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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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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Food Life Project Day 4: A Lazy Day

When I set the goal of writing daily for 365 days I thought I might have issues thinking of a topic each day. Nothing like a 24-hour deadline to cause writer’s block!

So I decided to seek out a few writing prompt sources in case I needed inspiration. I had to laugh to myself when I saw the first prompt – What is your favorite way to spend a lazy day?

A better question might be “what is a lazy day?”. Between being a mom, an MBA student, a full-time professional, and actually having hobbies I can’t even remember the last lazy day I had. Oh, and my lazy days probably don’t look like many other people’s.

So if I did find myself with a lazy day how would I spend the time?

Waking up to the sun streaming through the bedroom windows and the smiling face of my daughter ready to face the morning.

A leisurely breakfast of eggs and toast with a large coffee and some online news on the side.

 

relax

Photo: Alice Hampson

 

Lacing up my running shoes for a mid-morning outdoor run. The sun kissing my skin and the tunes keeping my pace.

Cleaning up for a special lunch out on the town with my two favorite people. Possibly a slice of pizza at Cossetta’s or a burger on the deck at Jersey’s.

An afternoon spent reading a new book and sipping iced tea.

After a little lounging, I’m ready to get moving in the kitchen. Turn on a little music, pull out the cutting board and chef’s knife, and raid the produce drawer for a killer salad.

What better way to end the day than a relaxing meal with a glass of wine and some lively conversation. Unless, of course, the day actually ends with some snuggles in bed and kisses from the loves of my life.

Maybe I need to start carving out some time in my calendar for my lazy day!

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The coffee illusion #Mondaymotivation

The coffee illusion

I fully admit I have a problem sitting still. This weekend wasn’t any different. Date night on Friday and staying up until 11:30pm, because as my husband said “we are adults for one night”. A Saturday full of class work and then a night out with the girls at the Kenny Chesney and Jason Aldean concert. Sunday was a time for the whole family to reunite, but still included some yard work and even more school work. My life is amazing and I feel totally blessed to do all of the things I do, but Monday morning always sneaks up on me and without coffee I’m not sure what I would do.

What keeps you going?

P.S. The coffee in the pic is called a Painter’s Mocha and even though I’m not usually a fan of sweet drinks this one is amazing. Black Sheep cafe in South St. Paul is one of our favorite places to get well crafted espresso drinks!

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Quick summer quinoa salad

I feel like this week flew by. I haven’t had time to stop and think about anything, including meals. It is weeks like these where it seems it would be easier to just pick up the phone and order take-out or pop a frozen pizza in the oven. However, I know that doing either of those things probably wouldn’t make me feel any more awake or aware and I would feel crappy about what I ate.

It is weeks like these that I tend to get creative with what is in my pantry. That would be where this meal came from.

bowl of summer happy

Quick Summer Quinoa Salad

1 cup uncooked quinoa (3 cups cooked quinoa)

1 ½ cup water

12 oz. fruit salsa

½ cup roasted unsalted nuts

¼ cup crumbled feta cheese

ingredients

Place the water and dry quinoa in a pot on high. Bring to a boil, then reduce the head, cover, and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Once the water is absorbed, remove from the heat and set aside.

While the quinoa is cooking, place the fruit salsa including any juices into a large bowl. Chop the nuts (we used roasted almonds) and add to bowl. Crumble in the cheese.

Add the quinoa to the dish and toss.

Serve with pita, naan, or top with chicken or other protein.

quinoa salad

4 servings                                                                ENJOY!!!!!

Note: I used mango fruit salsa from Lunds & Byerlys, which is made on site. I recommend a salsa made by your local grocery store or a store bought one that is low in sugar and salts. Or it is super easy to make your own and store for later use.

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5 reasons mom should plan some adults only travel

I love traveling with Olivia and one of my top goals as a parent has been to show her as much of the world as possible. However, I have recently come to realize that traveling solo and traveling adults only can be just as important.

This past weekend I met up with my sisters for a long weekend in Chicago (more on that next week). Hopefully this will be the beginning of an annual tradition because it was just what we all needed.

I had a day along before they arrived and then we had two days of fun, laughter, adult conversation, shopping, good food, and relaxation. So here are just five reasons why I know I will do it again and why I think all the overworked, overstressed moms should do the same.Chicago O'Hare airport

1. You will be reminded of why you love travel and what you hope to share with your little one. I love traveling as a family, but I will be the first to admit that traveling with kids can be stressful and no matter what it is different. Going solo reminded me of why I love the airport – the people watching, the excitement and expectation of seeing new things, and the sense of possibility that hangs in the air. Once my feet the ground in Chicago it was about being out of your comfort zone and soaking in as much as possible.

2. It is a reminder of who you are. Yes, I am a mother and a wife, but I am also a dozen other things that I was long before I took on either of those roles. Getting away from the daily grind can give you the space to remember things you love to do and things you want to bring back into your everyday life. I was reminded how much I love running when I don’t have a constant thought in the back of my mind that she might wake up before I am finished. Or that I have been a sister longer than a wife or mother and that we can rely on each other for advice, honesty, and laughter.

map3. You get a glimpse of the outside world. As a mother, especially a mother of a young child, your attention is always focused on them when they are around. You can try to fight it and give partial attention to what is around you, but there is always this mental force that draws you back to them. Are they safe? Are they having fun? Are they getting what they need? Without that, you can let that mental field down and relax your mind. You can take a look around in a way you haven’t done in a while.

4. Sleep. I’m not going to lie, the opportunity to sleep and rest your mind and body is beyond compare.

5. You will miss them and be reminded of how much you love your life for all of its craziness. When we are in the thick of everyday life we often can’t grab even a second of peace. We can’t wait to get away and leave it all behind. However, you will miss their little smiles, their stories, and their hugs before too long.

Mother's love

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Girls’ day out – toddler style

I’ve never been great at relaxing and although I’ve had many wonderful female friends in my life, I’ve never gotten the girls’ day concept. I will admit I occasionally get jealous of the posts about girlfriends grabbing coffee and heading to the salon or shopping and treating themselves to a little something.

Maybe, that is why I decided to start small – literally. Olivia had a day off school and I had a day off work so instead of just hanging around the house like we normally do I decided to plan a girls’ day out on the town. Of course, I had to keep little hands and interests appeased so there would be no salon stop. But, we would still have a coffee stop, shopping, and lots of treating ourselves to a good time.

If you ask Olivia where she wants to go in the morning, the answer will most likely be Caribou. We aren’t really sure where the preference or brainwashing came from, but she does have good taste. So that is where we started our day together. Sitting at a table with my iced coffee, her strawberry banana smoothie, and crumbs from a apple cinnamon muffin making their way across every available surface.Caribou coffee

The second place Olivia is sure to tell you she wants to go is Target. What can I say, we live in Minnesota? The kid talks about Target all the time, can spot a Target from miles away, and really should be in one of their ads. This is sort of the perfect place to wander on a girls’ day . . . we played with toys, found some cute spring outfits, ate a rice krispy treat, and found some new snacks (we are both grazers).

The place I was most excited for was the Stages Theatre in Hopkins. I had been looking for a fun show to take Olivia to, but I’m not sure she would sit through a movie in the movie theater and the Children’s theater can be so expensive (come on she is three years old and we are watching a weekday production of a children’s book!). So when I found out Stages Theatre Company puts on shows for children that bring their favorite children’s books and fairytales to life and it only costs $16.00 per person ­- I was sold. I had never been to downtown Hopkins, but it is a traditional little downtown with free public parking so win-win all around. The small theater is perfect for a group of fidgety kids. Comfy seats, booster seats provided, nothing is to far from the stage, and the length of the show is long enough to test their ability to sit still, but not so long that you need a cranky child intermission. For Olivia’s first ever theater visit we saw Goodnight Moon. The show was a cute rendition with talented acting, wonderful lights and sound effects, and a colorful set that kept our eyes glued to the stage.

Stages ThreatreAfter watching the bunny refuse bedtime and have a few adventures we were off to continue girls’ day. It was lunch time and both of our tummies were calling so we headed to a new spot – PizzaRev. I had never even heard of the place, but it was a tasty spot to stumble upon. A build your own pizza joint with a variety of topping options and a wonderful crackery thin crust. I let Olivia pick the toppings and we, of course, ended up with pepperoni, but surprisingly we also finished the pie off with mushrooms, black olives, and spinach. The pizza was great for sharing with a little one or you could easily have your own. All done in 15 minutes tasting fantastic it was a great find for when you have a hungry toddler in tow.Pizza Rev

After a second stop at Target (because why would we buy everything we need in one visit!) we finally headed home exhausted, but so happy. I think I get the appeal of the girls’ day now. I know for sure I’ll be doing more with Olivia and I can’t wait to see what new places we find as she gets older.

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Quick Minestrone soup

When I started my MBA, and working outside the home full-time, and motherhood all back-to-back I envisioned plenty of time for extracurricular activities. Prior to these major life changes I worked out twice a day most days, made homemade granola weekly, and read for fun. I guess in my head I lived in a world with more than 24 hours in a day.

Unfortunately, I don’t live on whatever planet I thought I did so it is one workout a day, store bought granola, and a growing list of unread fun books piling up by the bed. One thing I hate to give in on though is a healthy meal for my family. That would be why this soup is a great addition to our recipe box (even Nick can throw it together in a pinch).

Quick Minestrone

-1 large yellow onion, diced

-2 carrots, diced

-3 stalks of celery, diced

– 1 Tbsp olive oil

-14.5 oz can dice tomatoes

-14.5oz can tomato sauce

-3 cups chicken broth

-2 cans white beans, drained and rinsed

– 2 tsp dried Italian seasoning (mixture of oregano, basil, thyme)

– ¼ cup fresh basil, minced

-2 cloves garlic, minced

-1/3 cup frozen corn

-1 cup frozen peas

-salt and pepper to taste

-extra water as desired

  1. Dice your onion, carrots and celery. Mince your garlic (or use jarred like I do)
  2. Heat the olive oil over medium high heat in a large stock pot
  3. Add your diced vegetables and sauté until onions are translucent
  4. Add the broth through the frozen peas to the pot and simmer for 15 minutes
  5. Add water and salt and pepper to desired consistency and taste

Quick minestrone soupServe with crusty bread and save the leftovers for a quick lunch or dinner to go.

Of course on the other planet I imagined only having spring and summer, but I live in Minnesota where winter trumps all.

So even after seven years of frozen tundra when I should be buying this . . .

MN winter

I am instead buying this . . .

Toms

So I guess I will curl up inside with my pretty bright shoes on and eat my soup to stay warm 🙂

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A foe named Migraine

I’ve really been enjoying sharing stories of motherhood, cooking, and exploration with everyone. I had planned on a story of this wonderful place we recently ate at, but I got sidetracked by an old nemesis.

As I’ve done for years with this enemy I was going to work through it and share the planned post, but then I realized how many people deal with this same thing and how it really can affect everything you are – mother, wife, friend, cook, employee, writer.

Lego splitting headache

Photo: Matt Brown

The name of my nemesis – Migraine. We started doing battle in my teens and really went at it in my college years. I can usually feel it coming, but often feel paralyzed to do anything against it. The fuzzy blackness begins at the outer corners of my vision and moves in until only bright pinpoints remain. And sometimes even those disappear leaving me blind for a minute. The ringing in my ears. The pounding at my temples. The searing pain with every change in position.

I’ve had all the scans and they’ve come up empty. I’ve tried the medications – the very first one I tried made me look like a lobster only a few hours after taking it. I’ve been told to track everything: stress, workouts, mood, weather, food and drink consumed . . . all in the hopes of pinpointing that moment when it all goes wrong. Nothing has given me the answer.

So I have learned to keep going on with my daily life even when I can’t always feel all my limbs and my head is screaming “curl into a ball!” I try to stay hydrated and watch my caffeine intake. I work out daily, eat lots of fruits and vegetables, and try to avoid highly processed foods. I try to get enough sleep and have learned ways to help reduce stress. Yet, Migraine and I still duel on occasion.

I hope my daughter never has to deal with this, but if she does I want her to know she isn’t alone and I understand. I know there are many people out there who deal with the same thing and have found their own ways to cope. For a day or two I might be consumed by my enemy, but I always return to be mom, friend, cook. And that story will get told after all.

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March Nature Box

Between work, school, spending time with family, and trying to do a few things for myself a few items had to get dropped from the to-do list. One of those things was making healthy homemade snacks. I use to make homemade granola, prep snacks the night before, and nibble on healthy options that would fuel a full day of activities.

Since starting classes I’ve taken to grabbing whatever I can and nibbling on things that definitely don’t fuel a full day of work, chasing a toddler, and homework. I found myself getting tired early in the day and then feeling guilty for what I was eating.

So I have broken down and subscribed to Nature Box to get healthy snacks delivered to our door monthly. Month one has arrived . . .

Image

Cherry Berry Bonanza – a medley of dried cranberries, cherries and blueberries. This snack wasn’t my favorite. It is a very tart blend and plain dried fruit isn’t my favorite, but I’m looking forward to adding it to yogurt and a snack mix of multigrain cheerios and nuts.

Roasted Kettle Kernels – honey coated roasted corn. Wow! These are a sweet, salty, crunchy kernels of delight. Growing up in the corn belt I now think about all of those little kernels laying outside the grain elevator with a whole new potential.

French Toast Granola – maple flavored granola with pecans. Yummy. A little sweet and way healthier than most store bought versions. We have been enjoying this on our morning yogurt and will definitely be sorry to see the bottom of the bag.

Masa crisps – corn chips with flax seeds. From the first bite my taste buds said Fritos, but my brain said way better. We enjoyed these with chicken tortilla soup and even the little one couldn’t stop eating them.

Pistachio Power Clusters – nut squares with almonds, cashews, and pistachios. These were my favorite snack in the box and I have been rationing them since I ate the first cube. Slightly sweet and a little bump in energy with each bite.

I can’t wait for April’s box!

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