Daily Dinner: Crockpot Butternut Squash Soup

Growing up my parent’s had the tradition of making a nice family dinner on Sunday nights. We would usually eat out Friday and Saturday night for dinner, but Sunday was always at home. Sunday afternoon we would go out and do something fun as a family, then on the way home we would stop at the local market, Harvest Ranch, and pick up groceries to make a delicious meal. We often picked up a Marie Callendar’s pie for dessert at it was next door to the market, too! 

My parents weren’t big cooks, but they loved to grill. We lived in San Diego, so the weather was pretty grill-friendly year around. Some of the family favorites were BBQ chicken, steaks, and hamburgers. I enjoyed helping them prepare the meals and assist in the kitchen. Perhaps this tradition helped to spark the love of cooking I have today! 

As I grew older and moved away from home, I continued the Sunday dinner tradition. I especially enjoyed this tradition when Josh came into the picture. A few years ago, Josh made a request to put a twist on the Sunday night tradition. He wanted to make Sunday night dinner soup night. To persuade me, he gifted me the book, Mr. Sunday Soups. I tried out a bunch of recipes from the book and really started to like the soup tradition. We put the soups on hold during the summer - just too hot for soup. However, each fall we tend to bring it back. 

This week when I was talking to Josh about how I wanted to share a recipe this week, he suggested I do soup. I asked what soup he thought I ought to share and he suggested this one, which happens to be my favorite. The only problem is that it’s a bit more time consuming than I would like - too much standing at the stovetop. Now that I have a baby, I need meals that are quick and easy. So, I did something I’ve never done before and I am quite proud of the results: I converted the recipe to be for the crockpot! 

I love butternut squash, and this chowder is filling and a great introduction back into the fall season. The potatoes add a nice creaminess, and the bacon to top it off! We served this with some crusty, toasted baguette for dipping. 

Now, sit down with your family and/or friends and enjoy some time together over dinner!

Butternut Squash Chowder Soup

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled and chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground sage
  • 6 white potatoes, cut in half (roughly 12 oz)
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth 
  • 1 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 4 slices bacon strips cut into pieces
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped sage, extra for garnish
  • 1/4 cup half & half (or cream)

DIRECTIONS:

Place everything - except the chopped sage, bacon, and half and half - into the crockpot and give it a good stir. Cook on low for 6 hours. 

While the crockpot is going, cook up the bacon pieces on the stovetop until nice and crisp. Put aside for topping the soup later.

When the crockpot is done cooking the veggies, place the chopped sage and half and half into the pot. Then blend with a hand blender (or do batches in a blender). I didn’t blend until smooth, but kept some of the lumps from the potatoes to have a chowder like texture.

Ladle into bowls and serve warm! Enjoy this together as a family. :)

Note:

 

Time for Yoga: Stretch it Out

So yea, I’m totally sore and tight. I had no idea how taxing having a baby could be on your body (eh hem, beyond the actually giving birth part that is). I knew my arms would probably get a bit sore from carrying a baby - yea, that’s a story. I think it was one of the first time I held a baby, and it was for a gal at church at one of our community groups. I think she was glad to get her hands free because I held that baby a long time, but I was so nervous and was holding so tightly that my arms were sore for days afterwards. Haha!  

But back to what I was just saying…oh yea, I was complaining about being sore. But seriously, guys, my shoulders, back, legs, neck are all sore – actually, I should really say what’s not sore!

I’ve been doing yoga on and off for a few years now, so I’m still a beginner. But I’ve picked up some moves from my yoga classes. I really enjoyed my prenatal/postnatal yoga class. I haven’t really done much yoga since Caleb has gotten more active and doesn’t sleep like a newborn anymore. However, I did just sign up for a mom and baby yoga class here in Tacoma. I’m curious to see how Caleb does in a yoga class with me. I fear that he might be too needy and I won’t get any benefit from it. But if anything, though, it’ll be quality time to spend together and maybe I’ll meet some new mom friends in the process.

I wanted to share some of the poses and stretches that I wrote down from the yoga class. Please remember that I’m still a beginner so my form may not be perfect and I might not be calling the pose as an instructor would. Also, I am not a professional nor a doctor, so please be sure you’ve got the green light from the doctor before doing any yoga or exercise.

When doing these, I suggest keeping the pose for at least 30 seconds or longer. Take a break between with baby pose or laying flat on your back.

  • Baby Pose – Arms out in front, legs in a wide V
  • Table Top – Keep your back flat, pull your tummy up & in
  • Cat Cow – Arch your back up and then down
  • Arm/Leg Extension – Extend arm and lift your opposite leg
  • Arm Up/Leg Out – Extend leg out perpendicular, lift arm up
  • Arm Under – From above pose, bring your arm down and under
  • Baby pose for a break
  • Pelvic Lifts – Lie on your back, and lift your pelvis up & tuck your arms under
  • Clam – Lie on your side, lift knee but keep your heels connected. Bring your knee up & down
  • Lie Flat for a break
  • Tree – Stand straight, bring your foot to your thigh or calf, try to balance
  • Pigeon – Bring your leg up towards your chest, and lie down
  • Forward Bend – Legs spread out, bend forward
  • Warrior 2 – One leg forward and bent, the other leg straight out, your body facing outward, arm out
  • Triangle – From Warrior 2, lean down with arm opposite of bent leg and put your other arm up
  • Squat – Squat down with arms pushing out at knees
  • Eagle Arms – Cross one arm over the other, palms face each other (like a twist)
  • Downward Dog – Butt up, slight bend in knees, push down on heels
  • Baby pose or lie flat to relax

Take it easy and be nice to yourself! Don’t stress and if you can only fit a few minutes in, that’s still awesome. Comment and share if you have any great stretches/poses, or if you’ve found other ways to work out those sore muscles!!

Fall Foliage - Is my Quest Complete?

You may recall my quest to find fall leaves back in 2014. Well, I actually get like this every year. There is something about the change in colors that gets me so excited. I just started to see a few leaves turning this past week. Yaaahhhh! Maybe I'm excited because it means I can eat all the pumpkin and apples without guilt that it's not the right season. Anyway, Josh shared this super cool fall foliage map predictor with me last night. You should check it out and be obsessed with leaves like me.

By this, you can expect me to be dragging Josh and Caleb out somewhere around October 14th...maybe it's Whidbey Island according to this blogger.

I feel complete now.

Caleb's 8 Month Update

August has been a big month not just for Caleb, but the family. At the very start of the month, we moved into a new home in a new town. Caleb has been adjusting to his new room and routine, but is also adjusting to all sorts of developmental changes. He's trying to crawl (he's got the speed army crawl thing down), standing with help, babbling conversions, and being increasingly curious and explorative. Not to mention, I think he's just getting cuter every day. I know, I know...cliche here...but it's going so fast! 

It's getting extremely tough to get him to hold still for any sort of photograph. The colorful toy seemed to help for these photos. He's definitely teething, so there's that, too. And look at him sitting by himself. Oooohhh man, growing up!

These faces...I just die. I like the second one there - like he's saying "'sup mom!" 

Here's a look back at what he's been up to this past month - going from 7 to 8 months.

Playtime

It's a job to keep this little guy entertained. He's so cute, though, when he's having a good time - lots of giggles and smiles. We found he likes laces, pillows, Tupperware, balls, shoes - anything he can get his hands (and mouth) onto. 

Family Time

He just loves his family time. Such a happy little fellow. Even Asha loves the little guy. She'll look at me and sit at the door if he cries at the end of a nap, or just curl up by the crib when we're in his room playing. 

Skillz

He's developing in so many ways - it's amazing to watch! He can stand holding on to the chair or me for a good while, army crawls all around (and gates have gone up to keep him from wandering the house!), gets on all fours and rocks and lunges, sits, and babbles. 

Food

He's not just a little kitchen "helper," but trying out new foods. I discovered he seems to enjoy store bought food more than my homemade food - haha, classic baby move. I even made him baby muffins and French Toast (although we believe he has an egg yolk sensitively right now - you don't want to know how we know). It's fun to see his face as he tries new things. 

Exploring

Mom and Caleb get out during the week to keep busy. We've explored a lot of Tacoma together. He's a little trooper. 

Smiles and Such

See that fist bump? He thinks it's hilarious if you do a fist bump and explode (is that how you say it? I'm not that hip). He also thinks mom is a jungle gym and think it's great fun to climb her legs. And the grass...well, that's just interesting stuff!

What a ride it's been! Can't wait for what's next with this little guy. :)

Man's Best Friend #NationalDogDay

A dog deserves his day, right?! And apparently it's today. I saw on the social medias that it was National Dog Day today. In honor, I'm going to share some love of the dog...

Let's end with a few, recent photos our our lovable, neurotic dog, Asha. You can also check out her hashtag #asha_pup on Instagram. I think I'll go give her a treat now.

A New Home, A New Town to Explore

You probably heard by now, but we just bought a house! If this is the first you've heard of it, then read this post. We have been here about half a month now, which is hard to believe. The past couple weeks we've been exploring the Tacoma area, or what I like to call T-Town. Most of the exploring is Caleb and I while Josh is at work (sorry Josh). Caleb is a great explorer and a real trooper. When I buckle Caleb up into his carseat, I like to say, "are you ready to go on another adventure my little adventurer?" I'm sure doing this will make him a true Indiana Jones fan later in his childhood. 

So far, T-Town has kept us busy - lots to see and do. Thank goodness because I need to get out to feel sane everyday (#momlife). Here's some of what we've been up to lately...

Farmer's Markets

There is one almost everyday of the week. The big one is on Wednesdays on Broadway. There were lots of food vendors, produce, flowers, and other artisan items. We also went to the 6th Avenue market, but it was much smaller. This weekend, all three of us went to the Proctor Farmer's Market, which isn't far from our house. We got some yummy things like cheese, peaches, pork, bread, and spinach! 

Tacoma Public Library Baby Time

This was a fun time with the little ones. We sang songs, played with bells, pulled the kiddos in buckets around the library, and read some books. 

Point Defiance - Rose Gardens

Point Defiance is a huge park that's only about 5 minutes drive from our house. I'm thrilled to have it just around the bend and will be great for Caleb. There is a 5-mile drive that I've used a few times now to get Caleb to sleep (we've had some super hot summer days here and the house is too warm for naps!). 

There is also a beautiful rose garden section to the park. My favorite part was the rose tunnel, but all the flowers were in bloom and so colorful. It made for a lovely stroll on a summer day. 

Point DefianceOwen Beach

There is a great stroll along the water at Point Defiance, too. It runs from the Marina to Owen Beach. On a hot day, it's so nice with the breeze off the water and it tends to be shady. It has some great views of the Sound (Vashon, Gig Harbor, and Mt. Rainier!). You can get a great view of Mount Rainer - the pictures don't do it justice. I think this will be a favorite walk of ours.

Waterfront - Ruston Point

There is a great waterfront in Tacoma. Again, this is such a pleasant walk. There are some tasty restaurants along here as well. It's fun to walk and look out at the water and to see downtown Tacoma in the distance. Again, this is only a few minutes from our house!

Tacoma Nature Center

You might notice a trend in my outings - outdoor and walking. It works well with the little guy. Sadly, this trail doesn't allow dogs, so the Asha pup had to stay home. It's a great loop - the short walk is 1/2 mile and the long loop is 1 mile. It was peaceful and nice. 

Wright Park & Seymour Botanical Conservatory 

What a great park! Ducks, fountains, and a great splash area for kiddos. There is also a beautiful conservatory. It wasn't a huge park, but it was a wonderful to walk around. 

Coffee Shops

I think I've been to every coffee shop in Tacoma. I kid, that's not true. Or, is it...this mama likes her lattes! I really enjoyed the Lift Bridge Coffee and Anthem Coffee on my downtown meanderings. Other favorites so far are Valhalla, Bluebeard, Metronome, and Cafe Brosseau. Yum! 

And the adventures will continue! We're really enjoying getting to know the area and all it has to offer. Tacoma is our new home and we're excited to be here! 

So, We Bought a House

Dog...check.

Baby...check.

House...CHECK!!!

We are officially first time homeowners. Yay! It's a wonderful feeling to finally have a place to call our own. We feel so grown-up. Never in our wildest dreams did we imagine being able to get such an adorable first time home. 

Also, it's pretty awesome to be able to sit on the couch and say, "hey, we should paint that wall" and we don't have to ask permission. I'm sure there is the flip side to that, like when something breaks, but whatever...WE HAVE A HOME! 

We landed in Tacoma, WA, which is about 32 miles southwest of Seattle. We're still near Puget Sound, too. In fact, we're only about a mile from the waterfront. And, we get views of Mount Rainier - even better views since we're closer to it. We are in the North End area, which we hear is the "place to be" - it's growing and an up-and-coming area.

We decided on Tacoma for a few reasons. For one, it's is much, much, much more affordable to buy a home here than in Seattle. Right now, the Seattle market is absurdly ridiculous and we just couldn't justify buying there - it totally priced us out. Another reason is that Tacoma is much more of a family oriented town. We could envision Caleb riding his bike on the less busy, bigger streets here...it was a nice picture. Also, we've heard many people say that the Tacoma area is growing and it's getting all the Seattle overflow. We can still head to Seattle when we want since it just up the road. Best of both worlds.

Josh has a bit longer of a commute, and I need to find some new support systems for moms & babies but we think this will be a great place for Caleb to grow up. We are still unpacking (it's slow with a baby), so I'll share pictures down the road. For now, here's some from the real estate listing. 

It's four bedrooms and two baths, so we have much more space. There is also a backyard with some beautiful flowers and a garden. I'm going to do my best to not kill the flowers. The neighborhood is quiet and near Point Defiance park and zoo, but also not a far drive to the waterfront or downtown Tacoma. We couldn't be more thrilled. 

Come visit!!!!!

Caleb's 7 Month Update

Life has been busy. Like really busy. Busy and fast. In fact, it's going so busy and so fast that Caleb's 7 month birthday was on 8/2 and I still haven't posted anything. Never fear, though, here it is! 

As always, let's start with all the blocks and stickers that indicate his age...

Next up, his 7 month photoshoot. I took the pictures in our new backyard. More on that later because right now the focus is Caleb, but yes we moved and we have a lovely backyard. Caleb loves the outdoors! I think his facial expressions are the best and you can really see his personality starting to shine through.

He has been a busy guy learning all sorts of things. Here's a look back at what he's learned and developed during the past month.

Smiles are the best and there is no shortage of them with Caleb. He's a happy, smiling little guy. I can be tired or upset and he'll give me one of his dashing smiles and everything is alright in the world again. They are pretty contagious, too. 

Here's so other expressions I just love. He has the curious look, the focused look, and the cute sleepy face look. It cracks me up because he loves to pull the mesh down on the crib and peer out. He must have major FOMO, not to mention Mr. Curious. 

Do you see that crying photo? Yea, that was a tough day. It was his 6 month check-up and he got shots. Shots are no good for him or for mama. I had to take the photo to because #momlife can be hard.

Also, he just loves Asha and she's pretty patient with him (read more about it). It's so sweet and helpful when he cries because just showing him Asha makes him stop. 

And...those eyes. They make my heart melt. 

I think his favorite activity is spending time with mom and dad. I will take it all in right now because in about 15 years this won't be the case.

He was helpful in packing as well. (Check out the tips I have for moving with a baby)

Grandma and Grandpa O'Neill came up to help us move. He loves them so much and they love him.

I couldn't resist sharing some more photos - just too cute. I love the concentration and determination in his face on the top right photo - he's going after the ball in that one. The bottom right has him looking up into the sky at then plane flying overhead. 

I can't even remember life without this little pumpkin! What a ride it's been so far. 

Daily Dinner: Easy Chicken & Grape Salad

Ohmygosh. This chicken salad is so freakin’ good. 

  • It’s healthy.
  • It’s easy. 
  • It’s summer friendly.
  • It’s adaptable.
  • It’s possible to make-ahead.
  • It’s filling.
  • It’s delicious.

...It’s perfect! In fact, I just made it last week while we were uber busy packing for our big move coming up on Monday (the big reveal post coming soon). We've had tons and tons of packing to do…whomp whomp. I try to do at least 2 boxes a day during Caleb’s naps. We’re making good progress, but it means my little kitchen is basically all packed up. Perhaps you can in the photos how I was using a pot as a mixing bowl. 

I could also see this as being a great picnic lunch as well with the summer weather - sounds lovely. I’d rather be doing that than packing. Speaking of summer, I love that you don’t have to turn on any heat source for this dish either. We sadly don't have A/C, so on hot summer days the last thing I want to do is turn on the oven. 

To turn this into a meal, you can either make a sandwich like my husband, or a salad like me. For the salad, I drizzled salad dressing (I used this one - yum!) on some mixed greens and pile the chicken on top. Last time I made this I also made some pickled onions for our sandwiches. I piled those on with some lettuce and voila, a delicious sandwich. 

Below is the recipe. I hope you enjoy it!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 Rotisserie Chicken, cubed*
  • 1/2 apple, diced
  • 1 cup grapes, halved
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 7 oz plain Greek yogurt (about 1/2 cup)**
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise (light is fine)
  • 1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS:

Combine all the ingredients together in a large bowl. Add salt and pepper, to taste.

NOTES:

* I used a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, but you could make your own cooked chicken. It would be roughly a pound of chicken.

** I used Fage 2% plain yogurt

Adapted from Damn Delicious.

Another Blog, Oh My!

Over the past six (almost seven now!) months, I have come to realize that mama-hood is one big research project. I shouldn't call myself a Stay-at-Home-Mom (SAHM) rather Mama Researcher. Babies are constantly changing, and you have to keep up with those changes. How do you know what to do? You look it up or ask around...research it! 

I started my research job before Caleb arrived since there are many questions to look into during pregnancy, too. One place I went to for information was the Hellobee site, which is a pregnancy, baby, and parenting blog. Recently, they were looking for contributing bloggers, so I applied. I was surprised to find the next day an email congratulating me as one of their newest blogger. 

Needless to say, my writing for my personal blog has slowed a bit. I am writing about two posts a week for Hellobee. I have a pen name that I write under, but I'm not sure if I can share that here on my blog. I bet if you know me well enough, you can figure it out. So go over to Hellobee and check it out. 

And I promise to keep up my own blog, too! Bear with me, though, as life is pretty crazy right now. Some big news on the way. Stay tuned!

Vote for Caleb

Vote for Caleb! 

Saying that makes me think of "Vote for Pedro" in Napoleon Dynamite. Remember that movie? Do you realize that movie was released back in 2004? Ah, I'm getting old! But that movie was quite the hit when it came out, and there are a few good quotes from it. "Vote for Pedro" was probably the most popular.

Pedro: Do you think people will vote for me?
Napoleon Dynamite: Heck yes! I'd vote for you.
Pedro: Like what are my skills?
Napoleon Dynamite: Well, you have a sweet bike. And you're really good at hooking up with chicks. Plus you're like the only guy at school who has a mustache.

But I digress...I'm asking you to vote for Caleb. I entered a photo of him in the Minted Baby Photo Contest. I think he's the cutest and would be honored if you considered voting for him, too! Here's the link to his entry:

http://bit.ly/29U7PDi

I had a really hard time deciding which photo to enter. I could have even entered a photo that our photographer took for his newborn photos. Ultimately, I decided on this one because it I wanted to submit one of my own photos (even though our photographer is the best and her's are probably way more professional). Also, this one seemed a bit different than the majority of the other baby photos submitted. And how can you resist this smile of his? 

My mom submitted a photo of me in a grocery store baby photo contest and I won! I should get her to make it digital and I share it with you. Hopefully I can have the same story for little guy...we'll see. :) 

 

 

 

Breakfast of Champions

Breakfast is important. Yes, I'm for Team Breakfast. Breakfast for the win! 

The way I see it there are people who eat breakfast and love it, and then there are the others...those that skip breakfast. Why??? Sure, the claims that it's the most important meal have been downgraded, but it's still important! I fully support a good breakfast. And so does Josh because otherwise I would be one crazy gal to deal with everyday. In fact, I usually wake up hungry and need food ASAP. Of course, these days little guy comes first, but I eat as soon as possible after him. 

Ever since I discovered Marge Granola at the Ballard Farmer's Market, I have been eating granola and yogurt for breakfast. This has been a couple of years now. Before Marge I had no idea granola was so good. So so so good. Then I upgraded it even more by using Ellenos yogurt. Even if you're a yogurt hater, you'll like Ellenos. It's so so so good. My favorite flavors are the ginger raspberry and marionberry. Oh, the lemon curb is delicious as well (although I don't think it "matches" the granola flavors as much). 

Yogurt + Granola = Breakfast of Champions. This is the equation for the best breakfast.  Not only is it delicious, it's nutritious, gives you energy, and keeps you full until lunch. Oh, and be sure to have a cup of coffee....that's the trifecta. 

Before Caleb was born I made my own granola on occasion and mostly just bought Marge's Granola, but now I have really gotten into making it (during Caleb's naps). It's actually very easy. I even got my mom addicted to making it. Now, I have a few recipes I love, but recently I've settled down with my very own creation. I've fine-tuned it to be similar to Marge, but also has it's own unique flavor. I cut down on the sugar and oil to make it more healthy, too. Sometimes I'll change up the seeds and nuts to make it different, but the base is the same. 

Because I love you guys, I'm going to share my recipe. Yay! 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 cups rolled old-fashioned oats 
  • 1/2 cup chopped, raw pecans
  • 1/2 cup sliced, raw almonds
  • 1/2 cup raw pepitas 
  • 3 Tbsp flaxseed meal (optional...kinda)
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup olive oil or coconut oil 
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. cardamom
  • 2 Tbsp minced crystalized ginger (optional...kinda)
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries and/or raisins (a mix of both!)

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 300 F. With the exception of the cranberries/raisins, mix all the ingredients together in a big bowl and spoon out onto a large, rimmed baking sheet.

Bake 45 minutes. Be sure to stir halfway through, so granola doesn’t stick to the sides of the pan and/or burn.

Eat and enjoy!

If you don't trust me, then here's some recipes from the experts that I also enjoy making as well.

I also enjoy some other items for breakfast, but this is what I eat pretty much everyday. I hope you give it a try. It's worth it...believe me. 

Happy Fourth 2016

On the Fourth of July I always want to blast the song God Bless America by Lee Greenwood. I know that's totally geeky...but, hey, that's me. So this year I played it for Caleb. Poor kid. 

Usually, the fourth of July is the first great summer day here in Seattle. But so far it really hasn't been that way. It's been a fine weather day, not cold or anything, but it's cloudy and overcast. But we still got ice cream anyway. Soon we'll be out grilling up some hot dogs and hamburgers to chow on with the potato salad and zucchini I cooked up. The grand finale is dessert...a berry tart! This will have to do in place of fireworks because Caleb will already be asleep - and I am NOT about to wake a sleeping baby for fireworks. Plus, the dog is going to freak out. She already did last night and that was just for a few neighborhood fireworks. 

It's been a great day - and this family is totally proud to be American. God bless American (come on, sing it!)

Reading Rainbow #4

Believe it or not, I have found time to read while having an infant. Are you shocked? I am! I thought once I had a baby my reading days were numbered. I'm glad to be wrong in this case (usually, I hate being wrong!). I have found I can squeeze in some reading while I'm nursing, sitting on the floor while he plays, or right before bed. I use the Kindle app on my iPhone to read, and it works great. I do pretty much everything from my phone these days - isn't technology amazing?! 

Boy, do I have some good books to tell you about. Grab a coffee or tea, sit back, and let's talk books...

Echo - This came highly recommended to me from my mom. I was a but doubtful at first since she said it was young adult, but I trust my mom's opinion and know we like similar books so I went for it. I'm so glad I did, too. It's so well written and you really get drawn into the story. If you saw the movie The Red Violin, then you'll enjoy this book as well. It basically follows a harmonica through the hands of three children. There is history (WWII) woven into the story, too. I totally didn't think I was reading young adult, in fact I questioned it when I was reading it. 

The Nightingale - There has been a lot of hype about this book. It's been on the best seller list for awhile. It took me some time to start reading it because it's a WWII story and I wasn't sure if such an intense topic was what I felt like with a baby. I also knew it was going to have some sad parts and crying while nursing would be awkward. However, every time I needed to pick a new book, I thought and thought about this one, so I finally gave in and read it. It's truly a wonderful story. Yes, it's sad but it's full of courage, strength, and resilience. After I read these war stories, I'm always in awe that there were people out there that did these types of things. People can be so strong. Definitely worth a read (even if it means a few tears...because yes I did cry, but not while nursing).

Storied Life of A.J. Fiery - I picked this book because it looks light-hearted and heart-warming. I didn't want to get into any too deep or heavy since I was often reading while holding a baby. It made me think of You've Got Mail and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.  It did fulfill these expectations, but it wasn't so completely light-hearted as I thought. It actually made me a bit tearful, but that's because you get so connected with the characters. I enjoyed reading this and would recommend it, but I say pick up Echo or The Nightingale first. 

Dead Wake - I have enjoyed Erik Larson's other books, so I figured I probably would like this one as well. I generally don't read much non-fiction, but I do like how his non-fiction still reads like a story. I learned a lot reading this book, and I absolutely love it when I can learn something when I read - entertaining yet educational! I wouldn't say it was my favorite Larson book, but I certainly thought it was worth reading.

Outlander: Drums of Autumn - Ah yes, my guilty pleasure book. This is book 5 of the Outlander series. I have 3 more books to go! The adventures of Claire and her Highlander, haha, I love it. The books are pretty long, so I like to read a few books in-between. These aren't too heavy, in fact if it weren't for some of the history in them they'd be labeled romance novels. So yea, guilty pleasure but you gotta indulge in these every once in a while. ;) 

The Night Circus - This book was so spellbinding. It's really hard to describe. Maybe a mix of Harry Potter with a drop of Hunger Games and a sparkling of The Prestige. Or, maybe just more of an adult version of Harry Potter. I don't know, but it was exquisite! I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and I got swept into it. It was pre-baby, and I recall staying up far too late (to my husband's chagrin) when I neared the end of the story. 

I've also ready Bringing Up Bebe, but I think I'll leave this review to a more parenthood or mom-focused post. 

Now, I'm starting to read The Martian since my hubby encouraged me to read it. I enjoyed the movie, so why not!

Are you liking my reviews or the book ideas? Check out past Reading Rainbows:

Caleb's 6 Month Update

Caleb is another month older! He's officially half a year old now - that's crazy talk! 

He's really turning into quite the character and we love him dearly. In fact, I love him more than the day he was born - the love just keeps growing and growing (as does the photo taking). Yet again, I have a bazillion photos to share. 

6 Month Photoshoot

I try to do a monthly "photoshoot" to capture him with the blocks, Max the Raccoon, and the stickers.

What He Did This Month

You might recall I started to write down things Caleb learned in the past month. Below shows what he did during his fifth month - from 5/2/16 to 6/2/16 - hence why I have the 5 month photo with it. It's pretty amazing how much he's learned in six months of life! It's the most and wonderful thing to wake up each day and see something new that he can do.

Cuteness Overload

Caleb has the most contagious smile. His smiles and giggles bring such joy. I think he's just the cutest! 

Mad Skillz

Like I said, it's amazing the rate at which they learn and grow. Caleb is picking up some mad skills. He's sitting in his Bumbo now (still working on sitting up on his own). Also, he can blow some mad bubbles. One of his favorites is grabbing his feet. Oh, and those fingers - so great to suck on. He has much more manual dexterity, so he's grabbing at everything. 

Snuggle Monster

He loves to snuggle just like his mama. If you put a blanket near by, he will grab it and just cuddle into it. It's pretty funny, but he rolls around in his crib until he's tight in the corner. Then he sticks butt up in the air. This is how he slept most night. But my all-time favorite, is when he falls asleep in my arms.

Curious Caleb goes on Vacation

We went on our first trip and Caleb was a champ. Read all about it here. He had a lot of firsts on the trip; it was great!

First Foods

Ahh, solids. Just when I think I got the breastfeeding thing down it's time to start solids. He was showing signs of being interested inf food - staring at my key lime dessert and grabbing the pork sandwich. So we tried some sweet potato and banana. The sweet potato we might try again since it might have been too soon. The banana, though, he liked. Solids here we come! 

Active & Activities

He is always on the go - can't. stop. moving. This scares me for when he's able to walk. His favorite activities are the Jump-a-roo and ExerSaucer. He also started going face-forward in the carrier, and LOVES it. He enjoys seeing everything (and grabbing it...poor plants). 

Visitors and Cola

We found some Caleb's Kola. Apparently he's started up a soda company; such an entrepreneur. I kid. But it was fun.

He also got to meet my Aunt Ann & Uncle Mike. I think his smiles won them over. 

There you have it. Another month gone by, and a bigger and more curious Caleb. 

 

 

New Mama: What to Wear?!

When I go through some sort of big change in my life, for instance, having a baby. I tend to get some anxiety. Usually, the anxiety comes out in a crazy, small detail of my life. Then, I obsess about that detail and try to get it under control. I guess my mind thinks if I can get this detail under control, then I can get everything else under control and all will be normal again.

One detail my crazy mind decided to focus on once was clothing. With the changes in your life after giving birth, followed by breastfeeding, I just didn't know what to wear. Moms, are you with me? I was so wrapped up in maternity clothes that I didn't even think about wardrobe changes after the baby. I guess I figured I would go back wearing all my same clothes. 

While I'm lucky I fit back in all my pre-baby clothes - thanks to yoga, eating right, and feeding a baby - they all don't necessarily "work" anymore. Many of them are work style clothes and don't accommodate the million feedings you have to do each day...not to mention, not completely comfy. 

Now that I'm five in a half months in, I can share with some confidence some clothes that work great for breastfeeding mamas. 

Nursing Tank Tops

I bought and tried on a zillion (ok, like four) different nursing tank tops before I found the ones I liked best. My favorite is the Bravado! Designs Essential Nursing Bra Tank. It works perfect under sweaters or button-ups or can even be worn on it's own for a hot day. I have it in black and blush. 

The other one I have is the Undercover Mama Nursing Tank. What's nice about this one is you can use your own, real bra and then this just attaches to it. The only downside is you can't really wear it on it's own because the straps are your bra. However, it works great under clothes. I have it in off-white and use it a lot.  

Maternity Bands

Did you have one of these during your pregnancy? I'm talking about those bands that make it so you can wear your regular jeans unzipped, so you can hold off buying maternity jeans. I had the Ingrid & Isabel Bella Band. Well guess what...I found that they work well for after pregnancy, too. How it works: Let's say you're wearing a normal bra and t-shirt. If you go to nurse, you'll likely pull your t-shirt up for baby access. However, then you have your bare skin showing. The belly band will cover that right up! So don't give it away or store it...use it!

Button Shirts

This one is probably pretty obvious, but you can button down/up your shirt easily. I wear a tank top underneath so you can even just wear it like a jacket in warmer weather. My favorites are flannel and plaid type shirts like this Thread & Supply plaid top or this Allison Joy Verna Double plaid top. I've noticed a trend lately with sleeveless or short-sleeve plaid, too. Wouldn't this top be nice in the summer?

Wrap Shirts

One of my PEPS friends clued me in on these types of tops. I have the long sleeved version of this top from The Limited in two colors. I wear the Undercover Mama tank under this one since sometimes the wrap is loose. I think this top is also pretty cute and would be great for a working mom. 

Loose Fitting Shirts

Who doesn't like a nice, loose fitting shirt? I am a petite gal, and I thought loose shirts might overwhelm me. Not so, if you find the right one! I love looser tops; they are so comfy. They can be t-shirts or blouses. I'm pretty sure this top would look great on almost anyone! My mother-in-law (she's cool & not to mention a former model) and I both have this top! I also love wearing this sweater shirt - although it might be too warm now that it's summer.

Wrap Cardigan

I got the tip about these from my church mom's group and they were totally right. These wrap cardigans are perfect. They button to the side and are so cute and stylish. You can wear them with jeans and booties and BOOM you're ready for going out. I specifically have the Bobeau brand Fleece Cardigan and I love it so much I bought two colors - gray and blue. Also, these are usually available at Nordstrom (and on sale often). They come in different material as well. Click here to check out some lightweight ones on sale right now. 

Mom Shirts

I'm not talking about mom shirts like we think of mom jeans. I mean shirts that make you feel good to be a mom. I love my #MomLife shirt and my Mama Bear shirts. They're fun and cute - embrace your mom-hood! 

Bras

Did you know you're going to want to sleep in a bra? I didn't know this prior to being pregnant. Oh the things you just had NO IDEA about before getting pregnant. My favorite for nighttime is this Cake bra. Then, my favorite for daytime is the Bravado Designs Seamless Nursing Bra. It's comfortable, smooth, and stretchy. 

Bottoms

I talk more about tops because bottoms are pretty straight-forward. You can wear jeans, capris, shorts, and skirts and match with a top. I would warn against dresses, though. It can be tricky to do any sort of nursing in a dress, unless you fully undress and "ain't nobody got time for that."

So, what are you wearing? Do tell! 

Curious Caleb goes on Vacation

Last weekend Caleb had a few firsts. It was his first...

  • Flight
  • Time in California
  • Night away from his own crib
  • Earthquake
  • Stay at a hotel
  • Going to the beach (California style)
  • At a Wedding

With all these firsts in just four days, it's a good thing Caleb is a curious little fellow. He's our little traveler and did such a great job. I was super nervous about the flight, but he did great. We had a 9am flight down to Orange County (SNA). He feed, slept, and then hung out with me in the carrier in the back of the plane with the flight attendants. 

For our return flight, we tried a night flight. He did just what we had hoped: slept the whole flight. Although I felt bad because we had to move him around a bit once landed and home, but he was a trooper. The only problem was then Josh and I didn't get to sleep until about 1am, so we were pretty pooped. 

Sadly, Alaska didn't have any wing stickers, but Caleb definitely earned his wings!

Our trip started at my parents house. We decided to head to Moonlight Beach and take a walk. Caleb had his first California beach experience.  He kept looking all around and I think he was amazed at the vast ocean. His eyes were like the color of the water - I love his eyes so sparkly and blue. 

We also went to lunch and enjoyed the gardens at Stone Brewery. It was so relaxing to sit outside while Caleb napped. It was beautiful outside and I enjoyed some time with my mom while my sister, her boyfriend, and Josh went on a brewery tour. 

By the way, look at Caleb reaching for my sandwich! The pork thief...he wishes, but maybe someday soon he can have some delicious pork. 

Did I mention there was an earthquake? Yup, our first night in Cali and there was an earthquake - a 5.2 quake. My mind immediately went to Caleb and get to safety. It's funny how a baby changes you...my mind went straight to his safety! Luckily, it was not a big one so it was over by the time I was up and going for Caleb. Caleb slept right through it!   

One of the big events of the weekend was our friend Heather Richardson's wedding. It was a beautiful reception at the Inn at Rancho Santa Fe. We brought Caleb along so he attended his first wedding. Pat, the mother of the bride, announced him as the youngest guest at the end of her toast. He got a round of applause! 

His little outfit was the cutest! We got it from Etsy and it fit him perfectly. Isn't he just the little gentlemen? So dapper in his bowtie! 

Mom and dad got dressed up, too. 

After a few days with the O'Neill family, we headed up to the OC to spend time with the Brown family. Caleb got to spend his first night in a hotel. The hotel had a crib, so we were all set. Caleb loved rolling around on the big bed - it was adorable. 

While in Orange County, we had the chance to see some Brown family friends. We enjoyed lunch with Sy and Mary Ellen at the Sherman Library and Gardens. So beautiful there! 

Caleb was impressed with all the flowers and plants. Look at the picture with his eyes so wide open in wonder. He also liked to reach out and grab the plants. 

We saw Carolyn and Rich for dinner as well. It's so great to see good family friends!

We also got to spend some time just chilling with both families, too. 

It was a wonderful trip and so awesome to see Caleb get to do some more "firsts" in his life. We're so lucky to have a pretty easy-going, happy baby. Hopefully we get to take many more trips together. 

And cheers to many more "first's for the little guy!

Caleb's 5 Month Update - Favorites

I warned you in my other post that I was planning on posting more photos for Caleb's 5 month birthday, so don't act all surprised here. I'm just one proud mama that feels the need to share copious amounts of photos of my little guy. 

Family Time

Nothing beats seeing his face light up and see him waves his arms out when you enter the room. It warms my heart to see him get all excited when dad walks in the door from work. This month Grandma Nada & Grandpa Don visited, which as so wonderful.

A Few Favorites

I just can't get over his smile. He's such a happy little guy (most of the time, that is). I still love to look at him when he sleeps; it's so peaceful and sweet.  

Favorite Toys

Here are some of Caleb's favorite toys. Not pictured: My hair and dad's beard, which are maybe his favorite "toys" - eh hem. 

Friends

We love hanging with other mamas & babies. Sometimes we hang at each others homes, sometimes its a walk, and sometimes we go on adventures like to the Museum of Flight (pictured below).

And Just Because

Can you guess who gave him the red polo and tan pants outfit? Yup, Grandpa John. 

He just keeps growing and growing. Craziness. 

Caleb's 5 Month Update

I'm going to sound like a broken record here...but really, it's already five months. This has been the fastest five months of my entire life. All of a sudden it's June and summer. It's crazy talk. Nonetheless, time has gone by and Caleb is already five months old. Ahhhhh! 

I know I'm slightly biased, but I think he's the cutest little guy. I took some photos today to capture the five month birthday and I think I took over 100 photos. But what's a mama to do? There are so many props to mark his month birthday - there are some with the blocks, the stickers (two kinds), Max the Raccoon, and then he was just being so darn cute (you know, drooling, laughing, wiggling, and begin just plain adorable). 

So I don't to bombard you with photos (who am I kidding, I already have bombarded you). I'm going to save my favorite photos from the past month for my next post. This time you just see today's photoshoot. Sorry I didn't narrow it down. I have a hard time deciding because each one I'm like "awww, he's being so {cute/goofy/etc}."

Hang on...don't stop with just these, though. Keep reading because I have some look backs at the past months in this post as well!

A Quick Look at the Past Months

Here's the 3 Month Update post

Here's the 1 Month Update post

xx

Daily Dinner: Lazy Girl Chicken Pot Pie

As I looked up photos for my last Daily Dinner post, Spinach and Goat Cheese Pasta, I realized I had a whole bunch of photos lined up for Daily Dinner posts. Oh Boy! So I thought I'd share another fun meal with you. 

I am not a huge fan of the meal's name with the words, "lazy girl." I'm am *not* a lazy person. I'm the opposite of lazy. I tend to make myself busy, but that's my problem. That aside, I appreciate the idea behind the name: that it's quick and easy. I happen to really enjoy this meal. I serve it up with some tasty salted rosemary bread (I get the loaf from Trader Joe's, it's my favorite bread there). Josh, on the other hand, thinks this is good but when it's labeled as a "pot pie" he gets confused because he expects a crust on top. He doesn't buy the whole "just serve it with bread" concept because then it's not a pot pie to him. If I were to rename the meal, he'd probably have expectations aligned more properly and be more onboard with it all. So, might I recommend renaming this to, "creamy chicken and veggies." 

Summer is around the corner, but in my opinion it could work as a spring/summer dish. It doesn't require turning on the oven and heating the house. Also, for my non-dairy friends, I haven't tried it, but I bet it could work with almond or coconut milk. Oh, and if you want to get even more quick, try buying the mirepoix from Trader Joe's (and celery would be a good addition here)!

Here's how the dish comes together in a few photos:

Lazy Girl Chicken Pot Pie

(or Creamy Chicken and Veggies)

Recipe Adapted from Dessert for Two

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 tablespoons butter, divided use
  • 1 Ib raw chicken tenders, diced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 4 carrots, diced
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 4 tablespoons half and half
  • 2 cups milk (I used 2%)
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  • Crusty Bread, Sliced and Toasted

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a small skillet, add 2 tablespoons of the butter. Turn the heat to medium and let melt while you chop the chicken.
  2. Add the chicken to the skillet, along with a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook the chicken until all sides are brown. (Note: Don't worry if it's not cooked all the way through, it'll cook more later.) Remove the chicken from the pan, and return the pan to the heat.
  3. Add the remaining butter to the pan, along with the onions and carrots. Saute for 5 minutes over low heat until the vegetables have softened. (Note: The onions shouldn't brown.)
  4. Add the peas and corn and increase the heat to medium. Crush the thyme leaves in your hand (this releases the oils) and add them to the skillet. Stir to combine.
  5. Sprinkle over the flour and stir to combine. Let cook for about a minute.
  6. Add the half & half and milk to the pan, along with a few pinches of salt and pepper.
  7. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat until thickened. It should take 1-2 minutes to thicken.
  8. Meanwhile, toast the bread. Slice it on the diagonal to be fancy.
  9. Serve in a bowl with the toast on top. Enjoy!

I hope you like this dish as much as I do. It's great for weekday meals!