Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Meal Planning

As a SAHM to two littles, meal planning crucial in preventing my husband and I from having peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or scrambled eggs for dinner or running to Chick-fil-A (I've become addicted since giving birth to Katherine - it's completely out of control).
 I love cooking -- it's therapeutic and it brings back memories of watching my mom and grandma cook growing up. The past few weeks I've meal planned and it has made such a difference in the amount of money we spend on groceries, the number of times I frequent the grocery store, and the meals that I actually cook on the stove rather than whipping up and serving on a paper plate. Oh and it's helping me to trim down -- I'm one of the few whose weight is at a standstill even though I'm breastfeeding.
Meal planning is easy peasy if you have the right tools! :) I've linked up some of my favorite finds on Pinterest as well as some of my personal tips! 
Tip #1: Find Recipes to Make
This can be done through a cookbook, Pinterest, or someone sharing a recipe with you. Something I like to do it look through my pantry and refrigerator to see which ingredients I have and then do a Pintrest search for meals that include those items -- kinda like backwards planning! ;)  I like to plan 3-5 meals per week because we usually have leftovers. Prior to being a mommy, I loathed leftovers. Now that I'm a mama to two, I'm all about reheating the deliciousness from the night before if it prevents me from creating a mess in the kitchen and a sink full of dishes! 

Tip #2: Make A Grocery & Meal Plan List
Gone are the days where I can make a "mental" list and remember everything. I can't even go down an aisle WITH a list and grab everything I need in one swoop -- I still circle the store numerous times! I'm working on making a categorized list based on where the items are in the store because let's face it -- sometimes I don't have time to be running up and down the aisles fifteen times! I love the template found here because it also includes a place to indicate that you have a coupon! Other templates can be found here and here
Tip #3: Post Meal Plan
I used to write the meals for the week on the back of my grocery list, but I usually toss that list once I'm at the checkout and then I forget the meals I've planned for the week. What I do is print a meal planning template, write out the meals, and then slip it into a plastic sleeve protector and hang on my kitchen wall. This weekend I have plans to be crafty and make a more permanent one to hang on the wall. Tonight I'll be perusing Pinterest to find an idea, but I think I like this one! 
Tip #4: Follow Through
Sometimes it's easier to just scramble up some eggs even when you have a perfect meal plan for the week. My goal for June is to stick with our meal plans I create every Sunday and so far we're doing great! Running to the store 4-5 times a week is a thing of the past and I'm enjoying the time home with my girls rather than having to run out to get what we need for dinner that night! 
I hope these tips help you become a successful meal planner! :) Happy planning and cooking!
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Friday, June 17, 2016

Friday Favorites

This was the fastest week ever. Probably because my mom was in town and we were actually fairly busy with running errands and entertaining my two babies - especially my little no-nap ninja. I'm going to miss her so much when she leaves this evening, but I'm thankful she came to visit for the week. Boy I wish her and my dad lived here -- having a second set of hands to help was amazing! :) I'm envious of any mommy who has their parents or their inlaws who live close by -- it's hard not having family down here, but we certainly make do! 
Now that I'm back with blogging, Friday Favorites has returned! Here's a look at some of my favorites at the moment!
*Image from*
Earlier this week, my mom and I ran to Kohl's since she had a 30% off coupon. We came across this adorable bedtime story collection with all the Disney princesses.  Elizabeth absolutely LOVES books and is so gentle with them. She has numerous books with paper pages and she has yet to rip/throw/damage any of them. It's honestly amazing that a not even 22-month old toddler can handle books other than the typical board books, but I guess I can chalk that up to being a daughter of a reading teacher and a grandchild of a former school librarian! Anyways, the book at Kohl's was slightly damaged and I told my mom to skip out on buying it. When we got home from Kohl's we went onto Amazon and let's just say Amazon Prime for the win! The book was delivered right before naptime, so my mom read a few stories to her and we sent Elizabeth into her room with the book. She looked at it for a few minutes before falling into a peaceful slumber!

2. Our Backyard Pool
I live in Florida but I hate the heat. I hate the sun. I know -- why do I live in Florida, right? Now that it's summer, our toddler needs a place to splash around and cool down. And face it, I need a place for her to burn off some of her energy before her afternoon naps! ;)  A few weeks ago, I went to Target and came across the perfect one. We didn't want a plastic one because I wanted to be able to sit in it with her (and my husband too), so we opted for an inflatable one. My poor husband had to use the yoga ball pump to blow it up, but it's perfect! Elizabeth loves it -- and mommy does too!
3.  Blueberry Hand Pies
Give me alllllll the sweets lately. Ever since I had Katherine, my sweet tooth is out of control. My mom and I were flipping through some of my summer magazines and we came across a recipe for Blueberry Hand Pies and we she made them Wednesday afternoon when my two precious babies refused to nap. They are so good and surprisingly not too sweet! I'll share the recipe next week!

4. Baby Snuggles
Elizabeth wasn't much of a snuggler and still isn't. So when Katherine wants all of mama's attention for snuggle-time, I soak all of it in! I basically snuggle with her all day long. I'm sure it frustrates Elizabeth, but babies are only babies for so long and with how quickly Katherine is growing, I just can't put her down! I had a little less snuggle time this week since Grammy was here, but I have all weekend to have Katherine to myself! ;) 
5. Mommy-Daughter Shopping Dates
It's no secret that I love shopping. So part of my job as a mommy is to pass this love for shopping to my girls. On Sunday, I told my husband I had to run to Target for a few things and said I would bring Elizabeth with me. The main reason I did this was so that him and Katherine could spend some time together. When it's the four of us at home, Elizabeth demands allllll of the attention from him, so it's important that he spends some time with Katherine too.  We had a great time at the store and she ended up with the most adorable Paw Patrol spoon and fork set. This girl loves dogs! :) :) :) Too bad it's going to be YEARS before we get one! I snapped this pic on the way into Target because it's the start of a tradition -- you see my mom and I went to Target every Sunday when I lived in Buffalo, so it's crucial I pass down that tradition! 

I hope you all have a wonderful Father's Day weekend. I'm hoping to make a trip Saturday evening to the beach with my husband and the girls to catch the sunset and if the weather cooperates on Sunday, we are doing a 1-mile Family Fun Walk! :)
Catch you guys next week!  

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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Peachy Ranchero Chicken

I'm all about summer fun dishes - whether it's dinner, desserts, or a refreshing beverage. Publix always has the best recipes and they are usually pretty easy. Right after we were discharged from the hospital after I delivered Katherine, my husband grabbed a recipe from our fairly messy stack (which is now organized again and I can't wait to share in a later post) and got to work in the kitchen. It was ahhhhhmazing, so I decided it needed to be made on Monday. 
We still had leftover frozen peaches from when he made it, so that was one less ingredient I needed to buy! I also switched it up this time and bought Peach-Mango deli-style salsa instead of jar salsa. I love me some deli salsa! Publix pairs the recipe with Sweet-Chili Lime Cornbread, but I opted to serve with rice instead. 
The Publix version of the recipe can be found here, but here's my adapted version.   
Peachy Ranchero Chicken 
Serves 4

1/2 bag of frozen peaches (I'm sure you could use fresh peaches - I'm guessing maybe 4)
2 cups of salsa (fresh or jar -- I used the entire container so I'd have more sauce)
1  15-oz can reduced-sodium black beans, drained & rinsed
fresh lime juice
olive oil
chicken cutlets (I used about one pound worth)

1. Heat saute pan and add olive oil.
2. Add chicken cutlets. Cook 3-5 minutes on each side until brown and temperature reaches 165 degrees.
3. Remove chicken from pan, put onto plate, and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm.
4. Add salsa and rinsed black beans to saute pan and bring to a boil. Add peaches and stir thoroughly (especially if you're using frozen peaches. This helps to break up the clumps more quickly). Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 5-7 minutes or until sauce is thicker. 
5. While the sauce is simmering, chop up some cilantro (not a lot, just for a garnish) and cut your lime in half. 
6. Place chicken on a bed of cooked rice. Top with salsa-bean-peach sauce. Add cilantro and then squeeze some lime juice over the top (the Publix recipe doesn't call for this but it makes it even tastier). 

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Friday, June 10, 2016

Perception vs Reality: Motherhood

It's been months since my last post, but I'm eager to be back in the blogging world. I have a lot of topics I want to cover (so many I actually made a list -- mainly so I can't pull the "I-don't-know-what-to-blog-about" card). I will provide an update on life next week, but let's just say I've been busy being a mama to a newborn (technically she's not a newborn anymore, but that tugs at my heart so I still think of her as one) and a toddler.
Motherhood is amazing. Motherhood is happiness. Motherhood is joy.
But motherhood is HARD. Motherhood to TWO is EXTREMELY HARD. I have NO shame in admitting this. I'm far from perfect and I never want to paint the picture that life as a mommy is sunshine and cupcakes -- sure, a lot of the pictures I post on IG are happy pictures, but I do share the ugly moments too because friends, that's reality.
After we welcomed our first daughter Elizabeth back in August 2014, I longed to be a SAHM. I cried over returning to work. I begged my husband to let me stay home. I would sit at my desk at work and swipe through photos on my phone just wondering how life would just be perfect if I could be at home with her all day, every day. I felt guilt for dropping her off at daycare. I felt guilt when she got sick from those daycare germs. I felt guilt when I had to pick her up late because I had a training for work or it was parent-teacher conference night. But I made it through the tough times. We had a perfect summer together and it is full of memories that I will hold on to forever. 
Once we found out we were expecting our second baby, my husband and I talked for HOURS about what to do in regards to me working. Should I take just six weeks off again? My due date was April 11th, so if I took six weeks, it would only be a few more weeks until summer vacation. Should I take just the summer off and return in August when she was 4 months? Should I just become an oh-so-desired SAHM and enjoy my two children?
Honestly, everything is still up in the air. 
That's where perception vs reality comes in. Don't get me wrong, I was fully aware of the challenges of being home with a toddler and a baby. Back when Elizabeth was a baby, she never slept during the day, so I knew the days would be long. I knew I'd be exhausted because babies require your attention 24/7 and you have to be ready to fed, change, burp, or cuddle with them on their clock, not yours. 
The first two weeks of Katherine's life, Elizabeth was still in daycare. My husband and I wanted to get into a routine with Katherine and we wanted to ease Elizabeth's routine as slowly as possible because face it, a new baby in the picture that takes ALL of the attention off of you is a BIG transition. 
A transition I underestimated. It's not a BIG transition. It's a MONSTER transition. I was completely unprepared. I was unprepared for her to scream when I picked up Katherine instead of her. I was unprepared when she cried just to get my attention when Katherine was crying. I underestimated how sad Elizabeth would feel that she wasn't the center of our attention anymore.  

Not only did I underestimate Elizabeth's transition, I underestimated mine. Don't get me wrong -- I love being a mommy. It's the best job in the world. But it's hard bringing a toddler out into the world when you never know when she's going to have a tantrum. Sure, I could give in and buy her things left and right to make her happy, but that's just not my idea of handling life. Of course I buy her toys here and there, but that can't always be the answer.

My transition also included a medical emergency three weeks postpartum-- two emergency surgical procedures and a painful and emotional recovery (I'll share what happened in a later post). It also included my husband returning back to his traveling schedule for work. This means that I am basically mama and dada for two weeks out of every month. Now THAT I wasn't prepared for. I'll tell you, I cried ugly tears. I cried crocodile tears those first couple weeks when he was gone. I called my parents and said I can't handle this. I begged my mom to come down and help.
I love my babies more than ANYTHING in the world, but I was struggling. Struggling so much that I told my husband that I wanted to return to work sooner than later and that maybe being a SAHM wasn't for me. I was missing the routine. I was missing the adult interaction. I was missing the being able to pee without a toddler crying behind the hallway gate. 

But now that I'm almost eleven weeks into this SAHM thing, I have a better grasp on it. I know I won't get half of the things done on my daily to-do list and that's okay. Do I have to rewash clothes ALL the time because I leave them in the washing machine because I forgot to throw in dryer? You bet. Do I sometimes end up eating peanut butter and jelly for dinner because I'm just too tired to make anything else? Sure do! Does my toddler sometimes skip a bath because our baby is crying? Of course. Do I miss running to the spa to get a manicure? Heck yes!

The perception that I think some people have about SAHM is that we are able to sit and enjoy our morning coffee while we watch Good Morning America, we're able to run to the mall with our double stroller and have two perfectly behaved humans with us, we're able to peruse Pinterest in the evening for meal plans and household decor ideas. Not. Even. Close. At least not for this newbie mama to two.

I'll surely write up a post about my daily routine, but it's chaos. It's messy. It's ugly sometimes. But the reality of it is that I am filled with love over being a mommy to two beautiful girls, that I just move past the glamorous side. Cold coffee, soggy cereal, and piles of clothes is my life now and I wouldn't trade that for anything. 

Motherhood to two is a huge learning curve for me and I'm learning more and more everyday that I absolutely rock at being a mommy. It's not always about crisp bed sheets, empty dishwashers, and three-course meals for dinner. That's the perception of being a stay at home mommy.

Reality is that motherhood has made me the happiest I've ever been in my thirty-two years here on this beautiful Earth. I'm exhausted. I have dirty hair. My house is a mess. 

But I have two girls who don't care. They don't care that mommy is desperate for a day at the spa. They don't care that the kitchen floor needs to be vacuumed.  They don't care that I'm sitting here realizing I forgot to pay the water bill yesterday. 

All they care about is having a mommy who is there for them. There to kiss them. There to hug them. There to play with them. There to smile at them. 

Perception: Being a mom means routines, schedules, and the notion that everything is perfect.

Reality: Being a mom is hard. But being a mom is the best job and the most rewarding. 
I'll be sure to share the birth story of Katherine and some updates on her. But for now, here's our little Katherine Charlotte. 

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