Category Archives: Uncategorized

How I’m “Doing It All” (Part II—With Two!)

IMG_9140Since George came along, I’ve received some e-mails and messages asking whether I’m working, and, if so, how I’m making it work now that we have two young kiddos at home. I’ve responded to many of these messages individually, but I thought it would be nice to collect all of my thoughts in one place. (And just to be clear, I still believe there’s no such thing as “doing it all” no matter what you do. Just see the bottom of this post for all of the things I’m not currently doing.)

The last time I wrote about being a stay-at-home/work-from-home parent, Miles was 13 months old. Today, Miles is 2 years old (26 months), and George is 6 months old. I started working again when George was about 8 weeks old.

Let’s start with a big dose of honesty: Before George was born I wasn’t sure whether I was going to return to work. I didn’t think it would be possible to continue doing my job as a freelance health writer with two babies at home.

Financially, not working was going to take some major changes for us. We were willing to make those changes. I wrapped up my work when I was around 36 weeks pregnant, and a part of me really thought that I was retired—at least for the foreseeable future.

George was born a few weeks later. About a month and a half after that, a few editors reached out via e-mail asking whether I was taking any assignments. My brain said no, my gut said maybe, and my fingers typed yes. I think a part of me wanted to see whether I could actually make it work. Today, I’m still working and, happily, it’s working.

I also made some BIG changes in the work that I do and how I do it (more on that below–see #4), which has made working feel more pleasurable and less stressful. That’s also made a huge difference in being able to juggle so many things.

So here’s how I’m making it work right now:

  1. I’m working less than before. I’m not working at the same capacity as I was when we only had Miles. Our budget reflects this change. When I first started back to work after George was born, I was writing about 10 articles per month. Lately I’ve been writing about 20, on average.
  2. I do most of my work when the kids are in bed. Besides keeping up with e-mails from my phone throughout the day, I don’t work while the kids are awake. George goes to bed by 6 p.m. Miles is in bed by 7 p.m. I try to get to work as quickly as I can after that. Before Gorge was born, I used to work very early in the morning (5 a.m. to 7 a.m.) until Miles woke up. George is starting to sleep through the night more consistently lately so I’m hoping to add in some early morning work sessions again soon.
  3. I don’t depend on nap time for work time. This is one of the biggest differences from when I was working with only one kid because I used to always work during Miles’ naps. Although I’m usually able to get both of the boys to nap at the same time (12 p.m. to 2 p.m. or 3 p.m.) most days, relying on that time to work is way too challenging. Instead, I use that time to eat lunch, cook dinner, take care of house stuff (like laundry and dishes), and if I happen to have some time left to work (I usually do), then I do it. But any time I need to work during that time—for instance, finishing an article that’s due that day—it ends up backfiring.
  4. I stopped doing the work I no longer enjoyed. THIS. IS. BIG. It was a really difficult decision for me, but it’s made all the difference in how I view my work today. Because frankly? I started hating my job right before George was born and I really wanted to quit. I’ve been doing this work for 11 years. At first, I absolutely loved it—I was doing my dream job! Over the past few years, however, those feelings changed. The type of writing I was doing no longer felt like it resonated with where I was in my life (such as writing another article about a “new” way to lose weight—life is about so much more than what the scale says, isn’t it?) It also killed me that even though I was doing the same job for more than a decade I was getting paid less per article than when I was just starting out. I got real with myself about the work that I enjoyed doing and felt I could do with two babies at home and that’s the work that I mostly do now. The change, while scary, has also been incredibly freeing and rewarding.
  5. My husband helps a lot. I’ve probably made it sound like I do all of the work in our home, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Robert does a million things both big and small and he’s the most incredible dad I know. I couldn’t ask for a better or more supportive partner.
  6. Encourage independent play. This is a topic that could be its own post, but I’ll just sneak it in here. I spend the majority of my day interacting with our kids and we also have playdates with friends almost every day. However, the kiddos (especially Miles) also get a solid amount of solo play. I don’t work on my laptop while the kids are awake, but having them play independently allows me to do some household stuff like unloading the dishwasher and folding laundry so I can get to work as quickly as possible once they’re asleep at night. One thing we did before George was born was help Miles become better at playing by himself. It was actually pretty simple: Any time we’d see him playing independently—often first thing in the morning and after meals—we did our best not to interfere (even if we really wanted to play with him). It has definitely paid off. Give the kid a car, truck, or train and he can occupy himself for a long time. When it comes to babies, I feel like there’s so much pressure to be talking to and interacting with them every single second of the day. Then they turn a certain age and we suddenly expect them to be able to play by themselves. I’ve read and learned that independent play is a skill that they can develop pretty early on and we’re not neglecting them when we allow them to explore the world on their own terms for a few minutes. So, just like Miles, if I see George happily playing with toys on the floor or rolling across the living room as long as he’s safe and content I try to let him be until he needs me.
  7. I meal plan and make quick and easy meals. If a meal takes more than 30 minutes start to finish it isn’t happening. I rely on the slow cooker, one pot and sheet-pan dinners, and anything else that requires minimal prep, cooking, and clean up. I often cook dinner during nap time, but many days Miles helps me cook in his kitchen helper (<– best thing ever) while George takes his morning nap. It’s one of our favorite things to do together. For more on what our meals look like, see @food4tots on Instagram.

 Here’s what I’m not doing:

Just like last time, I thought it would be fun to include the things I’m not currently doing. They haven’t changed much.

  • Exercise. I chase a toddler, haul and wear a baby, and take both kiddos for a 30 to 60 minute walk or hike at least once a day. So I’m active. I’m just not doing any formal kind of exercise at the moment.
  • Cleaning. We try to pick up toys and tidy the kitchen every night and occasionally remember to vacuum. We also have a cleaning person come every few weeks.
  • Getting ready. Let’s just say my “morning routine” takes approximately 3 minutes.
  • Relaxing. If it seems like there’s little time left in the day to put my feet up and watch TV, well, you’re right. This pace isn’t for everyone, but it seems to be working just fine for us right now. I know that life won’t look like this forever—it really is just the phase we’re in right now—and I’m okay with it. I get to spend my day with our kids, I earn income and exercise my writing muscle at night, and we spend time together as a family on weekends. And while I often feel completely exhausted at the end of the day, I’ve never been happier in my whole life.

So that’s how I’m making it work. Do you have any tips for how to be a stay-at-home/work-from-home parent?

Advertisements

New Instagram: @food4tots

Food4totsFeeding kids is hard. I’ve been shocked at just how hard it is. I wouldn’t consider Miles a picky eater and I still feel like it’s one of the hardest things about raising a child so far. Before we started feeding Miles solids I had grand visions of him learning to eat whatever we ate. It’ll be a breeze! I’ll never be a short-order cook! HA. HA. HA.

I do my best to come up with meals that we’ll all enjoy, but this is still tougher than I imagined. Sure, I have to juggle foods I know he will and won’t eat (and even this seems to change on a daily basis), but there are other logistics I’ve discovered I have to think about. You can’t exactly feed a salad to a 16 month old even if that’s what you’re craving. And Miles would rather have meals made with ground meats (turkey, chicken, beef, or pork) than, say, a grilled chicken breast. But I can only eat so many variations of burgers, meatballs, and chili. Miles is still figuring out how to successfully manage flatware, so feeding him soups is challenging, though sometimes we make it work. And while I know that babies and toddlers can gum just about anything (Miles has six teeth), raw veggies can still be kind of a choking hazard.

All of this is to say that even if you’re like me and you love food, think about food all the time, and have the best of intentions, you can still find yourself completely stumped when it comes to feeding tots and the rest of your family. (For the record, food is my responsibility, by choice, and Robert balances that out by taking care of a million other things I never have to worry about. Different things work for different families.) But meal by meal and day by day, Miles and I are figuring this whole feeding thing out together. He’s a good eater, which fills my heart to no end. The reality is that it takes a lot of work—not necessarily time in the kitchen, but lots of careful thought and planning to figure out what to feed him for three meals and two snacks per day. But we’re getting there!

Throughout this process, I’ve also discovered that there’s a careful balance when it comes to the variety of foods that I feed him. Sometimes I laugh at how ridiculous my expectations were before we started this journey. Ultimately, I’ve become far more flexible than I thought I would be, and it really is for the best. I want Miles to love all foods, learn how to eat a balanced diet, and never think of foods as “good” or “bad.” They all have a role to play, ice cream included. There’s also the fact that I’m doing the full-time stay at home working mom thing, which means I can’t spend all day in the kitchen (no one can!), so sometimes I take shortcuts (I’m looking at you freezer waffles, chicken nuggets, and veggie burgers) and that’s totally fine, too.

This is my incredibly long-winded way of telling you about something new I’m doing. I’ve started a new Instagram account, @food4tots. I started taking pictures of Miles’ meals so I could sort back through them when trying to figure out what the heck to feed him. I figured I could do better (and make it prettier), by sharing it with others. So if you’re in the same boat and looking for some tot and family friendly meal inspiration then give it a follow! I hope to see you there : )

 

Slow Cooker Turkey Chili

Slow Cooker Turkey Chili

Let’s be honest. If you live anywhere within the Polar Vortex it’s hibernation time. I’m pretty much in hibernation mode between now and March. At first I try to fight it–making plans and lists of fun things to do–but I’m throwing in the towel and just letting it happen this year. For me, hibernation means tons of time at home (many weekends included), fires in the fireplace, movies on TV, reading books, plenty of sleep, and a healthy dose of laziness.

It also means warm, comforting meals. That’s where the slow cooker really shines. If you ask me what’s the one must-have kitchen appliance it would, without a doubt, be a slow cooker. Seriously. If you’ve been on the fence about getting one, just do it. It’s worth every single penny and doesn’t even require that many pennies. You can score a great slow cooker on Amazon.

I adore chili and this is a super healthy version you can make that requires minimal prep time. The only thing you have to do is brown the ground turkey in a skillet. Conveniently, you can chop your veggies in the time it takes the meat to cook. Dump it all in the slow cooker and you’re good to go. I even snuck some spinach in there for an extra dose of greens in your day.

Stay warm out there!

Slow Cooker Turkey Chili

Slow Cooker Turkey Chili

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 pound ground turkey breast
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 jalapeno, chopped (keep the seeds if you like it spicy, discard if you don’t)
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 bell peppers (I used an orange & yellow)
  • 2 (15 oz) cans no salt added black beans, drained and rinsed*
  • 2 (15 oz) cans no salt added kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 (15 oz) cans no salt added tomato sauce
  • 2 (15 oz) cans diced tomatoes
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp red chili pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1.5 cups frozen yellow corn
  • 2-3 heaping handfuls baby spinach
  • Avocado for garnish (optional)

Preparation

Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add ground turkey to skillet, season with salt and pepper to taste, cook until it starts to brown. While turkey cooks, chop your veggies. To the slow cooker add jalapeno, onion, pepper, beans, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, chili powder, cumin, and red chili pepper flakes. Add turkey. Cook on low for 6 hours. Add corn and spinach. Cook on low until spinach wilts, about 10 minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed. Serve in bowls and top with chunks of avocado or any other desired toppings.

*Note: I’ve made this recipe using beans and tomatoes in BPA-free packaging (boxes and glass jars). Although the measurements of those packages differ slightly, I’ve tested the recipe both ways and it works so use whatever you have available.

Source: Adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod 

 

Wedding Wednesday: My Bachelorette Party!

Happy Wedding Wednesday! We’re getting so close–just 24 days to go! Today I’m so thrilled to share some photos from my bachelorette party a few weeks ago. It was the best. My sister/MOH planned an incredible night and thought of absolutely everything. Thanks, L!

Before I dive into some pics, a big shout out to my dear friend Michelle who’s an amazing photographer and captured all of these photos. Thanks Mich!

It all started at the Public Hotel with a round the clock bridal shower. Have you ever heard of one before? I hadn’t, but my sister filled me in during planning. Basically, each girl gets a time of day and chooses a gift you can use at that time. One of my favorite parts (and I don’t think it was planned) is that most girls explained in their notes what that time means to them and why they got the particular gift.

_DSC3317

_DSC3312

_DSC3321

_DSC3324 _DSC3326

_DSC3328

_DSC3333-1

Oh there were games. And videos from Robert. And answers that made me do this…

_DSC3340

Remember how I said my sister thought of everything? I wasn’t kidding. Before we headed out to the next portion of the evening’s activities each girl received one of these Eiffel Tower bags with loads of surprises inside including the monogrammed apron you see above…

_DSC3314

AND SWEET KIERA COOKIES! Are you dying over them as much as I am? image-9

Remember when I gave each girl a Sweet Kiera cookie when I asked them to be my bridesmaids? Well Leah and Kiera schemed to create these Laduree macaron-inspired cookies with the tag “Girls Gone Mild.” Doubly dying over here. The thing about these cookies is while they look too good to eat they taste too good not to eat. Trust me. Robert and I gobbled this one up the next day. Thanks Kiera!

So why all the French-inspired goodies? Besides the fact that I absolutely adore Paris (duh) we were headed to a French cooking class at Cook Au Vin!

_DSC3349That chef is a very kind, patient man.

_DSC3350

Who thinks I should add a flame torch to our registry? Anyone…anyone? Yeah probably not….
_DSC3418

I swear I’ve never made this face before in my life.

_DSC3384

_DSC3373

_DSC3370

_DSC3365One of the final products: French onion soup! Dear Leah, Stef, and Mal….I’m sorry for making you cut all the onions. I owe you!

_DSC3422

Huge thanks to all the girls who helped me celebrate and for making it such a special night.

Roasted Tomato & Corn Soup

Roasted tomato & Corn soup

Roasted tomato & corn soup

I know what you’re thinking. Soup? In the summer? Just stay with me here. You won’t be disappointed.

Farmers market fresh tomatoes roasted in the oven until they spill their juices and slightly caramelize. Sweet kernels sliced off the cob cooked until they’re just golden around the edges. Bell pepper singed on an open flame and peeled down to its soft flesh. Now add all that to slightly sauteed yellow and red onions plus a fiery jalapeno. Some chili powder and seasonings. A little bit of vegetable broth. Then whip everything into a frenzy with an immersion or regular blender.

You feel me now?

If you’re like a certain someone I know and you love when food is a vehicle for toppers, well, then you’re in luck. The options are endless: Freshly chopped cilantro, chunks of buttery avocado, shreds of salty tortilla chips, I could go on…

Despite its creamy texture there’s not a drop of dairy in here–not that there’s anything wrong with that. Just foods from the earth hanging out in your soup bowl getting along famously.

Summer is served

Summer is served

Roasted Tomato & Corn Soup

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

4 ripe tomatoes, sliced in half horizontally

Olive oil

4-6 ears of corn, kernels sliced off the cob, cobs discarded (or saved for future endeavors)

1 red bell pepper

1 yellow onion, chopped

1 red onion, chopped

1 jalapeno, chopped (optional)

3 garlic cloves, minced

About 2 cups of low-sodium vegetable broth

1 tsp chili powder

Salt & pepper

For garnish: Cilantro, avocado, paprika

Preparation

Heat oven to 375. Place tomatoes flesh side down in a baking dish, drizzle with olive oil. Roast until tomatoes get soft and juicy, about 30 minutes. Let cool slightly.

Spread the corn in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast until the edges begin to turn light brown, 10 to 15 minutes.

Place bell pepper directly on the flame of a gas burner turned on high. Sear the pepper and use tongs to turn until each side is charred all over, about 10 minutes total. Place pepper in a brown paper bag and close tightly. Let stand for 15 minutes. Remove and discard the skins and seeds. Chop pepper.

When the tomatoes have cooled slightly, peel off the skins and discard.

In a soup pot, heat about 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat. Saute yellow onion, red onion, jalapeno, and garlic until onions soften, about five minutes. To the pot add the tomatoes including any accumulated juices, half of the corn, and red pepper. Season with chili powder, salt, and pepper. Add enough vegetable broth to cover the vegetables. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to medium-high. Using an immersion blender (or adding to a blender in batches), blend until just smooth. It’s okay if some smaller chunks of vegetables remain. Add the remaining corn to the pot and serve with desired garnishes.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma

Wedding Wednesday: 52 Days & Honeymoon Reveal!

Good morning! I was pretty torn over whether to make today’s post more wedding or home related since we’ve got lots going on on both fronts. However, since the days of blabbing all things wedding are getting down to the wire I’ll take that route today. There will be plenty of time to chat about the home (we met with our first contractor yesterday evening for a few projects we’ve got up our sleeves!) after September 28.

When it comes to our wedding I keep waiting to feel crazy or stressed, but I just don’t. Maybe it’s the fact that we’ve had about 10 months to plan (since finding the venue and setting the date) and as of this coming Sunday we’ll have been engaged for a full year. How crazy is that?!?!? Unbelievable. I still feel like our engagement was such a shock to me that sometimes I still can’t believe this is actually happening. But it is!!

So today, I thought I’d share with you a list of the big remaining items we have left to accomplish over the next 52 days. Keep reading because at the end I’ll spill the beans about our awesome honeymoon and would love your recommendations.

Our big remaining wedding To Do’s

  • Invitations – they’ll be mailed to guests by the end of this week. I got to see them (by the incredibly talented Megan of Ruby the Fox) and I couldn’t be happier. I’ve actually never received a suite quite like the one we’re sending. I may wait to share them until we have the professional photos because I’m pretty sure my iPhone could never do them justice.
  • Engagement pictures–we’re taking them this Friday with our wonderful photographer, Tim Tab. We plan to take some photos around our new home & some favorite spots in our new Logan Square neighborhood!
  • Final meeting with our florist next week.
  • Final meeting with our officiant, Rev. Bob. Next week we get to go through our whole ceremony with him, get his feedback, and continue to tweak it. I love our ceremony so much. Robert and I both need to write/edit our vows. We won’t know what the other has written until we say/read them at our ceremony.
  • My bachelorette party! Holy cow, it’s in two weekends. I am so excited about it and it’s all very…me. I can’t wait to spend the evening with some of my favorite ladies. I’ll be sure to share details and photos afterward.
  • Choose wedding music. In many ways, this has been coming together very organically. Any time I’ve tried to Google stuff like “processional music” I’m left feeling blah. Like whatever I find is inauthentic or has been done 10 million times before. However, over the past few weeks Robert and I’ve be listening to favorite stations on Spotify or Pandora (on our new awesome bluetooth speakers) and realize a song we’ve both loved forever and means something to us could be the perfect fit for any number of moments in our big day.
  • Finalize our day-of schedule.

Our honeymoon:

I’m so thrilled to share with you that shortly after our wedding weekend we’ll be heading off to spend a week in a cottage in Bay Harbor, Michigan. After lots of planning, dreaming, and guidebook buying to places all over the world we decided that this is the perfect place for us. A place where we can unplug, lay low, unwind, and spend our first days together as husband and wife. During the day, we plan to explore adorable nearby towns such as Charlevoix, Petoskey, Harbor Springs, and others. (Any lunch/picnic spot suggestions??) In the evenings, we’re thinking there will be lots of delicious food and downtime by the fireplace. If you have any recommendations for what to see/do in northern Michigan, we’d absolutely love to hear it!

Life Lately

Hi friends! I’m going to start by being honest with you. I don’t have a recipe to share today so if you’re hungry grab a snack or a cup of tea and just keep reading : )

It has been a while since I last posted. Life has kept me so busy I haven’t had time to make many new or original recipes. But I miss you! I’ve been relying mostly on standards (like pan-seared or roasted salmon) or quick recipes I’ve found on Pinterest. I haven’t even used Pinterest for a full year yet and I almost can’t imagine how people cooked before its existence. Amazing how quickly new technologies infiltrate our lives and minds, eh? Still, I wanted to reconnect with you and let you know that I plan to return on a regular basis very soon. After all, winters in Chicago are very long and there are few things I love more than spending a cold day in my warm kitchen.

If you’re curious about what I’ve been up to lately, let’s start with the really fun stuff: Wedding planning! We’ve made some huge progress in the past few weeks including a venue (here in Chicago), date (Sept 28, 2013…only 323 more days to go!), photographer, band, and even a few surprises for our guests that Robert and I are super excited about. That’s been among our favorite parts: What can we do to show our guests a ridiculously fun time? Now if only I had something to wear I’d really be on top of things. (That’s still a work in progress…)

I have to admit that I’ve been completely shocked at how difficult and, at times, emotional the wedding-planning process can be. In the past, any time I’d hear a bride complain about anything I’d just think to myself, geez get over it bridezilla. Do you know how lucky you are? But now I’m willing to admit that I get it. I completely get it. You have to make a million decisions and you’re constantly trying to figure out what’s “you” for an occasions you’ve (probably) never done before. It ain’t easy. And you want to do it in a way that feels authentic. Of course, I’m not losing sight of what the day is about—promising to share the rest of my life with the person I love most on the planet. Still, we’re inviting all of the other important people in our lives to share this occasion with us so I can’t help but care and want to make the day special, meaningful, and fun for everyone. Ever since making some of the bigger decisions (like where to get married—we moved the wedding around to a few different places before coming back to Chicago) the other pieces have fallen into place and it’s been really exciting to watch. I’m even planning to do a bunch of DIY items for the wedding to give it a really personal touch. That’s sure to be interesting since I don’t have a crafty bone in my body. I’ll let you know how it goes!

In other news, I’ve been teaching yoga and lots of it! I have two permanent classes during the week, but sub a lot of classes, too. When I first started writing for magazines I was so terrible about invoicing because I couldn’t believe people were actually paying me to write. That’s exactly how I feel about teaching yoga! It’s a dream come true. I’ve known that I wanted to teach yoga ever since I first started practicing it when I moved to Park City, UT in 2006. Over the years I even started various trainings, but for whatever reason never went through with them until I found CorePower Yoga and completed Teacher Training there earlier this year. Without a doubt, I know it was a right time, right place, right style of yoga kind of thing. It’s still a little surreal to me to step into the role of a teacher, but with every class it feels more and more comfortable. When I first started teaching I felt completely nervous (would I mess up? would I forget the sequence?) Today, I feel nothing but joy and excitement before walking into the room.

Things will continue to stay pretty jam-packed over the next few months with trips to Ann Arbor (we leave tonight for the University of Michigan vs. Northwestern game—Robert went to Michigan and I went to Northwestern so that’s always a fun game to watch!), Vermont to see my family for Thanksgiving, and a Caribbean cruise with Robert’s family in December. Of course there’s sure to be lots of wedding planning, yoga, and plenty of good food along the way. Can’t wait to share it all with you soon!

xo

Paige