby boy home. fowler_2014-32And so, it breaks my heart to think that just over two weeks ago we thought we might be saying goodbye to Remy forever.

On December 19, I brought Remy in for what I thought was a relatively routine vet appointment. He’d recently lost some weight and was drinking a lot of water. The vet, Dr. Dann, felt something in Remy’s spleen and ran an X-ray and ultrasound. The tests showed a sizable mass. Dr. Dann explained that the mass could be one of two things: There was a 50 percent chance it was a benign tumor and a 50 percent chance it was hemangiosarcoma–a serious form of cancer in which about 90 percent of dogs die within one to three months. I sat there stunned. It was the last thing I ever expected to hear about our seemingly healthy and energetic 7.5-year-old pup. My mind struggled to process his words. Next, Dr. Dann explained that they wouldn’t know which one it was until they removed Remy’s spleen, biopsied tissues from other organs, and sent the samples to a pathologist. Even if it was benign, his spleen had to come out because there was a risk that the mass could burst and cause internal bleeding that could kill him. Surgery was our only option.

The final blow was this: If, during surgery, there was evidence of metastasis throughout Remy’s abdomen, Dr. Dann would call me and recommend putting him down rather than having him go through recovery only to get sick and pass away within a matter of months. As impossible as that was to hear, I agreed that it was the most humane thing to do, should it come to that. I never want Remy to suffer a day in his life. fowler_2014-11 Before Remy’s surgery, Robert and I wanted to have some photos of our family, just as we are now. We have so few photos of Robert, me, Remy, and Pippa* together that we couldn’t imagine saying goodbye to Remy without them. A friend put us in touch with a talented local photographer, Becca Heuer. I e-mailed her the day before Remy’s surgery. And, miraculously, despite being three days before Christmas, she was able to meet us that same afternoon. Although it was cold and rainy and one of the darkest days of the year (in more ways than one), she captured some of my all-time favorite photos. At the time, we knew it could be Remy’s last day with us. During the shoot that thought often crept into my mind, but I did my best to focus on the now and the love I have for him and our little family.fowler_2014-41fowler_2014-60I’m so happy to report that this fluffly white pup whose paw prints are stamped all over our hearts is still with us! His surgery went well, there were no visible signs of disease beyond his spleen, and, after seven nerve-wracking days of waiting, his biopsy results came back negative for cancer. Today, less than three weeks post-op, Remy is 100 percent back to his usual lovable, goofy self. fowler_2014-36We spent our Christmas caring for him as he recovered and loving on him as he healed. Since then, I’ve thought a lot about how fortunate we are with Remy’s outcome. Despite needing major surgery and requiring us to cancel a trip back East over the holiday so we could be with him, it’s turned out as well as we could’ve hoped. And let’s not forget, his tumor was in an organ he doesn’t even need. What are the chances? fowler_2014-22 I can’t help but think about the fact that every day families deal with uncertainty, heart-breaking news, and loss of all kinds. I’ll never know how we got so lucky, but I’m so deeply grateful. The experience isn’t lost on me.fowler_2014-14Whenever I look at these photos, watch Remy use a pillow like a human, hold Pippa as she falls asleep against my squirming belly, or feel Robert’s warm hand in mine, I’m reminded, more than ever, to never take any of it for granted. fowler_2014-01 *Oh, sweet Pippa!! She’s perfect and we love her every bit as much as we love Remy!

Second Trimester Recap

Happy 2015! I hope you had a fabulous holiday. We had a very low key and relaxing two weeks here at home, which I’ll be sharing more about very soon. I also have a few other posts in the pipeline that I’m excited about, including a few recipes (finally!) and life/baby-related things. You can expect to see more lifestyle posts in 2015 on A Balanced Life Cooks as life gets a bit fuller around here : ) I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I love writing them.

I’m now in my 30th week of pregnancy and a few weeks into my third trimester. Writing that completely blows my mind. Thirty weeks has always sounded so far along and I can’t believe I’m there. Now that I’ve had a few weeks to digest the experiences of my second trimester, here’s how those 14 or so weeks went down (along with some slightly humiliating selfies…)

17 weeks

Many women describe the second trimester as the “honeymoon trimester” and I’d say, overall, that was my experience. Soon after the 14-week mark my nausea subsided along with that crazy fatigue (I still experience both every five to 10 days on what I call “first trimester days,” but it’s more bearable than it was before). Mostly, though, my energy in the second trimester was kind of freakish. I think I drove Robert crazy at times because we’d plan to do something relaxing like watch a movie, but then I couldn’t sit still. I had to be up doing something like walking the dogs, cooking or baking, folding laundry, tidying–whatever I could come up with that kept me moving. I wouldn’t say I was in nesting mode quite yet unless I’m just always in nesting mode, homebody that I am.

For the most part, I felt like myself throughout the second trimester, except with a growing belly. I absolutely love it and the little life growing inside. At the same time, I have to admit, there’s been a bit of a mental adjustment that’s had to happen when it comes to accepting this bigger, rounder version of myself (especially lately). I think many women secretly hope they’ll be the type to stay exactly the same, but with a basketball-sized bump on their belly. That’s not the case for everyone and I don’t think that’s been the case for me. I’ve tried to approach the whole body-changing thing with a sense of acceptance and gratitude. As long as I feed myself nourishing foods (with occasional splurges, of course) and move my body in ways that feel right (more on that in a moment), then I’m okay with whatever this body needs to do to grow a healthy baby that we’re so incredibly grateful for.

As silly as it sounds, one of the most helpful things for me in terms of accepting the physical changes has been buying some maternity clothes. I’m fortunate that I don’t need an entire work wardrobe since I work from home, but purchasing a few items has made a big difference. Since I like to keep it real, here’s what it looks like when you try to squeeze into your pre-pregnancy stuff that no longer fits (yes, even sweaters and sweatshirts became too snug):

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Investing in a pair of Paige maternity jeans has been the best decision clothing-wise. I also bought a few sweaters from Gap and Old Navy maternity, all on sale. And I’ve purchased two dresses from the brand Seraphine, which I’ve already worn a few times to weddings and other events. Once my pre-pregnancy clothes stopped fitting by around 20 weeks, I packed most of them away. There’s no point looking at them or trying to make them work if they just don’t.

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20 weeks in one of my favorite Seraphine dresses

In terms of exercise, I was finally able to do a lot more in my second trimester. I took it very easy in my first trimester in part due to the nausea and fatigue, but mostly because I was afraid of doing anything that could hurt the baby (even though I know how important exercise is for a healthy pregnancy…) By 17 weeks I summoned the courage to take my first prenatal yoga class, which was also my first yoga class of any kind in months. And I discovered that prenatal yoga is kind of the BEST THING EVER. It made me feel like myself again since yoga is such a big part of who I am. It also makes me feel better overall because it helps open areas that are tight and achy such as the hips, shoulders, and low back. I take prenatal yoga classes twice a week and, bonus, the studios are within walking distance of our home (so no excuses!) I wish I hadn’t waited so long to go and next time around (if we’re lucky enough) I plan to start prenatal classes in the first trimester. I also try to walk a 3 to 5-mile loop with Remy most days of the week as long as the weather cooperates and that always feels great.

24 weeks

24 weeks

Other second trimester things:

Sleep For the most part, sleep has been good and restful. However, a few nights per week I experience what I describe as “running out of sleep.” I’ll wake up between 3 to 5 a.m. for absolutely no reason and can’t fall back asleep. Preparing me for what’s ahead? Perhaps. If you ever see my #firstbreakfast posts on Instagram, this is why. Once I’ve been lying awake for a while I start to get really hungry, which makes it even more difficult to fall back asleep so I get up and have something to eat.

Appetite I noticed that I have lower tolerance for hunger so when I get hungry I have to eat rightthisverysecond. I eat about one extra snack per day beyond what I ate before becoming pregnant or make some of my meals just a little bigger. Also, uh, digestion got a little rough around the 19 to 21-week mark and things were not moving. That was no fun at all. I’m thankful for a family that loves potty humor and always responded to my complaining texts with hilarious and appropriate emojis.

Cravings/aversions. I experienced phases throughout the second trimester where I loved and ate several different foods repeatedly until I pretty much got sick of them. Among them were: Sabra pine nut hummus with veggies, salty snacks such as cheddar rockets (Trader Joe’s version of cheddar goldfish, but better), chicken noodle soup, panini with fig jam, and citrus everything–orange juice, lemonade, oranges, and clementines. Oddly, I stopped liking Greek yogurt in the second trimester so that was kind of strange. I haven’t been a big fan of fish throughout my pregnancy, but I still try to down salmon once a week and take fish oil supplements.

So much homemade chicken noodle!

So much homemade chicken noodle!

Highlights of my second trimester included:

  • Healthy results at our 20-week anatomy scan!
  • Finding out that we’re having a BOY!
  • Feeling our baby kick for the first time and having his kicks become stronger and more frequent
  • My family’s visit in November!
  • Dreaming up nursery designs, starting to set up our nursery, and researching baby stuff

What I’m looking forward to most in my third trimester:

  • Watching baby (and my belly) grow and feeling consistent kicks and other movements
  • Baby showers in Kansas City this weekend and Chicago in February!!!
  • Finishing our nursery
  • Getting a stroller. Would it be weird if I practiced walking around the block with the stroller and the dogs? I kind of can’t wait for that.
  • Making LOTS of freezer meals. Over the holiday we bought a freezer for our garage and joined Costco. I also made a freezer meal Pinterest board that I will add to over the next few weeks. If you have any recommendations please let me know. It’s harder to find healthy freezer meals than I thought, but I’m up for the challenge and will keep you updated on that.
  • Meeting our baby boy in March! (Please stay put until then, little guy!) Hopefully we’ll have a name for him by then : )
27 weeks

27 weeks

For additional pregnancy posts see:

Our pregnancy announcement

Journey to baby

Gender reveal

First trimester recap

98 days until baby 

98 Days Until Baby!

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Holy moly. This week we passed a major milestone. Wednesday marked 100 days until our due date and now we’re in the double digit countdown. WHAT? That’s just crazy talk. Considering the fact that only five percent of babies are actually born on their due date I realize it’s just a ballpark, but it’s still a big deal to me. I’ll be posting a second trimester recap in a few weeks, but I thought I’d share some of my thoughts on this whole brewing a baby thing now that we’re just over three months away from meeting our little guy.

Physically, I’ve been feeling really great. I can feel him kick, which is the coolest thing ever and still totally weird. To feel your body move and have no control over it is just…wow! I first felt kicks around 21 weeks and we could feel kicks on the outside by 22 weeks (I’m 26 weeks today). Some days he’s more active than others. And some nights he wakes me up while doing a conga line across my belly (or maybe it’s hiccups!) and I secretly LOVE that. I just lie there in the dark with a hand over my little dancer and a smile on my face until he goes back to sleep.

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My belly is growing a lot more, too. I feel like it took a while for me to show and I’m happy to be out of that “is she pregnant or did she just let herself go?” phase. It’s sort of astonishing to watch my body change so much. I’ll never forget the first time a stranger commented on my belly. We were in the airport and the woman doing my pat down (I’ve been skipping the big X-ray machines) asked me right away how many weeks along I was. I kind of wanted to hug her right then and there, but figured I’d probably be breaking some TSA laws.

Once I passed the 20-week mark we started thinking about the nursery and buying and registering for baby stuff (!!!) We recently got a crib (already set it up!), mattress, dresser (that will double as a changing table), changing pad, bookcase, and ordered our glider. The glider will arrive in January and I can’t wait to sit in it, read, and just hang out in baby’s room. I realize that this stuff is just stuff and probably more than this little human will ever need. But I can’t tell you how helpful it’s been for my mental state. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve experienced a lot of fear throughout this pregnancy. It comes and goes, but sometimes the fear gets the best of me. There’s been something so reassuring about furnishing our nursery and researching baby items that’s made a big difference for me. I think it’s the fact that I can picture our baby using these things and it helps me trust that everything will be okay.

Speaking of our nursery, before becoming pregnant I wasn’t a huge fan of nurseries with a theme or that were overly babyish. Now? We’re going with a colorful safari/jungle theme and everything we’ve found is so cute I could just burst. Funny how things change, huh? Bring on the giraffes, elephants, rhinos, and monkeys!! Robert and I also bought baby’s very first clothing items last weekend: two onesies from Baby Gap and a hat and mittens. The thought of our little guy wearing them turns my heart to mush. Baby boy clothes are seriously the cutest.

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Thanksgiving Day in Kansas City

As someone who basically researches stuff for a living (and enjoys it), I always imagined I’d spend the entire pregnancy reading stacks of baby books. I’m surprised (and maybe a little embarrassed?) to say that so far I’ve only read one (Bringing Up Bebe) and it was actually more entertaining than informative. Robert just finished The Happiest Baby on the Block (seriously ask the man anything about the fourth trimester and the 5 S’s and he’s on it!) I’ll be reading that next followed by Heading Home with Your Newborn (it’s written by two pediatrician moms and the closest thing I’ve found to a baby owner’s manual; I actually received a copy years ago for a story I wrote for American Baby magazine so I’m happy I held onto it). I may read some Ina May Gaskin books I have, too. If you have any must-read recommendations, I’d love to hear them! We’ll also be taking some classes offered through the hospital in the next few weeks. But ultimately, I know that the real learning happens in getting to know our baby and figuring things out once he’s here. Plus, I’m relishing this time when I can still get through as many novels as I like : ) I just finished a really cute book called Vintage that I’d recommend if you’re in the mood for some chick lit fluff.

I have a feeling that with the holidays coming up, the next few weeks are going to fly by and all of a sudden we’ll be well into the third trimester and preparing for baby’s arrival (aaaaand making 10,000 freezer meals…I’m super excited about that). For now, I’m trying to make it a priority to slow down and soak in this time as much as I can because I know it really is so fleeting and such a gift.

What I’ve Been Cooking Lately

tableHi guys! Long time no see! I hope you had a great Thanksgiving. We had a cah-razy Thanksgiving week with a lot of travel. The weekend before Turkey Day we flew to Kansas City for a night, then drove to Branson, MO and spent a few days with Robert’s family at Big Cedar Lodge. We then drove back to KC for Thanksgiving, flew home to Chicago for a night, and then drove up to Detroit for our final wedding of the year and back home again. Phew! I can’t believe all of that happened within the span of one week. At 25.5 weeks, baby sure has racked up some miles already! I must say, it feels so great to be home.

I haven’t posted a recipe in a while, but I’ve been cooking A LOT. We’ve been so fortunate to host family and friends several times over the past few months. It’s funny, when Robert and I were registering for wedding gifts (best thing ever) he’d joke about the imaginary life I had in my head in which we throw dinner parties all the time. Before we got married we just didn’t do it very often. But over the past year we’ve been hosting more and more and I absolutely love it. We’ve become quite the team when having people over.

I must say: dinner parties at home > dinner out. It’s just so much more laid back and enjoyable!

Currently, I feel like I’m going through a phase where I’m really enjoying following recipes pretty much to the word. It’s a great way to sharpen my skills in the kitchen and get back to basics. At the same time, following recipes gives me the confidence I need to make things I’ve never made before (like penne alla vodka–from scratch!) Lately, I’ve been all about comfort foods and no one does comfort better, in my opinion, than the Barefoot Contessa. So you’ll see quite a few links to her recipes below.

Here are some of my favorite recipes lately:

Barefoot Contessa Italian wedding soup I made this soup for a big group of friends we had over on a Sunday afternoon. I served it with a big salad, cornbread, and apple cider cupcakes.

Barefoot Contessa penne alla vodka This is going to sound insane, but I actually decided to make this recipe on a whim as a way to use up some ingredients we had on hand including lots of frozen pureed tomatoes from our CSA this summer and some heavy cream. It’s probably the most extravagant clean-out-the-fridge meal I’ve ever made. It was delicious.

Barefoot Contessa winter minestrone soup with garlic bruschetta I’d been eyeing this recipe for as long as I can remember and I’m so happy I finally got a chance to make it when a friend visited for lunch one day last month. I cannot recommend it highly enough. I’m definitely going to make a few batches to freeze before baby arrives in March!

Smitten Kitchen sweet and sour holiday brisket in the slower cooker from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook.This November, my parents and sister visited for a weekend. I had this brisket ready for them when they arrived late Friday night. I served it with roasted carrots and potatoes (recipe is also from the cookbook), sauteed shredded brussels sprout salad, and apple spice cake for dessert.

Smitten Kitchen big cluster maple granola from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. I make a batch of this with raisins every week or two so I always have a container of it in my pantry. I love having a big bowl of granola with sliced bananas and milk most mornings. I’ve also been known to have a bowl when I occasionally wake up starving around 3 or 4am : )

Quiche Oh my goodness we’ve been eating so much quiche lately. It’s my favorite way to clean out the veggie drawer and finish up any remaining eggs each week. I use this recipe as my base, mostly for the instructions. Lately I’ve been taking a much simpler approach with shallot, canadian bacon, and arugula or spinach. Yum! I even made two of them while we were away with Robert’s family last week.

We’re Having a Baby!

Apple3 Robert and I are thrilled to share our happy news: I’m pregnant!!!! I’m 17 weeks along! Baby and mama are doing great. Robert’s still not sure what all the fuss is about, his first trimester of my pregnancy was really easy : ) According to all of my pregnancy apps, Baby Fowler is currently the size of an apple. It’s appropriate since I’ve eaten about two apples per day this week and more applesauce than I should probably mention.

DSC00387I’ll try not to bombard you with many bump photos here or on Instagram, but I know I’m always curious to see them. This was my bump at almost 16 weeks…things have grown a bit since then.IMG_0008For our one year anniversary, Robert had a photo of our most recent ultrasound (taken at 13 weeks) framed. Traditionally, the first anniversary present is paper and I can’t imagine a more perfect gift. To say I teared up when I unwrapped it would be a massive understatement.

#bawledmyeyesout DSC00438 The photo is now hanging in our room. I stop and stare at it every time I walk by. I can’t believe that little being is in my belly right now!! We’ll find out whether it’s a boy or a girl at the end of October. I’ll be sure to share the news here, too!! For now, I’m off to stuff my face with second breakfast, my new favorite meal. Thank you so much for sharing in our joy!

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Celebrating One Year of Marriage in Saugatuck

Last weekend Robert and I celebrated our one year wedding anniversary in Saugatuck, Michigan. I can’t believe it’s already been one year. Easily the fastest and happiest year of my life. Saugatuck is located about 2.5 hours outside of Chicago, making it an ideal location for a weekend getaway. Michigan also holds a special place in my heart because it’s where we spent our honeymoon last year {though we were much further up north then.}

This year, we had a fantastic time exploring the quaint waterfront town, eating delicious food, hiking some dunes, and relaxing in the adorable cottage we rented. To top it off, we had perfect weather (70’s and sunny!) all weekend long.

We arrived Friday around 5 p.m. After unloading the car, walking into town, and popping into some shops, we enjoyed an early dinner at Restaurant Toulouse. Although it’s a French bistro, the menu was totally eclectic. To start, we shared some bruschetta, I had a house salad with pineapple vinaigrette, and Robert had a spinach salad with dried cranberries, apple, walnuts, and chèvre. For entrees, I ordered herbed salmon with a butter cream sauce (swoon) and Robert had red beans and rice with tenderloin beef tips (so good). We sat outside, watched the sun set, and listened to a live guitarist. Afterward, we enjoyed some ice cream and chocolates from Kilwins, wandered along a dock looking at boats, and headed home for an early night. {Sorry we didn’t think to take any pictures on Friday!}

Saturday morning we walked into town for an egg breakfast at Pumpernickel’s Eatery. We also shared a cinnamon roll–great way to start the day! We then took a 10 minute drive to Saugatuck Dunes State Park and hiked through the woods to the lake.DSC00398DSC00400

We couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day!

DSC00392Next, we took a 20 minute drive up to New Holland. Such a pristine little town! We roamed around and had lunch sitting at the bar at New Holland Brewing.  I had a salad with grilled chicken and homemade seasoned potato chips that rocked my world. Robert ordered the chili.

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We returned home to our cottage, relaxed for a bit, and got ready for dinner. Thanks to a recommendation from friends, we’d made a reservation ahead of time at the Belvedere Inn.  It’s a chateau-like B&B with beautiful gardens and a great restaurant. We arrived a little early and enjoyed drinks on the veranda followed by a four-course meal.

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Hello, handsome husband.

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Highlights of our meal include beet and pear carpaccio, butternut squash soup with crab, lobster tail for me and filet mignon for Robert. Then, Robert completely surprised me by having a local bakery recreate our FUNFETTI wedding cake they delivered to the restaurant!!!!!! One of the best surprises ever!!!! It was delicious, so thoughtful, and I’ll never forget it.

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IMG_0023As if the night wasn’t already special enough, we watched a couple get engaged right after dinner!!! It was the sweetest. I may or may not have cried like a baby.

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Sunday morning, our actual anniversary, we got an early start and had a delicious breakfast at Uncommon Coffee Roasters. It was the cutest little spot. I wanted to order muffin and scone crumbs from the display (isn’t that the best part?), but it wasn’t exactly on the menu. DSC00453

I had oatmeal with brown sugar and chai tea.

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Robert had a cinnamon oat muffin, hot apple cider, and a smoothie. He also had some wicked photography skills! I kind of want to move into this image he took below (he took most of the photos in this post with our new camera.)DSC00459At last, it was time to head home. But first, we stopped at the same apple orchard we went to on our way home from our honeymoon! We stumbled upon it thanks to a sign on the side of the road last year and couldn’t have been happier that it was only 15 minutes away from where we stayed this year. It was a much different experience picking apples in the warm sunshine compared to the downpour we experienced while apple picking last time, but it was just as fun.

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We took some shots for Robert’s forthcoming country music EP. ha!

DSC00470We decided to start the tradition of taking a picture every year on our anniversary.

Year One:

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I’m so happy we got a chance to get away for a few days. It was such a perfect opportunity to spend time together, reminisce about the past year, talk about our future, and make new memories together. I can’t wait to see what year two has in store for us!