Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Winter capsule wrap-up

I've been inspired by one of my new favorite bloggers to do some kind of summary, wrap-up, re-cap of my winter capsule wardrobe.

Now that spring is (finally!) here to stay, I'm boxing up some of my heavier sweaters and putting away my boots. I'm not throwing anything away, and many of my capsule items are also going to be part of my spring capsule (more on that soon!). I'm also not planning on donating much- my current pile for the thrift store is mostly junk that we had hanging around the house, not old clothes that I'm tired of. I consider that a real win. Maybe in future seasons I will be able to keep this capsule idea going and not immediately purge all sorts of un-wanted and un-worn items at the end of every season. 

 Alright-- on to my re-cap.

Favorite items: chunky gray sweater from Everlane, light red T-shirt from GAP, dark Levi skinny jeans, low black boots. 

Least favorite item: gray v-neck from Everlane. I am really disappointed with this T-shirt. The fabric has not held its shape well at all, through a winter of wash and wear. The v is also too low, even with a tank top underneath. Bummer. 

Favorite outfit combinations: 1. skinny jeans, t-shirt of any kind, black boots, and chunky sweater; 2. Khaki cords, black boots, black long T, with fun, colorful jewelry or scarf. 

Lessons learned: 1. add a bit more color next winter-- the grays and blacks got a bit tedious with the dark, gloomy winter weather. 2. Also-- accessorize more! 3. Take more photos! I don't have documentation of the outfits I wore, so I think it will be harder to remember how things worked together when I pull all my winter clothes out this coming fall. 

Things to remember for future capsules: pay for quality pieces from companies I trust and whose styles match mine. Everlane was a new-to-me company this past fall and though I'm very happy with my chunky sweater from there, it was a risk to purchase two t-shirts when I wasn't familiar with the way they would fit. This is a significant downside of purchasing clothes online. 

Overall, I am very pleased to have experimented with a capsule wardrobe this winter. It was interesting to pay attention to my personal "style" and having some staples I could mix and match made it much easier to put on real clothes, even when I was hanging around the house with kids all day long. :) 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Fourteen months!

At fourteen months, Charlotte loves: riding her bike, playing "chase", dogs (and animals in general), balls, stuffed animals, going up and down steps, food, exploring the house, slides (and the playground in general), going outside, wrestling, her Dada, looking out the van window, looking at pictures of herself, and giving kisses (by bringing her forehead to yours- no lips are involved. So cute!!).

Charlotte is good at: taking 4-6 steps at a time, clapping for herself whenever she falls after walking, waving at people, lighting up the world with her sweet smile, growing golden curly locks, and falling asleep easily for naps and bedtime (with a few exceptions, of course). 

Words: same as last month, except she doesn't really say Momma very often anymore. Ha. (Something cute: Charlotte has started saying "wawa" in her sweet little voice whenever she sees someone with a drink. We try to explain that it's actually coffee (or soda, or beer, or juice), but she doesn't understand that yet. :))

Signs: same as last month, plus now she can sign "please" (See photo below: Charlotte signing "more")

Favorite foods: chicken salad, bananas, berries of any kind, bread, roasted potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes. 

Great things this month: Charlotte grew two new teeth this month, bringing her current total to eight. She also went to Center City Philadelphia for the first time and saw the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. This month Charlotte has become borderline obsessed with her stuffed lamb, Lily ("Lala"). Lily goes in the car, on stroller rides, in Charlotte's beloved box, and even for rides on the Y Bike. It's hilarious to me that she loves Lily so much-- now if only Lily weren't white and already turning a disgusting shade of grayish brown... yuck. 

Words to describe Charlotte at 14 months old: stubborn, determined, silly, curious, playful, active. 

Gosh, this is a fun age. I can't imagine 15 months being more fun, but I bet it will be. We love you, Charlotte girl. 

Friday, March 27, 2015

Family meals 7: guest blogger Emily

This family meals series continues to be great fun! Today I'm sharing meals that were planned and prepared by my friend Emily. We haven't been friends in person since many years ago (we met at summer camp!), but Facebook has kept us in touch from a distance. Her second daughter is just a tiny bit older than Charlotte, so I love to see what's new in their house so I can prepare for what's to come in our own house :)

Here's Emily....

Working full time and also being a mom of two young girls makes evenings very hectic. I honestly don’t think that we would ever eat a “from scratch” meal if I didn't plan ahead! I am an RN and recently transitioned from working 12 hour weekend shifts to a weekday desk job, and overall it has allowed more family time with my husband and our one and three year old daughters. It has added the expense of daycare to our budget, which makes menu planning all the more important. 

Living in Maine, we totally take advantage of our short grilling season, but the rest of the year I use my crock pot like it’s going out of style! I do grocery shopping and some meal prep on the weekends when my husband and I are home with the girls. 

I did a gluten free trial 2 years ago after learning a lot about the paleo diet, and I have stuck with it due to weight loss, mental clarity, and increased feeling of well-being. The rest of my family does not eat strictly gluten free, but our dinners are always gluten free. I find that this mostly means we eat less processed foods. My girls both have broad palates for toddlers, including plenty of fruits, vegetables, and meat, and some grains. I like to have on hand a few meal options for when I don’t plan ahead: hot dogs, frozen burger patties, ground beef (for making tacos or taco salad), kielbasa, ham steaks, cans of tuna fish, just to name a few. 

This is what our menu looked like last week:

Sunday: Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup  Our 3 year old loves soup and she will eat it as is (albeit messily at times). For my 1 year old, I strain the soup and give her the beans, tomatoes, and chicken. I didn't add jalepenos because the kids don't enjoy too much spicy. 

Monday: Chicken Wings
About once a month we take out our deep fryer and do a couple of meals with it. Chicken wings are super easy. After they are cooked through, we just pop them in a mixture of Franks Red Hot Sauce and melted butter for the adults and do plain wings for the girls. Our 3 year old will eat them off of the bone with supervision but we pick the meat off for our one year old. I usually do carrot and celery sticks on the side. 

Tuesday: Pepper Steak I love this because it isn't super involved as far as prep goes, but it tastes amazing and everyone likes it! I cut the black pepper in half since our littles don't love spicy, and serve over rice. 

Wednesday: Kielbasa with Peppers and Onions (and sometimes potatoes)
We do kielbasa as an easy weeknight meal in the biggest frying pan we have. In the summer we stick it on skewers with onion and peppers and grill it! 

Thursday: Bacon Wrapped Chicken
Wrapping chicken breasts, thighs, or tenders in bacon adds awesome flavor and moisture to the chicken. Seriously who doesn't love bacon?! Sometimes we stuff chicken breasts with a little pesto sauce and shredded cheese before wrapping with bacon! Yum! We bake at 350 until they are cooked through, 20-40 minutes depending on what kind of chicken cuts we use. I love serving roasted asparagus, brussel sprouts, or broccoli tossed in EVOO and salt. I cook those at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, tossing halfway through cooking.

Friday: Crock Pot Pork Tenderloin Here comes into play the crock pot I love so well! I was never much into pork roasts but this method comes out awesome. My friend suggested using apple cider vinegar or apple juice if you don't cook with wine. 

Saturday: Crock Pot Chicken Fricassee This is a super easy "throw and go" kind of recipe that is really a crowd-pleaser. It's comfort food for me. A little messy as a finger food, so I usually strain out meat and veggies for my one year old before I add the roux. Leftovers freeze really well, so sometimes I double this for easy lunches. Admittedly, it is harder to thicken this with gluten free flour than wheat flour, so I have used corn starch to thicken to my desired consistency. 

And there you have 7 gluten free, family friendly meals!

Thanks so much, Emily! I'm inspired to use my Crock Pot in all sorts of new ways!

NOW! Who wants to share their family meals next? 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The end of nursing

As of this week, Charlotte is done nursing.

I feel a tiny bit sad, because it has been such a big part of our life together for the past fourteen months. But mostly, I feel proud of her (and of myself) for figuring it all out, and I feel intense gratitude for the support and encouragement I have received. Gosh, I'm so very grateful.

The early days of it were not easy. She was sleepy and tiny, and I was exhausted and burdened by the weight of responsibility- my milk was keeping her alive!!- and oh so emotional. A wise friend told me that nursing gets easier after the first month. So I stuck it out, and sure enough, my friend was right. There were some tricky times since those first few days- congestion, first colds, nursing strikes, being discrete in public, and the endless pumping sessions while I finished last school year. But Charlotte grew and thrived, and we bonded, and I got confident. So I can look back over these fourteen months with great fondness and humility and joy.

I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have found excellent resources on the subject of breastfeeding. There are helpful books about nursing, the internet abounds with helpful articles, and many areas have a local breastfeeding resource center with support groups and lactation consultants. I have compiled a huge collection of websites and useful links via Pinterest. The website KellyMom was an absolutely incredible resource... I sometimes referenced it three times a day! And just yesterday I read this blog post, which does a great job of covering some of the (many) concerns new moms have when starting to nurse. 

Anyway, our nursing days are over and Charlotte is deep into solid foods and she drinks whole cow's milk (mixed with some of my frozen breast milk) in a special sippy cup at bedtime. It has taken us about two months to completely "wean" and there have been some struggles and some self-doubt and some guilt (on my part) and a few tears (from both of us!). She has definitely had a harder time falling asleep this past week since she's done nursing and once or twice Joel has gone in to give her some extra snuggles. BUT, over all the whole thing went amazingly well and I'm happy to say our breastfeeding experience, and our weaning process, were a huge success. 

Here are a few tips for "weaning" that I've gathered from various websites and from my own experience:

1. Move slowly and try to follow your baby's lead. When I started decreasing from our routine of five feedings a day, I dropped one feeding in a week, then another ten to fourteen days later, and so on. Charlotte was almost a year old and eating a good amount of solids, and she didn't seem to notice. She drank more at each feeding and was getting the right amount of milk for her needs. Another benefit of weaning slowly is that your body adjusts to making less milk over time, which should help eliminate engorgement and discomfort. 

2. Be flexible and patient. For us, it was challenging to be away from home shortly after we dropped the mid-day feeding. Charlotte had a hard time settling down for her second nap without the relaxation of nursing. After struggling for a while at my parents' house one day, I turned off the lights, nursed her silently and let her drift to sleep before breaking her latch. She stayed asleep and I took a short nap snuggled up with her. I will never forget that day. It was such a precious hour in our nursing relationship. 

3. If nursing is going well and you don't need to stop sooner, try to make it for a full year. Pediatricians recommend waiting until after one to introduce cow's milk and they suggest giving formula if babies aren't receiving breast milk up until one. Since we never used formula, it just cut out one unnecessary transition. Moving to cow's milk (only at bedtime- Charlotte drinks water from a little glass during the day) directly from nursing was still tricky, but overall worked well for us because it was the only real transition we had. [Note: there's no need to stop nursing at a year! Breast milk is healthy and beneficial for toddlers well past their first birthday!] 

4. Drop the daytime feedings first; keep the early morning and before bed feedings for a while longer, as these tend to be the most significant to baby. During the day, Charlotte was very eager to eat real food and play, so it wasn't terribly difficult to drop a feeding every week or two. We kept the morning nursing for about three weeks after the day time nursings were done. She was very attached to her morning routine of coming into my room and drinking milk with me in the quiet while Joel got ready for school. One morning, though, I met her at the top of the stairs and brought her down to the table where her breakfast was ready and waiting. I was prepared to nurse if she protested at all, but she didn't seem to notice any change. Then, just this past week we stopped the nursing at bedtime and that was definitely the hardest transition. Nursing before bed really helped Charlotte calm down and settle in, so we worked hard to help develop an adapted bedtime routine. I'm very glad we didn't try to cut that feeding out before now!

5. "Don't offer, don't refuse". This is one weaning philosophy I read and while I didn't follow it fully (because I continuously offered at bedtime, even if Charlotte didn't "ask", long after all the other feedings were dropped), I think in general it's respectful to allow your baby to nurse if he or she asks. Nursing is never just about nourishment- there is a whole lot of comfort, relaxation, and snuggling involved. One night last week Charlotte wasn't very interested in drinking from her sippy cup and was getting really upset. She kept tugging on my shirt and whining, so I let her nurse (even though I was confident she wasn't getting much nourishment). It comforted her and helped ease the transition of switching to milk from a cup.

How about you, readers? Any words of wisdom to share? Experiences with nursing or weaning- good or bad...?! 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Dear Charlotte, 12

Dear little love,

The ground outside is still sopping wet and some places have snow, but spring fever has got us bad. All day long, you stare curiously out the window and then you squeal with delight the second I open the front door. You wave to the birds, the trees, the passing cars...

We've gone to the playground three times in the past ten days. And all three times you've come home with your pants, jacket, and shoes completely covered with wet, soggy wood chips. Today I finally wised up and put on your black leggings before we left the house (they won't stain!). You think the slide is the best thing ever, and you are very interested in climbing back UP it once you slide down. After a few attempts, you scoot to the ground, crawl around, climb up the steps, and then wriggle your little feet up so you can go down the slide again. Backward. On your tummy. 

It's basically the cutest thing ever and my heart beams with pride as I watch.

I try to stand back and give you space to explore. I try to ignore how dirty you are getting, and I cheer when you successfully land at the bottom of the slide without falling onto your knees in the mud. 

Whenever you want something (anything!) you give the sign for more.

"More what?", I ask. "More hugs? More Momma? More fun?"

You never answer to tell me specifically what you want more of. But I can tell you this, my girl: I will always want more of you, more of your giggles, more of your joy, more of your curiosity. I'm so darn grateful for these times we have together. xoxo. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Family meals 6: guest blogger Melissa

I am sooooo excited about the participation of some of my dear friends in this family meals series. I have learned a lot and been very inspired by reading about the meals others make. I hope the same is true for you, readers.

Next up: Melissa. Long-time blog readers know she and I have a grand history. She was present at Charlotte's birth and I had the privilege of being there when Melissa had her daughter, Jasmine, last summer. I love this lady. Here she is...

Hello, my name is Melissa. I'm Kelly's best friend so as a guest on this blog I feel kind of famous and important by default. Other things that make me feel important include but are not limited to: being a believer in Christ, being a labor doula, being a wife, being a mom to the cutest baby on earth, and being responsible for the meals in our home.

My husband works as a Physician Assistant in an Emergency Room, so his schedule is always a little bit different. There are many evenings, weekends, and holidays that he is not home. His work schedule effects our family life quite a bit, for better or worse. Thankfully we do know what it is in plenty of time to plan ahead and fit in the other things that matter to us.

Over the last several years I have done quite a bit of experimenting with my diet, more often than not dragging my patient and supportive husband along with me. My motivation for this experimentation is usually related to weight loss, but after having very serious issues with low supply when attempting to breastfeed my daughter, I am becoming more and more interested in learning about how the food we eat directly effects all of the important functions of our bodies. The book, It Starts With Food has really influenced me in making some pretty drastic changes in the way I feed my family. 

As encouraged in the book, in September, Joel and I decided to commit to our first Whole30. For 30 days we strictly ate nothing but: meat, seafood, eggs, vegetables, fruit, and healthy fats. It was very challenging, but very worth it. Long story short, we like how that way of eating makes us look, feel, and function, and think that it is worth the effort and discipline. For us it is unrealistic to eat by these strict guidelines 365, but for the most part we have really been striving to stick to a Paleo diet ever since then. It does require a lot of food prep and a lot of cooking, but I feel like I am getting into the swing of it. I use a lot of recipes and ideas that I have found on Pinterest, but often just pull together simple meals of meat and veggies. Here is an example of a fairly normal week.

Monday: Joel was at work and I was thankful to find some leftover mulligatawny soup in the fridge. I won't mention how long it had been sitting in there.

Tuesday: Joel was working again. Evenings tend to be a demanding time for the baby, and so I am often completely consumed with managing her needs up until I  tuck the little angel into bed. I was very hungry by the time I was able to focus on making something for myself and so I wanted it to be quick. This time that meant an chicken/apple sausage with salad greens dressed in pomegranate vinegar, and half an avocado.

Wednesday:Joel was working AGAIN (are we seeing a pattern here?)! I didn't have to wait until so late to eat this time because earlier during the day I had made some chicken salad for him to pack in his lunchbox. I made my own paleo ranch mayo from scratch, and so I decided to let myself take a little shortcut and buy canned chicken from Trader Joe's. That was my first time trying canned chicken and it wasn't amazing by itself, but the mayo I made was flavorful and exciting enough to make this a winning meal. 

Thursday: Together at last :). When Joel is home to help take care of the babe and/or help with food prep, I am usually willing to attempt more complicated meals. I decided to try a a few new things. I had pinned this recipe for Kenyan Braised Collard Greens and Beef a while ago, and surprisingly most of these ingredients are things that I regularly have on hand. I also took my first stab and frying a plantain. I just sliced it, sprinkled it with cinnamon, and pan fried it in a little bit of coconut oil. YUM. Joel liked those so much he said we should have fried plantains every night... not.gonna.happen.

Friday: Soup. Inspired by whatever I could find in the pantry and fridge. On this particular night that included: chicken breast, potato, carrots, collard greens, a box of mushroom broth, and a splash of coconut milk. It turned out pretty delicious, in my humble option. And didn't require an extra trip to the grocery store.

Disclaimer: I have way too much fun watching Food Network, and am such a nerd attempting to plate my food in an attractive way. I do not claim to be a photographer though! 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Stitch Fix 1

A few months ago I blogged about starting my first capsule wardrobe. Though I'm now tired of my "winter" capsule (and am dying for spring!), I was really content with the things I included and was very satisfied by the creation of my capsule. Read more about my capsule here & about the woman whose ideas I followed here.

(Note: I'm sorry to say taking photos of the outfits I created with my capsule just didn't happen. I haven't used my real camera much recently. Hopefully that will change now that the daylight is sticking around longer...)

Anyway, since I created my first capsule, I've been on the lookout for high-quality basics that can be mixed, matched, and worn over and over again. Since the weather is starting to change, I'll be wanting to create a spring capsule soon and I'm looking everywhere for sources of inspiration. In addition to Pinterest and online retailers, my biggest source of inspiration is other bloggers, many who use the company Stitch Fix.

I finally decided to take the plunge and try Stitch Fix for myself this week. I filled out a very simple profile on their website, linked to a Pinterest board I'd created, and chose a date to have my 5 items delivered. The cost up front is $20. If you don't keep any of the items, you are out 20 bucks, but if you want to purchase any of the items from your fix, the $20 is credited to your account and goes toward whatever you buy. I'm really impressed with the company, their website, and their attention to detail.

Want to see what I got in my fix? Want to know what I thought of everything? Keep reading! (And please please please ignore the horrible overhead lighting in my bedroom! Ick!)

My first fix was really in tune to my usual style! I was impressed that my stylist, Jen, gave me multiple options with stripes and lots of neutral colors. Looking back, I felt like my winter capsule was really neutral and I'm getting a bit antsy to add some color to my wardrobe. However, the fact that my stylist got so close to what I usually wear makes me VERY impressed with her and with Stitch Fix overall. Nice job, Jen!

Okay, let's talk about item 1: this black and white striped sweater.

This was immediately my favorite item in this fix. I LOVE the black and white stripes and I LOVE the weight of the sweater! It was loose and soft and a really nice texture for spring (layered with just a basic tank underneath). What made me decide against keeping the sweater is the material: it's lightweight, but also sort of fragile-feeling. The neck had a pill in it, right out of the box. I quickly realized it's not going to work for me with my toddler toting lifestyle. Bummer!

Items 2 & 3: dark wash skinny jeans and a black/gray flowy cardigan.

The jeans were totally off. They were my usual size, but were loose in all the wrong places, plus they were way too long. When I give feedback about my fix, I'm going to ask for any future pants to be "ankle" length or "short" because my legs are often too short for regular sized jeans and pants. I know this, but failed to mention it in my style profile. Big oops on my part!

The black and gray sweater was REALLY soft and really cute. It would be a great layering piece for spring and would also work over tank tops on cool summer evenings. Ultimately, though, I decided not to keep the sweater because I already have some similar options AND because it's black. I don't really need more black in my wardrobe right now :)

Item 4: another sweater: solid black

The material of this sweater felt really weird. If I wore colored jeans or lots of colorful skirts in the spring, I might consider keeping it, but that's just not my reality. Plus, black. I'm over it right now. Sending it back.

Item 5: gray and white striped sweater (VERY soft and light weight!)

I THINK I may keep this sweater. I tend to have a lot of gray in my wardrobe, but I feel this would be easy to wear with fun earrings and a solid colored scarf this spring. The fabric is AWESOME-- so soft and flexible and light. I felt super comfortable wearing it and could move around easily. Charlotte was sleeping so I can't be sure, but I imagine the sweater would be perfect for carrying her around and reading books on the living room floor. :)

Something cool that Stitch Fix offers is these little cards with ideas for how to style each item in your fix. It's great inspiration and helps you think outside the box.  I realize now that I should have tried everything on with shoes/boots, not my goofy black socks. Oh, well.

If you are interested in trying Stitch Fix (and you definitely should try it!!), please use my referral link. I get $25 credit for each person who orders a fix using my link. I'd love to try another fix some time soon and having some company credit would make me more willing to take the plunge.

Also-- if you want some great tips on making the most of your fix, read this post. Such great ideas!

Friday, March 13, 2015

photo dump

It's 2:17 pm and Charlotte is in her crib, rolling around loudly, alternating between a horrible screeching, whining, and talking to herself. She clearly doesn't want to nap, but is very clearly tired.

To distract myself from the noise, I'm looking at photos of her sweet face and thanking the good Lord for giving me the joy of growing this little girl.

For your viewing pleasure, some recent photos from around our house.

Notice a theme here? I've taken pictures of Charlotte in her box on wearing three different outfits, on three different days. We've had it sitting in our living room for almost two weeks. And she isn't tired of it yet. Ha!

Lately it seems like Charlotte is changing from one minute to the next. She is learning new skills, saying new words, exploring new worlds, and having so much fun. Fortunately, she's been sleeping well at night but we are pretty sure some teeth are on the horizon because she's had trouble going to bed and naps have been inconsistent.

Doesn't she look so darn grown up here?

Monday, March 9, 2015

Family meals 4: guest blogger Melanie

Wow! This family meals series keeps getting better and better. I'm not going to want to share my own meals any time soon, because our guest bloggers have some awesome ideas. They are so inspiring :)

Next up is my friend Melanie. She's from Alberta, Canada, and is living nearby while her husband is in graduate school. I have been so blessed by her friendship and am thrilled to let you hear from her today.

My name is Melanie and I'm currently on a maternity leave as a junior high humanities teacher from Western Canada. My husband and I moved to the suburbs of Philadelphia seven months ago with our then five week old daughter. We moved so my husband could go back to school, now studying to be an optometrist. I love music (singing & playing the piano), reading, fitness, and caring for our beautiful daughter. It's been a crazy half year, but we're enjoying our 'quaint' American life here! 

I've never been huge into cooking, preferring to bake because it's less pressure than hungry tummies everyday. But sitting down at the beginning of the week before a grocery run with a calendar and grocery list makes it a whole lot less stressful and even enjoyable. I'm pretty formal with cooking, preferring to stick to a recipe rather than experiment (although I'm always looking up substitutions for spices/ingredients I don't have). I do cook with a few things in mind: my husband is sensitive to dairy and although my seven month old is eating most of our food, I try to keep large chunks for her to eat. I sometimes cook for my in-laws who also have a number of food sensitivities (including tomatoes, apples, MSG, corn) and also are gluten-free and semi-vegetarian).

For my husband I can basically sub out milk for a variety of alternatives (I prefer almond milk because I've been aware about some concerns with soy). I usually buy a 'fake' cheese, which I can find locally for a reasonable price (unfortunately this alternative is soy as there don't seem to be as many options). I avoid recipes with yogurt because I haven't found a good substitute. When preparing food for our daughter I cut a few large chunks of tomato or sweet potato for example, toss it in with the rest of the dish, and find it for her later when we serve the dish. This is no exact science... LOL

One aspect that has really gotten me more excited about cooking is finding really tasty & healthy recipes I know I'll use over and over again- this is one recipe book I swear by! I also have a binder with slip covers where I collect recipes that I rip out from magazines or print out from the computer. During the week I try to vary meats (chicken, beef etc), vary serving meat and meatless dishes, and I serve fish at least once a week. I've also tried to avoid the 'dirty dozen' by buying organic food from this list. I can find a lot of organic produce for an affordable price at Walmart and of course Trader Joe's (I struggle to pay the $ at Whole Foods). I can buy more organic food in bulk now because stores like Costco offer it (like tomatoes and applesauce). I'm also trying to do a better job at adding healthy fats etc. to our meals like flax and chia. 

Over the past year and a half I've started to buy dry beans, cook, and freeze them in can-size portions. Not only is it cheaper but it avoids the dangers of BPA in the lining of canned food. I don't do it all the time and for things like canned tomatoes and tuna I can't avoid it, but I try to do what I can. I find meat out here a lot more expensive (I come from a province known for its beef) and I'm also trying to find other ways to supplement protein (ie beans) so I usually reduce the meat portion a bit and trying to serve at least one or two meatless recipes a week. My husband looooves meat but I'm slowly finding more meatless recipes that he enjoys almost as much as dishes with meat- that's a success! He would also love to have pasta everyday... but that's a whole other endeavor.

I'm also a bit of a cheater: With just two adults in our house I can often cook one day and serve leftovers the next day, especially because the recipes I use often make large quantities. I really value having an 'off' day and frequently end up baking that day instead. I usually prefer one-dish recipes where I can toss everything together. If I do serve sides it's usually with fish or a whole chicken in the crock pot. I have been trying to include more varieties of plain vegetables (as opposed to in a dish, but still served with things like lemon, garlic etc) because we're trying to introduce to our daughter to them one at a time. 

Monday: Leftover jambalaya. This is an easy dish I usually just serve with shrimp. This time I also had kielbasa (extra happy husband!). It's got lots of kick. The recipe uses canned diced tomatoes, celery, bell pepper, onion, lots of herbs and is served with rice. You can make it in a crock pot but often I just toss it together and let it simmer for 20 minutes or so.

Tuesday: Ate out with in-laws (a rare treat and success with our seven-month old!)

Wednesday: Roasted Vegetables with rice (I would usually serve it with whole wheat couscous but it's not gluten free. Also this recipe has no tomatoes). This is not the exact recipe I use but it's easy to mix and match veggies. The recipe I use includes zucchini, sweet potato, portabello mushroom, carrots, red onion, bell pepper, chickpeas all in a balsamic vinegar/olive oil with rosemary. Add feta cheese for me!

Thursday: Leftovers. I'm pretty predictable with leftovers. Heat on stove or microwave and serve. Easy as pie! 

Friday: Baked salmon with lemon juice, garlic powder, parsley, and a bit of butter. Cook for 20-25 at 400; Served with quinoa salad with red onion, tomatoes, cucumbers, bell pepper, and feta cheese for me. 

Saturday: It was Valentine's Day so I made butternut squash (roasted and then served with butter), ribs (cooked in the crock-pot with an easy sauce from epicure saved for a special event), green beans (boiled) and rice (cook half white and half brown). My husband LOVES ribs, so it was a special treat.

Sunday: Leftovers

Monday: Moroccan Stew. This website (same as Roasted Veggies from Wed) is put together by the Canadian sisters who wrote the cookbook I love so much. This recipe is slightly different online than in my recipe book. The online version includes kale and coconut milk which I'll have to try next time! 

But don't be fooled- my easy meals when I haven't planned or I'm tired include shrimp stir-fry with frozen veggies from Costco, pasta with a veggie tomato sauce, or scrambled eggs & toast! If I have extra after a meal (or two with leftovers) I try to put some homemade chili or cooked meat in the freezer for a fast option later.

Thanks for letting me share some of my journey with cooking. I'm always trying to improve my approach and I'm inspired by others' stories. Bon appetite!

Thanks so much for sharing, Melanie! These are some yummy sounding meals!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Thirteen months old!

I certainly don't imagine I will keep up with Charlotte's monthly updates indefinitely. Life is too busy for that, especially with our upcoming move. BUT! I have the time and the motivation to write an update for this month, so I'm going for it. With a slightly different structure/layout.

At thirteen months, Charlotte loves: exploring, balloons, animals, reading books/ turning the pages/ pointing out dogs in the pictures, playing with anything electronic (phones, our iPad, wireless speaker, remote controls, etc.), being outside, and sorting things.

She is awesome at taking things OUT and putting them back in. She thinks climbing the stairs is a total blast and this month she actually mastered coming back down the stairs safely on her own. Of course we are behind her both ways, but she doesn't need any help. She also LOVES waving at people and getting their attention so she can grin and wave some more.

Words: Dada, dog, go, Lala (Lily- her white lamb), Ba (ball), and every once in a great while: mama.

Signs: her own version of "more" and her own version of "all done". Seeing her sign is one of my absolute favorite things in life. She is so precious, signing for more whenever she sees something she wants :)

Favorite foods: fruit, of any kind. She loves grapes, blueberries, clementines, bananas, and applesauce. She is also a big fan of cheese, hummus, peanut butter, and green peas. She eats baked oatmeal with whole fat Greek yogurt for breakfast most mornings, but also enjoys eggs with cheddar cheese if that's on the menu.

Great things this month: we took a road trip to visit Charlotte's maternal grandparents for their birthday. She was a champ in the van, only whining a little bit for the last fifteen minutes of the six hour trip. What a relief!

Words to describe Charlotte: curious, determined, independent, playful, friendly, sassy, brave, silly, and happy. 

This girl brings us an unbelievable amount of joy. We love seeing her grow!!