Little one, love your body. It is the only one you get.

For years I pinched every part of my body that I could get even a pea size grasp on. Was there extra weight on my hips, my thighs, or the back of my arms? I obsessed over every bite that went into my mouth and constantly thought about the food that I wanted so bad, but refused to consume. When I found out I was pregnant with my first child at the age of twenty-eight, I was just beginning to really get comfortable with my body and food of all kinds. Fills the hole inside me

As my body went through the myriad of changes that occur when you are pregnant there was one thought that kept me on track – I will not let my eating disorder affect my child. As a recovering anorexic and exercise addict I feared that I would unconsciously pass on some of these unhealthy habits. Four years later and expecting my second child I think we have done a pretty good job of teaching our daughter healthy habits and acceptance.

So, when I recently found my four-year-old daughter sitting in the middle of her bedroom floor with her shirt lifted and pinching her belly, I had to take a step back and breath before approaching the situation. After asking her why she was doing it I was sickened to hear that she was copying an image she saw on a billboard we had passed on the way home from the grocery store.

I instantly knew what billboard she was talking about — an ad for CoolSculpting body shaping that I had often found myself evaluating. A woman shown bare skinned from the rib cage down pinching at a slight bulge on her waist. A woman who honestly looks like she is at a healthy weight and had to really work to grab that little flap of mostly skin.

DSC_2115But, how to get a four-year-old to understand we don’t judge our bodies in that way and certainly not by comparing it to other people? Would you pinch a friend like that? No, well we shouldn’t treat our own bodies that way either. Think of your body as your closest friend, someone you care about and want to keep around for a very long time.

I may not be able to change the way brands present their messages and get people to pick apart each little part of their body, but I can help my daughter accept every muscle, bump, and curve of her own and love everything that her amazing little body is capable of.

I can praise her for her accomplishments and not what she looks like. When I see an example of a body positive woman in an ad I can be sure to point it out to her. And most of all, I can love my own body and let her see that acceptance and appreciation on a daily basis as I look in the mirror, as I enjoy my workout because it makes me feel strong, and as I hold my head high and work towards the things that are important to me on a creative, professional, and personal level. I can let her know that her body will change throughout her life, but it will always be hers and what she does with it is much more important than how it compares to the artificial image on a roadside billboard.

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The Second Pregnancy Truth: Special in unexpected ways

pregnancyWhoever said the second pregnancy is easier than the first is a liar. Or they blissfully forgot the reality of having a toddler, expecting a baby, and still living daily life.

You know what to expect

At least this time around you know what to expect. Or so I thought. Really it is more like thinking you are headed back to Rome, IL, but accidently booking a trip to Rome, Italy. You got on the plane thinking you had this all figured out, but once your feet hit the ground you know you are in for a whole new journey.

Yes, I’ve had a baby before, but this time it is completely different. The body changes, stressors, and emotions don’t match up to the first experience. You never really know what to expect in pregnancy.

With the first pregnancy, working full time was no big deal. As I maneuvered career and expecting (or as much as you can expect the biggest disruption to occur in your life) I thought, “I got this”. Work during the day, relax a little at night, and spend weekends blissfully getting the nursery ready.

This go around I feel like something has to give and if I “lean in” any farther I will land flat on my face. Being pregnant the second time means working full-time while juggling things such as drop-offs and pick-ups at daycare, evening activities for a rambunctious toddler, and prepping the house for a second child.

Getting real

Like everyone else I have days where I stop and think, “I can’t do this. What was I thinking!” But, then I stop and I remember the many friends who can’t have a first, let alone a second child. I think about my niece and nephew and how they look at each other and can understand each other in a way no one else can. I think about my own siblings and how we share memories that only growing up in the same house can provide. Or how we can look at each other and instantly know what the other is thinking.

Moments like these remind you of the important things in life.

Moments like these remind you of the important things in life.

I think of the way my daughter quietly asks to touch the baby and gently places her hands on my growing belly. Or how she talks about all of the things she is going to give to her baby brother.

Maybe the bigger truth isn’t that the second one is easier – it is just different. Different like everything else in life is distinguished from the first time we did this. Different just like each child will be different and take their own journey.

 

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April round-up: Healthy eats, pregnancy workouts, and furry friends

After March flew by this month has been slightly more focused from a personal perspective. I have tried to spend more time getting inspired, getting motivated to claim what I want in life and take the steps to get there, and connecting with my ever changing body.

Here are a few things we’ve been enjoying, coveting, and anticipating over the last month.

Eats

I couldn't leave without a little baklava :)

I couldn’t leave without a little baklava 🙂

Step one to getting inspired always seems to revolve around food for me. Food and friendship, which naturally go hand-in-hand. That is why I was thrilled to meet up with a good friend at an old favorite I hadn’t been to in years. Gardens of Salonica in Minneapolis never fails to deliver. Over a shared sampler plate of melitzana, fava dip, salata, and patzaria and an entrée of makaronia kai souvlaki we caught up on life, laughed, and dreamed future travels.

Even though I’ve tried to slow the pace of life a little over the past month I do have days when all I have time for are small meals or snacks. I am also five months pregnant so noshing is sort of a must. Trying to keep it healthy I’ve been leaning on a few favorites: CoffeeBars, Nourish clusters, and dried pineapple from Nature Box (now available at Target!).

snacks

Getting Inspired

 Step two to getting and staying inspired is keeping up the activity level — even when I feel like sleeping all day. My growing belly and shifting center of gravity have made it time to make some slight adjustments to my workouts.

While still getting three-mile runs in I’ve had to slow my pace and remember not to push myself when Map my Run pops in to tell me I’ve taking more than 10 minutes to complete a mile.

Even though my abs don’t do quite what they use to I am still squeezing in ab work and weightlifting to maintain muscle tone and make delivery easier. A few places I’ve found some great tips on exercising while pregnant:

Parents Magazine  •  Girls Gone Strong

I’m always looking for different options to mix things up so if you know of any other sites please share!!!

Reads

While Minnesota can’t seem to decide what season we are in — is it spring or winter or maybe a day or two of summer – it is the perfect time to enjoy a good book. Since finishing my MBA in January I have tried to meet my goal of READING at least one book a month. So far, so good.

April’s book of choice was Likeable Social Media: How to Delight Your Customers, Create an Irresistible Brand, and Be Amazing on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn by Dave Kerpen. I was hesitant to tackle this book because I had done a good job of staying away from business-oriented books since finishing grad school, but it is a passion so I jumped right in.

There are some great tidbits in Likeable Social Media and if you are new to marketing or tackling it from the small business perspective it would be worth a read. Actually, the overall message is something that all of us could be reminded of at a personal level when using social media – everyone on these platforms are humans and should be treated as such.

I have also picked up the audiobook habit again. I highly recommend checking your local library for audiobook app options to get your free fill. I’ve used One Click Digital for years through our local library and enjoyed some great books when I don’t have a tone of time to actually curl up with a good book. While working I’ve listened to two new books this month – Killing Lincoln by Bill O’Reilly and Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith.

IMG_0368

Our biggest news of this past month, however, is the addition of a furry family member. Meet Clifford! Abandoned on an Indian reservation he ended up with mange and malnourished. He is doing great now and we look forward to having him grow with us.

Looking ahead

The home projects have begun– updates and photos to come next week!


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coffee bar

CoffeeBars: A cup of coffee in every bar

Photo credit: newgroundsfood.com

Photo credit: newgroundsfood.com

Who hasn’t rolled out of bed on a busy day only to realize you don’t have time for breakfast or coffee? That is exactly what inspired two Northeastern University students to create a caffeinated bar to kick them into gear for an 8am class.

Three years later and their creation is keeping more than college students awake for the important stuff in life. As soon as I came across it CoffeeBars on Undiscovered Kitchen’s online artisan food shop I knew I needed to give them a try. A mother working full time with more than a few extracurricular activities – I can use a little more caffeine, especially when that inevitable afternoon slouch occurs.

And best of all they are made of all natural ingredients. Oats, nuts, dates, organic coconut, vegan chocolate chips, and fair trade coffee – 100% organic, vegan, and gluten-free. New Grounds Food is certainly well on its way to making products that “keep you healthy and energized for all of life’s adventures”.

Photo credit: newgroundsfood.com

Photo credit: newgroundsfood.com

The bars come in three different flavors: Caramel Macchiato, Coconut Mocha, and Mocha Latte. So far we have re-energized with the Caramel Macchiato and the Coconut Mocha and enjoyed both equally. We’ll keep you posted on the Mocha Latte, but you should definitely give them a try for yourself. coffee bar

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5 Midwest food and drink fests worth the calories

Spring and summer in the Midwest means it’s festival season. With almost every weekend providing an option for food, drink, and fun which should you make room for in your schedule and diet?

Here are five of our favorite options for a day in the sun, eating and drinking our way through local favs.

Wisconsin Grilled Cheese Championshipgrilled cheese

Date: April 23, 2016

Location: 600 Bennett Road, Dodgeville, WI

Cost: Free general admission or $25/ticket Grilled Cheese VIP

The childhood favorite is taken to the griddle by talented home and professional chefs for some tasty results. With four different sandwich categories, food trucks, and vendors, you are sure to find something that hits the spot.

http://www.grilledcheesewisconsin.com/

Taste of Chicago

Date: July 6-10, 2016

Location: Grant Park, Chicago, IL

Cost: Free admission; food items are 1 – 5 tickets each; 12 tickets for $8.50

Since 1980 Grant Park has hosted one of the top outdoor food festivals in the nation. Over five days enjoy hundreds of food items, live music, cooking demonstrations, and plenty of family friendly activities.

http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/dca/supp_info/taste_of_chicago.html

Great Taste of the Midwest

Date:  August 13, 2016

Location: Olin Park, Madison, WI

Cost: Tickets $60 go on sale May 1st; tickets often sell out

Headed into its 30th year this brew fest is the second oldest in the U.S. and for good reason. Featuring over 150 brewers and 1000 beers you are sure to find something that quenches your thirst. You can also enjoy educational and entertaining presentations on topics such as beer and chocolate pairings, beer cocktails, and live music. And of course there are plenty of food options to pair with your brew of choice.

http://greattaste.org

Mackinac Island Fudge Festival 

Street view photo – “Mackinac Island” by Marada is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Street view photo – “Mackinac Island” by Marada is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Date: August 19-21

Location: Mackinac Island, MI

Cost: Free admission; cost of food items varies

I love the Cedar Crest ice cream named after this delicious treat and this event takes it to a whole new level.

A fudge inspired dinner, beer and fudge tastings, and even loompahs delivering Golden Tickets to the fudge shops.

http://www.mackinacisland.org/event/mackinac-island-fudge-festival/ 

Taste of Madison

Dates: September 3 – 4

Location: Capitol Square, Madison, WI

Cost: Free admission; food items priced $1 to $4

This festival has been on my radar since we moved to Minnesota almost 10 years ago and I still haven’t made the time to get there. More than 80 restaurants serving bites, 3 performance stages, and 26 beverage stands make for two days of fun and feasting. Best part – all the proceeds go to local non-profits.

http://www.tasteofmadison.com/

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March Round-up: Travel, recipes, and forks

This past month flew by (this seems to be a theme for my year)!  So let’s jump right into a few things we’ve been enjoying, coveting, and anticipating over the last month. sunset

Travel 

After anticipating vacation for so long it is hard to believe it is already over. The beginning of the month included a quick road trip for Olivia and me to visit my precious new niece in Illinois. An eight-hour drive with a toddler while being almost four months pregnant seemed like a good idea until we pulled out of the drive way. I was concerned when less than an hour into the eight-hour drive she was asking, “we are close?”. All turned out all ok and ended with some sweet memories of Olivia holding her new niece and gave a little glimpse of what life might be like when the new baby arrives.

beach

After two years of grad school we took our first real vacation – no homework, no required reading, and no online check-ins. Just beach, sun, naps, and lots of great food with good company. Stay tuned for more next month on our trip to Fort Myers Beach.

Recipes

Between trips, planning for trips, and trying to get ahead at work I didn’t have much time for experimentation in the kitchen. I did, however, make plenty of time to try out a few recipes I had stowed away on Pinterest.

Recipes

Lemon and Chia Seed Yogurt Cakes – These delicious muffins made for a sweet start to Easter morning. I didn’t take the time to make the syrup and candied lemon slices, but they were still amazing with a bowl of fresh fruit.

Homemade Crescent Rolls – I have always wanted to make homemade crescent rolls, but had never taken the time because it is just so easy to open the can of the refrigerated kind. I finally did it! And they were delicious . . . not always the prettiest, but just as tasty.

Mushroom and Cheese Quinoa Cups – I love quinoa and am always looking for different ways to incorporate it at every meal. These mini cups were a great addition to the menu with a cheesy crust on the outside and even squeezed in some veggies for the little one.

Forks

Consider the forkOne of the joys of being done with school has definitely been my self challenge of reading a book a month. This month, the book of choice was Consider the Fork by food writer Bee Wilson. I am slightly obsessed with culinary history and this book was just the thing I needed to unwind from business books. Bee Wilson has a conversational voice so you feel like you are talking to a witty friend who shares your passion for all things food, cooking, and history. The book covers a wide range of topics and can sometimes feel a little disjointed when it comes to the idea of culinary evolution, but it is full of fascinating tidbits and things to fill your antique shopping list with.

Looking ahead

April is already jammed with activities and things to look forward to. Our daughter is turning four on the 20th so we will be doing a lot of birthday planning. And trying not to be the crazy parent that creates unrealistic expectations for celebrations.

After our March travels I had to start planning our next adventure. The next getaway will include a weekend away for our anniversary in Duluth. Close to home, but something I feel is totally untapped by us.

And the big project for April? Let the home remodel and construction begin!

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Giant Irish Soda Muffins (that aren’t green)

It doesn’t seem like we should be talking about St. Patrick’s Day yet. And it definitely doesn’t seem like Easter should be just around the corner.

But here we are, nearly halfway through March. So the green is sneaking up on us . . . even if it is only in the form of glittery shamrocks and leprechaun hats. Hopefully, we will soon see some green sneaking out of the ground and sprouting from our flowerbeds.

Until then I will just enjoy a celebration of the Emerald Isle with some good food. I’ve never really understood the fascination with coloring foods green that should not be green so I am going for some actual greens instead. I suppose when you think Irish cuisine most people don’t think of greens anyway. You think of sausage, fish and chips, and other plain colored items. However, a few years ago I read a wonderful piece in Travel & Leisure that gave me a whole new perspective on Irish cooking.

My favorite still remains the traditional soda bread, but I’ve been getting inspired by a few Irish dishes online as well. Here are a few of our favs and our favorite soda muffins to go along with whatever you choose this St. Patrick’s Day. muffins

Corned Beef and Vegetables

Beef and Stout Casserole with Herby Dumplings

Sausages Baked with Beans and Eggs

Roast Spring Lamb with Mint Sauce

soda muffins
Irish Soda Muffins
Print Recipe
Big, delicious muffins that are great for dipping in stew or slathering in butter and jam. This recipe originally appeared in the June 2008 issue of Bon Appetit.
Servings Prep Time
6 large muffins 15 minutes
Cook Time
22 minutes
Servings Prep Time
6 large muffins 15 minutes
Cook Time
22 minutes
soda muffins
Irish Soda Muffins
Print Recipe
Big, delicious muffins that are great for dipping in stew or slathering in butter and jam. This recipe originally appeared in the June 2008 issue of Bon Appetit.
Servings Prep Time
6 large muffins 15 minutes
Cook Time
22 minutes
Servings Prep Time
6 large muffins 15 minutes
Cook Time
22 minutes
Ingredients
Servings: large muffins
Instructions
  1. 1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray six 1-cup muffin cups with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. 2. Whisk the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl.
  3. 3. Using your fingertips, blend the butter into the flour mixture until incorporated as small pea like pieces.
  4. 4. In a medium bowl, whisk the buttermilk and egg together. Add this mixture to the dry ingredients and stir to blend.
  5. 5. Spoon muffin batter into prepared muffin tin. Bake 20-25 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  6. 6. Remove muffins from oven and let cool slightly on a rack prior to turning out.
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February Round-Up: Life stages, cookies, and inspiration

Two months down for 2016 already?! Doesn’t seem possible, especially since we are still in the doldrums of winter weather and birthdays weren’t rousing celebrations this year (no alcohol and constant fatigue tends to put a damper on partying).

Well, I guess it is time to admit that another month is gone. So, here are a few things we’ve been enjoying, coveting, and anticipating over the last month.

Life stages

As a friend recently reminded me, seasons in life come and go. Unfortunately, right now this travel season of my life includes only domestic destinations. So I plan on making the most of even less than exotic travel plans. We are headed to Fort Myers Beach on our first real vacation in two years and I plan on finding some great food, a few local shops, and some relaxing fun. Recommendations welcome!

Cookies from France

cookies

Last year a friend who had recently traveled to Paris told me about these great cookies they had – Michel et Augustin Two Kooky Cookies. So, when I heard that the company reached a deal to have their cookies in Starbucks in the U.S. I was excited I would get to try them for myself.

I love a company with a backstory like theirs – work late nights while working day jobs to perfect their product and grow the company. I don’t normally stop for my coffee at Starbucks, but these cookies were calling my name. I opted for the dark chocolate with sea salt (bummed they only offer two varieties). They were good. I wouldn’t say they were anything special, but I am intrigued enough to want to try more of their cookies when the opportunity arises.

Looking for my own Big Magic

big magicTwo months and already three books down in my #abookamonth self-challenge. The most recent book was exactly what I needed after finishing my MBA and feeling a little lost creatively and professionally. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert is more like a conversation with a friend that kicks your butt into gear by being brutally honest with you. It is a quick read for anyone who needs a creative kick start.

 

 

A few dishes join the kitchen notebook

Finally being done with classes means I have more time to try the hundreds of recipes I’ve been sitting on. The #cook90 challenge is also keeping me accountable to my own goal of cooking more and spending a little “me time” in the kitchen. Over the past few weeks a couple dishes stuck out as favorites.

greek tacosThese Greek Tacos were delicious. I opted for extra toppings so it turned into more of a Greek taco salad, but I definitely see the meat in this recipe finding its way into other dishes.

These BBQ pork wraps were inspired by a meal we had wrapalmost a year ago at a small bar in a tiny Wisconsin town. A pleasant surprise the first time around and just as good for the home version. I used the pulled pork technique from this recipe and rolled it up in a large tortilla wrap with crispy onions, extra sauce, and shredded cheddar cheese – amazing!

 

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#cook90 challenge and Italian veggie bake

I was recently listening to a Burnt Toast podcast where they interviewed Epicurious editor David Tamarkin and was inspired to take on his #cook90 challenge.

I love to cook, but with motherhood and spending the last two years in grad school I have found myself farther from the kitchen and leaning towards the easier task of ordering take-out on busy nights. I miss being in the kitchen and continuously expanding my kitchen skills and creativity. So #cook90 is an opportunity to get me back in the groove. (Check out his original post on how the challenge works).

I’ve only been at it for a week and I’ve already found a few positives from the experience.

  1. I am sticking to the weekly menu plan I create so I am wasting less food because I am actually cooking it.
  2. I am using up stuff that has been stuck in our freezer and pantry for a few months.
  3. I feel much better physically (and mentally) not eating all that rich take-out food.
  4. Money saved – haven’t added it up yet, but it is so much cheaper to eat-in.
  5. I am finally using all those recipes I’ve been pinning and the cookbooks I’ve been ignoring over the past two years.

To cap off day one of the #cook90 challenge I raided the fridge and pantry and came up with this delicious Italian Veggie Bake – quick, easy, and kid-friendly.

dish bake

Italian Veggie Bake
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
6 servings 10 minutes
Cook Time
35 minutes
Servings Prep Time
6 servings 10 minutes
Cook Time
35 minutes
Italian Veggie Bake
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
6 servings 10 minutes
Cook Time
35 minutes
Servings Prep Time
6 servings 10 minutes
Cook Time
35 minutes
Ingredients
Servings: servings
Instructions
  1. 1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Spray two baking sheets with cooking spray.
  2. 2. Slice the pepper, onion, and zucchini into 1/2 inch thick pieces. Spread out evenly on sprayed baking sheets.
  3. 3. Roast 20 minutes or until tender and starting to brown.
  4. 4. In a large bowl, toss the roasted veggies, chickpeas, and spaghetti sauce until evenly coated.
  5. 5. Spray a 8x8 casserole dish with cooking spray. Pour the tossed veggie mixture into the dish and spread out evenly. Top with mozzarella cheese.
  6. 6. Bake 10-15 minutes until the cheese is melted and browned as desired.
  7. 7. Let the dish sit for a few minutes to allow the cheese to set.
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