September Coffee Chat (and some BIG NEWS)

There is something about Fall that makes coffee chats seem cozy and appropriate. All curled up with a cup of coffee, a good friend to talk to, and maybe a book to browse. September was a doozy of a month so this coffee chat might be a little deep and require a few cups of java.

Coffee chat with latte and heart

A few month’s ago I reminded everyone (especially myself) why I started Nomad Momma – to continue to challenge myself to try new things, face some fears, learn, and explore. September definitely stepped if up a notch in the face fears and explore arenas. As an introvert I struggle to reach out to people I don’t know, especially if I think they are doing something amazing. But I did it several times this month. I spent a lot of time reaching out to, meeting with, and getting to know people I think are doing something special by following their passions in food and travel. I’m excited over the next several months to share their stories and inspiration as part of a new series – The Makers Series!

This month I also visited my hometown (central Illinois) for my cousin’s wedding and to visit my grandmother. I love my time back home, but each visit seems a little more bittersweet.

One of my friends recently experienced the same feeling visiting someplace she once lived and she hit it on the head when she said it is strange because the people and places are the same, yet different.

At the wedding I saw so many people that I hadn’t seen in years. People that, to me, went from little kids to adults in the blink of an eye — if that blink lasted 15 years. The realization that time marches on without you never hits me as hard as when I visit my grandma. When I moved away to go to college in 2002 she was still a feisty firecracker of a woman. She still had her little jig for when she got excited, you didn’t cross her because she could swing that wooden spoon harder than any major league slugger, and her comebacks were quick and funny as hell.

Seeing her only a few times a year means each visit she has aged rapidly to my eyes. It is strange to visit and the woman who was always my rock is frail and while still feisty, not burning quite as bright as she once did.

All of this brings me to the Big News. As part of facing my fears and remembering that time marches on even if I don’t follow my passions I’ve launched on online store. For years I’ve been bookmarking sites and pinning ideas for a shop I wanted to open one day. I finally decided why can’t one day be today?!?

So here is Great Moments Kitchen – where I share my belief that the kitchen is the heart of the home. Traditions, stories, and memories are made in this space and I want to share that and help people make it happen in their homes. I have a penchant (ok obsession) with dishes so to kick off the shop I’ve brought together some of my favorite affordable pieces. I hope to add some local items, items from travels to kitchens around the world, and plenty of older items with stories of their own, but there is no time like now to push it out into the world and start making more traditions, stories, and memories. I hope you will join me!

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A Minnesota Fall Bucket List

Although I am not ready for summer to end I know according the calendar today is the last day of that glorious sunny season. Fall is here whether I want it to be or not so I’ll keep myself moving forward with a fall bucket list.
Fall Foliage in Wisconsin

Photo Cred: Autumn Tee XIX

Fall foliage
One of the only parts I enjoy of the seasonal change is the beautiful color of the tree line. Thankfully we already have a little excursion planned to Bayfield, WI which means plenty of hilly back roads surrounded by miles of changing tress. Best of all, according to the fall foliage watch the leaves haven’t turned there yet and we should be perfectly timed for the reds, yellows, and oranges to be out on full display.
Pie
I have a nostalgic love for pie – pretty much all pie (except strawberry rhubarb), but I digress. Fall seems like the perfect season for pie. The days are getting cooler so having the oven on all day isn’t as big of a hassle, but it isn’t such a heavy dessert so it still feels a little lighter like summer. Fruit pies are my favorite and as long as we’ve lived in MN I’ve heard so many opinions about where to get the best pie. I think it is time for a pie crawl!
Open since 1979 this little gem in Northeast has been a quiet powerhouse when it comes to baked sweets – especially pie. I’ve heard amazing things about their fruit pies specifically their Harvest Apple Pie.
This was one of the first places I was told to eat when I moved to MN. Yes, ten years later I still haven’t eaten there so I think it is time to rectify the situation. This place has been open since 1957 so I have a feeling I can’t go wrong with whatever slice of heaven I choose. Maybe a slice of 5 Later Butterscotch, Chocolate Banana,  Apple Strawberry Crunch,  and Bumbleberry . . . Two Harbors, MN here I come!
The best part about pies from this Lowertown gem? Personal sized pies – I don’t have to share!
Apple picking – recommendations?
I love apples! I don’t think one day has gone by in twenty years that I haven’t had an apple. There is just something special about an apple orchard and walking away with five-pound bags of freshly picked apples. And if a little apple cider (or pie) makes its way into the car with us, well even better.
Haunted House
Minnesota is home to the “Halloween Capital of the World” for gosh sake and I haven’t even been there. I adore Halloween and have a penchant for horror movies and I haven’t been to a haunted house in close to 20 years.  I think my hubby owes me a scary fun evening. I’m thinking Haunted Basement or is that to much for the first time back?!?
I think this list should get me through fall . . . winter on the other hand, I’m gonna need a bigger list!

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Coffee: A beautiful relationship

Like any good relationship, my courtship with coffee has evolved and deepened. My first taste of coffee came as a kid when my grandma use to give us milk and coffee. Mostly milk with a little splash of coffee . . . so really light brown milk.

When we met again I was far from home living the craziness that is the first year of college. We often met at The Union in the center of campus, coffee wearing the trendy green straw dressed as a frappuccino. Possibly a step closer to the real thing, but still in that sweet early phase when you can’t get enough. Of course, college ended and jobs and the responsibilities of real life hit me hard. Our relationship had evolved to quick and naked jolts of energy before leaving the house. You know, the time in a relationship where you are past trying to impress and you’re just comfortable and don’t always recognize what they do for you.

As always, life continued to evolve and my first baby came into my life. And my reliance on and appreciation for that glorious taste of sanity grew each day. Of course, then coffee went and surprised me and evolved to a smooth delight with the strength to support me all day. When your love for something you thought you knew forwards and backwards is renewed and strengthened – that was cold-press and me. Now we’ve settled into that phase where we just are what we are. We don’t care who judges us for spending to much time together or thinks we should get out with others . . . we are two cubes in a cup and happy as can be.

The Best At Home Cold Press Coffee

1 lb beans, coarsely ground

1 gallon water

Equipment: large bowl or container with a lid; wire mesh strainer; paper filter

Cold press grounds with water

Add the coarsely ground beans to the large container and cover with the gallon of cold water. Stir slightly so all of the grounds are wet. Cover the container and place in the fridge for 18-24 hours.

After 18-24 hours, place a paper filter in the wire mesh strainer over another large bowl or carafe. Pour the coffee/water mixture through the filter to strain out the grounds.

Finished cold press coffee

Enjoy the cold press over ice with your favorite add-ins and watered down to your desired strength. I prefer to use filtered water and add a splash of almond milk, but you do you.

Cold press can be stored in the fridge for up to 14 days (if it lasts that long 🙂 )

 

 

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Frozen Peanut Butter Chocolate Pie

August Coffee Chat

Where did summer go? I’m not quite ready for cooler weather and sweaters, but it like everything else in life it will come regardless.
Don’t you just hate that though! That those things you wish you could drag out forever always seem to come to an end before you are ready. Yet, the things that you want to change right away seem to take their sweet time. In fact, there is one thing in my life that I know I need to change, my therapist told me I need to change, and my family says I would be happier if I changed. But of course it is the one thing I can’t seem to change.
So instead I cope and try to distract myself . . . that was really the theme for August.
Food
When something is bothering me or not going my way I often turn to food. I am not an emotional eater, but I am an emotional cooker. Give me a day in the kitchen to knead, mix, and bake my way out of my own head and I’m much happier. So this month I clocked more time in the kitchen than I have in a long time. The family got to enjoy the fruits of my labor of course 😃
Cinnamon Rolls
Frozen Peanut Butter Chocolate Pie
Parmesan Zucchini Tots
Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Zucchini Bread
(If you didn’t notice we had an abundance of monster zucchinis in our garden.)
Exploring
The other activity that helps put me at ease is travel. In August we didn’t travel far from home, but even a little local exploration was enough. We took our first camping trip as a family of four!
Happy campers Littlest hiker
Father daughter hike
Lebanon Hills is a gorgeous park about 20 minutes from our house with walking trails and full hook-up campsites. Yep, camping for this family means a camper with running water 😃 Hey, we still cooked over an open fire and went hiking with an infant and a five-year-old.
Family
Speaking of infants, our little man turned one on August 1! Where did the time go?! How did we get from the NICU to finger foods and crawling so quickly?
But here we are with an adventurous, flirty, and ornery little gentleman in our lives.
First birthday

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July coffee chat

Agra Culture coffeeBefore having kids, coffee chats were a weekly part of my life. I worked for myself in a business that was heavily based on networking so I really challenged myself to set-up time with people on a regular basis. Groups make me anxious, but one-on-one over a cup of coffee I blossom.

Even though I often had to talk myself into getting into the car and going, I loved it once it was done. And now that I work full-time and have two little kids I really miss these coffee chats. So I will just make do with my virtual coffee chat. I’ll sip my cold press (yes, it is the middle of the afternoon and I’m still caffeinating) and chat away to all of you about what has been on my mind, what new things I’ve tried that I’m excited for you to try too, and what is keeping me going for the future.

Me time

As a mom, really as a woman, we all seem to be pretty bad at taking time for ourselves and fulfilling our own needs while constantly worrying about those around us. Getting back to this blog is one way I’ve taken time for myself, but July was also a time to regroup about what I need from life. So trying new restaurants, spending time with friends, and working out have found their way onto my calendar in permanent ink.

Fried Chicken Revival St Paul

When a friend and I got together after months of both being super busy we caught up over fried chicken, mac ‘n cheese, and beers. Classy, I know! But this was one classy and amazing meal at Revival in St. Paul. It is a bright space that feels like a group of friends got together on someone’s porch down South for some good home cooking and chatter.

Thankfully, I’ve also been able to squeeze in more consistent workouts along with the extra restaurant trips. Back up to five mile runs!!!! That only took a year and a half, but really who is keeping track?

Exploring

I love being home and we have been slowing making updates to make our space our own little cocoon away from the world, but I have that need because I also love exploring. As I’ve mentioned in the past, this blog is a way for me to keep exploring – through food, new places and experiences, and meeting new people.

July was a month full of cabin visits that included some excursions to places that even after ten years of visiting the region I hadn’t been to. Over the 4th of July we went to Madeline Island for a gorgeous picnic lunch. Then a few weeks later we headed to Hayward for the World Lumberjack Championships. I didn’t even know this was a thing still, but after seeing these men and women compete I was in awe. I mean, how do you even get into these sports?! And what would possess you to climb a 90 foot pole and then pretty much free fall to see who can get down faster? Or stand on a piece of wood and swing an axe between your feet until you cut all the way through? It is impressive and crazy what these competitors from all over the world did and you can tell that they have worked their butts off getting there.

Our taste buds also did a little exploring in July when we tried two new Minnesota made products. First, Maddy & Maize popcorn. We had been seeing it on Instagram and were so excited when we saw that it was coming to our local Hyvee. The first day it was in stock we grabbed a bag of the Bourbon Barbecue popcorn and oh my god it is amazing. It surprised me with a spicy kick, but it is so good. I think Apple Pie a la Mode is the next on the list.

Thumbs Cookies

To go with our something a little spicy, we tried out Thumbs Cookies when Robyn (the owner and baker) offered a limited edition S’more flavor. I had the pleasure of picking them up in person and meeting Robyn at Agra Culture which I love because it was an opportunity to be face-to-face with someone doing what they are passionate about. The hardest part was I picked the cookies up in the morning and wanted to try them as a family so I had the box on my desk at work all day. Talk about will power! The cookies were a hit at our house and we are looking forward to trying the Peanut Butter Sea Salt ones next.

Even though July was a busy month and it wasn’t all good change, I am choosing to keep the blessings and adventures in mind as I move forward to the end of summer, my baby’s first birthday, and our oldest’s journey to kindergarten in September. Cheers to August and a lot more coffee.

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How we did Disney with a baby and preschooler

Living in Minnesota for ten years I’ve learned that a winter getaway is sorta mandatory. We have loooooong winters that even Frosty the Snowman would find brutal and unbearable at times. While we revel in the warmth of the gorgeous Minnesota summer it might be hard to even consider that snow will again fall, but now is the perfect time to plan that winter getaway.

With people thinking about warm destinations for future family trips I’ve been getting a lot of questions about our 2017 winter escape. We braved taking a 6 month and nearly 5-year-old to Disney World. This was my third trip there and our daughter’s second trip. Right away I would say if you anticipate Disney World being a once in their childhood experience wait until they are older – at least 10 – so they can fully enjoy all the park attractions. If however, you are taking them at a young age and headed back once they are older there are a few tips I’d like to share to make your trip that much more enjoyable.

Stay on-site

We have stayed off site (pre-children) and on-site and after staying at a Disney property we won’t go back to off premises. Save yourself the hassle and stress of getting everyone organized in the morning, driving to Disney, finding parking, shuttling to the entrance, and finally making it into the park after waiting in line. Instead, stay on site and get access to the parks early and late as scheduled, take a quick boat ride or shuttle to the park of your choice, and get your day started.

Fort Wilderness might be the least known of the Disney World resorts, but it should be top of the list for families. This fun property is a throw back to the Disney of old and a world away from the chaos of the parks. The cabin option is perfect for families – kitchen to eat breakfast and have a slightly slower morning, separate room to watch TV in while the kids sleep in bunk beds in the back room, a deck to enjoy a little calm outdoor time. There are also swimming pools and other activities for the afternoon when the kids (and parents) need a break from the crowds. The other great part is the evening entertainment. Enjoy a campfire with sing along and s’mores with Chip and Dale.

Chip and Dale sing along at Fort Wilderness, Disney World

Plan ahead for little one’s meal times

If you have a really little one who is just switching to solids, like our little man was, make sure you pack a few appropriate spoons. Throughout the parks and at the resort shops we were able to find baby food, plastic bowls, even baby tylenol and diaper cream, but no soft plastic spoons.

If you are breastfeeding the parks do have great mother’s rooms/nursing stations. They have comfier chairs usually, more privacy, a TV to keep older kids appeased, and changing tables.

As for older kids, have an idea of where you want to be at lunch time (or a few options) so Mickey pretzels don’t become the entree of choice. We did the dining plan and used our quick service options for lunch most days so we could get back to the rides ASAP. We used our sit down meals mostly in the evenings when we were all ready to crash anyways. You can easily make reservations and look at menus on the park site and even on the app, which I highly recommend downloading.

Do: Download the Disney app, scope out menus before leaving home, make reservations when possible. 

Characters, characters, characters

One of the best of parts of a trip to Disney is getting to see your kids’ faces when they meet Mickey, Minnie, or any of the dozens of characters that are found throughout the park. Not gonna lie, I still get a little gidy when meeting them. The app now lets you pinpoint times and locations of characters so you can plan ahead and be sure not to miss a favorite.

Character dining Disney World

We found the best way to see characters was through the character dining options. Book in advance! These were great because rather than standing in a long line waiting to see one character you can keep the kids busy eating or with an activity at the table while they wait for the characters to make the rounds. We also found you tend to get a little more time with characters during the dining experiences versus at the parks.

Our favs were Minnie’s Beach Bash Breakfast at Cape May Cafe in Epcot and the Tusker House Restaurant character dinner in Animal Kingdom.

Do: Book character dining in advance, bring activities to keep the kids busy while they wait for characters. 

One final tip

We have been lucky enough to travel with other family members who can watch the kids for a few hours. If possible, travel with other adults so can sneak away to enjoy a some of the fun just the two of you. You are never too old to enjoy Disney World!

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Reclaiming this space and the journey

Photo cred: Alex Krivec

Maybe it is being in my thirties or having two kids instead of one or the postpartum anxiety, but I’ve reached this feeling of having stalled out. That feeling where you’ve accomplished all of the really cool things in your life. That new experiences are a thing of the past. That you are to old to try something different, challenge yourself, and face down insecurities.

It is way to early in life for that!

So I am embarking on a journey to fully embrace what I started this blog for, hopefully gain a little of my swagger back (who am I kidding I never had swagger, I’d twist my ankle), and find not only peace but growth in this new season of life.

When I started the blog I was transitioning into motherhood and out of what I thought was going to be a long term career in travel. I started this blog as a way to stay accountable to my goal of keeping my eyes open to the world and  embracing exploration. We spend so much time online and shuffling from place to place we miss the adventure that lives in each day. I started this blog to eat, travel, and meet amazing people and build my own adventure.

I want to continue to grow, learn, and challenge myself. I want to finish life saying I really lived it and provide lots of amazing memories for my children. I want to try new things – things that scare me, that make me anxious, that force me to face down insecurities and unrealistic fears of failure.

I want to meet new people – yes me, a hardcore introvert with anxiety (legit I take meds for that) want to meet people. I want to connect with people following their passions and writing their own story of life. I want to be inspired by their creativity, joy, and ability to face down their own fears.

And of course I want to eat and travel to experience new flavors, see new places, and meet new people.

So, I’m reclaiming that challenge and I’m sharing the journey as a way to stay accountable, provide a journal for my kids to look back on, and, hopefully, inspire some of you to do take on a new challenge, explore a new place, or meet some new people.

Here we go!

 

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Lemon Muffins and Postpartum

What do lemon muffins have to do with postpartum? In this case a whole lot. Just like writing these words has everything to do with the journey forward.

You see, after finding out we were expecting our second child we knew we would be done building our family. My last pregnancy. An opportunity to enjoy the experience.

I also knew post-baby life would be different than the first go around, but I had no idea just how different. After the birth of our first child it wasn’t all rainbows and flowers, but it was nothing like the past several months.

The constant gnawing anxiety with no apparent source. Doubt and self-defeating thoughts that cloud the brain. Fake smiles and disinterest in everything that once fueled my life. At first, I chalked it up to having a second preemie and the stress of being in the NICU. Then it was the lack of sleep and returning to work full time. The constant juggling of home, work, an active five-year-old, and a not so active infant.

Taking a deep breath before going into work. Another as I arrived home. One as the rest of the family pulls into the garage . . . and on and on throughout everything that was small and mundane.

However, after months of reassuring myself that it would all pass I realized I couldn’t live like this anymore – and I don’t have to! Asking for help is never easy, but some things you just can’t do alone. So I’ve asked for help, I’m taking steps, and I’m speaking about it because I know I am not alone.

Lemon muffins

And these lemon muffins (and these words) are part of the first step to bringing a little sunshine into my life. Even though right now I must force myself to bake and write – two things that always just came naturally – I believe that with work and professional help I will get back to the lighthearted mom I know I am.

Were these muffins the answer? No, but they were a small step in the right direction. An opportunity to get back to a beloved activity and even better was seeing the smiles on my little ones faces when they got to have them for breakfast. So, for now we will enjoy our little clouds of lemony sunshine and hold each other tight.

I hope you enjoy these lemon muffins with your family and friends and find the sunshine you need in your life.

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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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