Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving!


Just wanted to take a minute to wish all of you a very Happy Thanksgiving! WeThree are spending the holiday together this year and are looking forward to cooking, eating, and trying not to freeze in the sub-freezing temperatures that are supposed to hit central Pennsylvania this week. I personally CANNOT WAIT to squeeze my niece and nephews and catch up with my two favorite girls. 

We sincerely hope that you have a wonderful holiday with family and friends, and be sure to take a few minutes to count your blessings. Whether you find yourself in a good or not-so-good place this holiday season, if you look closely, there is always plenty to be thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving! And thanks for reading along here with us!

Monday, November 19, 2018

a little gratitude

Are you guys getting ready for Thanksgiving on Thursday? We finished planning our menu late last week and yesterday I shopped for the items I'm contributing: from-scratch green bean casserole (it's the best even if frying your own onions seems a bit extreme), lemon cream pie (also the best and the easiest), mashed sweet potatoes and a cheese / charcuterie board.

Every now and then I start to really crave some alone time and so after I put Bodhi down for his afternoon nap, I headed out solo, grabbed some Starbucks and made my way over to GIANT. While I was pulling into the parking lot Sleigh Ride came onto the radio (probably my favorite Christmas tune) and I sat in the car and listened to the full song. Then I grabbed a huge cart and really took my time at the store, spending God-knows-how-long picking out cheese varieties and accouterments. As I was finishing up I ran into an old co-worker and when they asked me how I was I responded "basically on vacation right now" because that tiny slice of time filled with the smallest of pleasures was something I really needed and something I was really grateful for.

A few months ago I started writing down things I was grateful for on a (nearly) daily basis; a "gratitude practice" if you will. I've done it off and on for a long time but when I became a mom something shifted and suddenly I found that I needed to do it more often. In a world that sometimes feels harsh and divided and violent and scary, I needed the constant reminder of the good -- because there is always good, even if all the news seems to talk about is sensationalized human tragedy. So today, a few days before Thanksgiving, I thought I'd share some of the things I've been grateful for over the past few months. Keep in mind that number one is always my family -- my baby boy, my husband, my immediate family, extended family, and friends that feel like family. These are just some of the smaller things that occur to me throughout the day.

always #1

-the occasional rainy day
-Glossier boy brow
-a hot shower
-in-season peaches
-baby smiles and laughs
-extra sleep!
-hot coffee
-the changing seasons
-cozy socks
-Robert's patience (can't remember what I must have done this day 😂)
-an early shower
-October leaves
-Bodhi's nap 
-girl's night
-dark chocolate and vanilla tea
-nice strangers
-butter and honey together
-the SUN
-putting my baby to sleep at night 
-waking up to snow 

What are you grateful for this Thanksgiving? I'd love to hear because let's face it, we could all use a little more good news in our lives. :] 

Friday, November 16, 2018

a snowy november day

What started out as a perfectly beautiful, cold November morning; quickly became an incredibly snowy afternoon.  We had our first big snowfall of the season yesterday and I don't think anyone was prepared for what we got.  I read this morning that police were having to wake up stranded drivers on a couple of our highways!  Crazy.  I can't even imagine being stuck in my vehicle for several hours, let alone all night long.  

I don't know about you, but I don't typically get my kids snow gear in order until a little later in the winter season and had grand plans to have new snow boots waiting for them under the Christmas tree on Christmas morning this year.  With the looming snowstorm, I realized I needed to scratch that idea and grab them a pair early.  Well, as most weeks do, this one got away from me and I found myself running out at noon yesterday, just before the snow started to fall, to find boots.  2 hours, 5 stores, and several inches of snow later, Sommer and I were heading home with only one pair of boots (why are size 6 toddler boy boots non-existent?!).  With the roads quickly worsening, I decided to take the slightly longer but significantly less hilly way home.  The thing is, we live on a hill so the only way to get home is to go up...and our new van is proving not to really like going up on snow covered roads.  Yep, we got stuck.  Thankfully not for too long but backing down a snow-covered hill with a scared 6 year old in the back seat is not something I hope to have to do again.  We proceeded to sit in a parking lot for 10 minutes to collect ourselves and then try another (hilly) way home.  Thankfully, the second time, on a significantly less traveled hill, our van pulled through.  I have to say though, I'm seriously considering trading this van in for something with 4wd.  

Once we were safely home and snug in our house and after getting the kiddos dressed to go play in the snow with daddy; I decided the only thing that could redeem this crazy afternoon was my favorite winter meal - Dinner A Love Story's Chicken Pot Pie.  There's just nothing like it and it's the perfect ending to a cold, snowy night.  

I know that winter is hard for a lot of people.  It's cold and dark and can make you feel kinda blah.  But, I am coming to love winter more and more.  Finding recipes that bring comfort, wearing warm socks, lighting candles and hanging twinkly lights - all these things have helped me to embrace the colder and darker days of the year.

The joy that this weather brings to these two also helps tremendously.  This morning we all got to stay home (perks of having a husband who works in a school), have our traditional snow day cinnamon buns, and now my snow babes and Matt are out sledding and enjoying this beautiful day together.  I'm off to get the hot cocoa ready for their return.  

Have a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

a sea of mountains

As the weather turns consistently chilly and the leaves fall to the ground and the darkness returns, let's talk about summer! Back in June, Will and I took the kids up to New Hampshire for a long weekend, and we had the best time hiking in the beautiful White Mountains. The trip up was a little stressful as Annabel woke up the night before we left with a 102 degree fever and ended up having strep throat. We had to make a pit stop four hours into our trip to get her some antibiotics and then just prayed that she would make a quick recovery so we could all enjoy the trip together. Luckily, she bounced back within a day and was so excited to get out and hike. A girl after my own heart.

After arriving Wednesday night and settling in to our VRBO, we woke up Thursday morning and went out for a very low-key breakfast followed by a slow train ride through the mountains. It was just enough activity to keep Tommy occupied and let Annabel sit still in my lap as she recovered from being sick. That afternoon, Annabel and Will relaxed at our cabin while Tommy and I headed up into the mountains to the visitor's center at Pinkham Notch to get some information for our hike up Mt. Washington on Friday. We talked to a ranger who recommended that we take the Tuckerman Ravine trail and then connect to the Lion's Head trail. She highlighted the path on our map, we snapped some photos of the beautiful scenery and then headed back to join Will and Annabel at the cabin. 

On Friday morning, we woke to a perfect day. There wasn't a cloud in the sky and the temperature was supposed to be in the low 70s in town which meant 50s on the summit of Mt. Washington. I was a little nervous that Annabel wouldn't be well enough to hike, but she came bounding out of her room at 6:30am and said, "Let's hike a mountain!" Yes! So we packed up some snacks and water, hats, gloves and extra sweatshirts and headed back up to Pinkham Notch to start our "strenuous" 4.5 mile hike to the summit of Mt. Washington. We were so excited! 

I don't know about you, but mountains are pretty much a requirement for me in life. I need fresh air and a good climb and a sea of mountains in the distance to remind me of what's important in life. So spending 5 hours (3.5 of those above tree line) hiking up a giant mountain admiring the amazing views is my idea of a fantastic day. Our hike up Mt. Washington was indeed a fantastic day. Here are a few way too many photos of our hike, if you'd like to see.

Summit selfie in the sunshine! We made it! 54 and windy at the top.

It was such a amazing day - great memories and a big accomplishment for our kids. They were such troopers as we went up, up, up the side of the mountain. The next time we hike Mt. Washington, I hope we will be passing through on the AT on our way to Katahdin in Maine.

To end today, here are a few sunset photos taken from our NH cabin with Mt. Washington in the distance. Everyone could use a few more sunsets in life, yes?


Monday, November 12, 2018

my top grocery store finds

A few weeks ago I wrote about my approach to meal planning and today I wanted to follow-up with a few of my favorite products that I always keep on-hand. We shop almost exclusively at GIANT Food Stores so you'll likely be able to find these products there (or at a MARTINS), unless your store is really tiny. If you have any frig or pantry staples that I need to know about, comment below (or come let me know over on Instagram)!

#1: Shredded Rotisserie Chicken
Rotisserie chicken feels like old news but it's my favorite thing to buy at the grocery store. At GIANT you can get a whole, decent-sized chicken for $4.99. Every Sunday we buy one and I take all the meat off and store it in an airtight container. It's mostly me who eats it (in this bowl that Dani mentioned or another rice bowl), but I also give it to Bodhi for lunch almost daily. For dinner I'll use it in quesadillas, tacos or paninis, or occasionally we'll just eat it plain with Stovetop Stuffing and it's like the easiest, cheapest and fastest meal imaginable.

#2: Kerrygold Salted + Unsalted Butter 

It used to annoy me when I heard people on the Food Network say things like "use good butter." Until buying imported butter made from milk from grass-fed cows became a part of my job. And then I was totally and completely converted. This butter will definitely cost you a bit more than you're used to paying, but there is nothing like it; even my husband comments on it. Bodhi and I both love toast with butter, so we use it for that, but Robert also uses it for his breakfast sandwiches on the weekend, I'll stir a little into finished pasta or rice dishes and I use the unsalted exclusively for baking cakes and making frosting. It just makes everything better.

Hello, I love boxes of any kind. 

#3: GIANT Brand Frozen Shrimp (Peeled, Deveined, Tail-Off)

I love having frozen shrimp on-hand because if you forgot to thaw something for dinner -- who cares! You can put it under hot, running tap water for two minutes and you're good to go. There are a lot of different variations of frozen shrimp, but I'll pay a little extra for peeled, deveined, tail-off because I don't have to mess with it too much. I will cop to the fact that this is farm-raised shrimp so if that's an issue for you,* you'll have to search for a different brand. Our favorite shrimp dish is this Garlic Butter Shrimp with Rice which is shrimp cooked in butter; Kerrygold if you're smart. :]

#4: Nature's Promise 90-Second Basmati Rice

Cooking rice brings me absolutely no joy; in fact, I really suck at it. So I pretty much exclusively buy "minute" rice and my favorite brand and type is Nature's Promise* Basmati. Anytime that a dish calls for cooked rice, I use this. I always have a few bags of this (or a different variety; brown or Spanish are popular ones) in my pantry and we'll often just eat it as a side to a protein or tacos.

#5: Delallo Basil Pesto 

Like the Kerrygold Butter, this is going to set you back a little; the retail of the roughly six ounce jar is in the seven dollar range at my store. That said, a little of this goes a long way and it's really worth it. The Delallo recipe includes cashews whereas most prepared pesto only includes pine nuts, and I think that's what makes it a little mellower and sweeter than some of the other ones out there on the market. Anyway, I always have this in my frig and we use it on baked salmon, alone as a pasta sauce (or stirred into any inexpensive red sauce -- it totally ups the flavor), on bread and in side-dish tomato salads.

#6: Chobani Plain Greek Yogurt 

I use plain Greek yogurt in the place of sour cream and sometimes mayonnaise. For example, I never use sour cream on tacos or chili and if I'm making chicken or egg salad, I'll swap most of the mayo for plain Greek. It's healthier, has way more protein, and I actually like the flavor a lot better at this point. There are a ton of varieties but I like this one by Chobani because it's in a convenient squeeze pack; if I use a regular cup I inevitably end up wasting some of it.

#7: Organicville Instant Miso 

I never knew that miso even existed until I bought the Simple Suppers cookbook. I started using it for miso salmon and miso soup and then I used it in a dressing for this rice bowl and suddenly I have to have it at all times. I like this version better than the actual paste because it's already a little watered down and thus requires less prep time. This can occasionally be difficult to locate in a conventional grocery store but it's usually in an organic or international section.

#8: Cheese of any Variety 

I keep a few varieties of cheese on-hand at all times. Typically this includes some shredded dairy cheese and a few varieties of specialty cheese, usually crumbled feta and a wedge of Parm or Romano. I limit myself in the amount of cheese that I consume to about an ounce per day (if that) but having these in the refrigerator can instantly enhance salads, any Mexican cuisine, and pasta dishes. I don't usually splurge on cheese but this week I noticed our store had put out their holiday cheeses and this blue cheese is very near and dear to me so I went for it.

*It is increasingly freaking me out but so far I'm still eating it.
*Nature's Promise is a store band product so you'll only find this at GIANT/MARTINS (in this area).

Friday, November 9, 2018

life with a peanut allergy

Back at the end of May, we found out that Asher has a peanut allergy after he took a few bites of a PB&J at my parents house over Memorial Day weekend.  I often wonder how we made it almost 2 years without knowing - especially because before we found out about his allergy, peanut butter was constantly around.  I'm so thankful that even though it was in our house and he tried it on multiple occasions (never liking it though); he never had a severe enough reaction that we even noticed until that weekend in May. 

I found myself feeling extra anxious as Halloween approached this year.  The amount of candy and treats that contain peanuts, may contain peanuts or are processed in a facility that also processes peanuts is astounding.  I also don't find the fun size candies to be very reliable in stating what allergens may be contained inside.  Needless to say, although Halloween is fun and the kids love to dress up and collect all the candy; coming home to google most of his candy and then taking the majority of it away ended up being a bit of a bummer.  After all, he did work pretty hard to get that candy; taking those little legs of his up and down all the steps that night. 

I also learned all about the Teal Pumpkin Project this year.  Have you heard of this project?  I love it because the Teal Pumpkin Project aims at making Halloween fun for everyone.  Offering non-food treats for those in your community who have food allergies.  This year, we chose to do both - a bowl full of Tootsie Roll pops because Asher loves lollipops and Tootsie Rolls are peanut free and one teal pumpkin full of bubbles, slime, and glow sticks.  Target makes it super simple (if you are interested in participating in future years) as they have a whole section of their halloween aisles dedicated to teal pumpkins and all you need to offer something special and fun for everyone. 

I have to say that, being new to this whole allergy thing, I am so thankful for something like the Teal Pumpkin Project.  I know how annoying it can feel when your kid can't have their favorite sandwich or you are asked to check the labels of a treat you are making because someone else's kid has an allergy.  Now, I also know what it's like to be the mom of the kid with the allergy.  And to be honest, it is much scarier than I ever imagined.  Since Asher is only 2 and I am with him the majority of the time, I can check everything and know that what he is eating is safe.  But, just thinking about sending him off to preschool and eventually elementary school, knowing that I won't be there to make sure he's not getting anything that could cause him harm, is terrifying.  Knowing that there are organizations out there like the Teal Pumpkin Project who are educating others on these things, gives me some reassurance.

I also have to brag about Sommer for a second.  She looks out for Asher all the time when it comes to his peanut allergy.  Once, at a birthday party, she took it upon herself to ask the host if there was peanut butter in any of the treats being offered and made sure to report back to me.  She also turns away peanut butter anytime it comes her way.  Her willingness to advocate for him at such a young age is such a joy to see.

All of this to say, life with a peanut allergy isn't the worst thing.  Carrying an epi-pen, checking labels, asking about ingredients; it's not really something I ever thought I'd be doing - but we are able to keep our little safe by doing so and I'm grateful for that.