Achieving My Greatness

Okay, so I’m nine years removed from my days of sitting in a lecture hall full of twenty-something’s with aspirations of being the next CEO of some Fortune 500 company. I’m also two years removed from my “I’m going to be a mommy!” moment, and two babies into this gig.

I’ve always had dreams of greatness. Ever since I was young, my parents instilled the value of hard work. If I worked hard in school, sports and whatever activities I participated in, I would be great. “Always try your best, never give up, and you can do it,” were things I heard from my mom and dad on a daily basis.

After practicing what my parents preached, I was able to achieve things I’d always hoped to achieve. Those dreams of greatness as a child, and later as a college graduate shifted once I became a mom. Time has had this funny way of continuing to put numbers between myself and what my dreams once were. It’s nearly impossible now for me to even think of the dreams I once had. Why, you ask? Because there’s a two-year-old in front of me who is constantly asking questions. (For those of you wondering, Gia is in the “why” phase of toddlerhood.) There’s always a face to wipe, a diaper to change, discipline to enforce and a night of sleep interrupted.

The idea or thought of being something great comes to mind on a regular basis, asking me to believe that it’s true: I wanted to be something great and now I’m just a mom.

It’s not that I don’t love motherhood, because I truly love it, even the hard parts. Outside of a few hundred shared photos on Instagram, does anyone really see my motherhood?

I feel like my destiny of becoming something great is in this role as mom. But can I still be great if no one sees me?

The answer is yes, because it is how I define greatness. I don’t let someone else define it for me.

After spending countless hours in study hall during my college years, and stressing over papers, mid-terms and finals, I wish I could tell my college self a thing or two.

The work I did then was important and it helped me to learn and grow. The work I do now is invaluable because I am truly making a difference. I’m mostly treading water, but there are three other people in my life who I get a chance to serve everyday. And when I really start to think about it, my greatness doesn’t lie in what jobs I’ve held or what titles I have. My greatness lies solely in how much of myself I give away to others, to my family. I wanted to be something great, and my husband and daughters give me the chance to do that every single day that I have them.

A Different Kind Of Mom Bod

I’m supposed to say, I love my body. I made little humans. I really like the cellulite that showed up on my butt. Aren’t these the things I’m supposed to believe with all of the body positivity, motherhood vibes and girl power that I champion??

Postpartum feelings are confusing and after both of my pregnancies I haven’t felt how I thought I would. For the last three years or so I’ve given my body away in a pretty substantial way, by going through two pregnancies in a relatively short period of time. Truth be told, I still give my body away every single day. I nurse my almost three week old, I hoist my two year old into the car, I schlep the dog up the stairs, I wipe dirty little faces and I pick up an endless array of toys.

It might sound selfish (and it feels selfish) that I want my old body back. I know what you’re thinking – you’re thinking, “Ashley, you’re not even three weeks postpartum. Let yourself heal. Give it time. It took months to make those beautiful babies, so allow yourself to take the time to get back to where you were.” I get it. I agree, but it’s not that easy.

Seeing your postpartum body for the first time can be a pretty big shock. It’s hard (and amazing) for any woman to see such a huge transformation. Being that I recently shared with all of you that I had history with an eating disorder, it feels even harder seeing this change in my body, especially for the second time.

The good thing is that I’ve been through this all once before and I know what my body is capable of. I know I will lose the baby weight, regain my strength and feel like some semblance of myself again. I just hate the waiting game. It’s uncomfortable, but life can be uncomfortable.

While I was pregnant with Gialina I worked out 5-6 days per week, ate a balanced diet and treated myself when it felt right. With Viviana I did the same routine. The only difference that I can think of is that with Gia I stuck with more cardio based workouts, and with Vivi I continued my weight training with my cardio.

I gained 43 pounds with Gia and 40 with Vivi. The only reason I tell you this is because I’m a firm believer that your body is programmed to gain a certain amount of weight while pregnant, regardless of what you do. I did everything “right” through both of my pregnancies, yet I still beat myself up for not gaining the recommended 25-35 pounds.

Obviously those numbers can’t apply to everyone. The woman who is 5’2″ will very likely gain differently than the woman who is 6’0″. We aren’t the same and neither are any of our pregnancies.

Trust the process. This is my own reminder to myself to do just that. Sometimes when you put things out in the universe (like sharing vulnerabilities) good things happen. Healing happens. Support is given. People feel less alone. That’s my intention here. I’m reminding myself that I will get where I want to be soon and if you’re in a similar season in your life, you will too.

I’m sure you may have heard the saying, “people only show their highlight reel” through social media outlets. A friend of mine reminded me of this the other day, and it’s so true. Of course we are all quick to share the great things in our lives, but I find it just as important to share our bumps in the road or messy moments. We are all so much more alike than we realize. The moment we stop pretending that we are better than one another or comparing our highlight reels, is the moment we will all feel more connected.

¬†This is about my entire self, about all the parts of me – more than just getting my body back. It’s about the parts that existed before two little people filled my arms and my heart, and the parts that will continue to exist long after those people have fully grown.

Share your experiences – good and maybe not so good. I having a sneaking suspicion that someone else will reach out in appreciation, creating a ripple effect. Pass on kindness, pay it forward and if comfortable, share your truth.

Xo

Prepping For Baby #2: Three Things I Wish I Had The First Time Around

As much as I’d like to think this second pregnancy thing is a cake walk, it’s isn’t. The “been there, done that” mentality is there, but only to a certain degree. I hate to say it, but the fact is my pregnancy symptoms have been totally different than with Gia. As far as resting goes….well there is no rest when you have a toddler!

For me, there’s more to this than just getting my body ready to have our next baby. I’ll be adjusting my social life once again, my home and preparing a two-year-old for the arrival of our new family member.

You would think that after giving birth only two years ago that I’d be pretty well versed on doing the whole newborn thing again. Truth is, mom brain is real and I’ve forgotten a lot about those early days. I know most of it will come back to me, but new babies bring on different challenges.

One thing I do know about being a second-time mom is there are a few items that I’ll be needing that I didn’t have with Gia. Two of the three things I need for this go-round are solely for baby #2 and one thing is for both children.

So what are they you ask?

#1: Dockatot

Dockatot is a multifunctional sleep aid for your babe. It’s like it’s own little bed that can also serve as a place to sit, do tummy time, play and snuggle. It’s also great for safe co-sleeping and you can bring it anywhere. I don’t plan on using it for co-sleeping, as we did not co-sleep with Gia, but never say never.

I like the idea that it will give the new baby that cuddled feeling while sleeping. From what I’ve heard and read, it’s amazing and helps babies sleep for longer durations.

Gia was in a bassinet that has been in my family for years. While I love the idea of continuing that tradition, I also want to do what I think works best for us and baby. Thankfully Gia was a good sleeper, so I pray this baby will be the same!

#2: Rock ‘n’ Play

The great thing about having a sister-in-law who had her second baby before me is that I can ask her tons of questions. One thing that she got for her second boy was a Rock ‘n’ Play. She used it all the time for her baby. If it weren’t for her encouraging me to get one I’m not sure I would have thought of it myself.

What I think I’ll use it for most is to have a free hand to help Gia. Eventually when I’m home alone with two kids, I will quickly need to figure out how to balance their needs. I’m sure a lot of Gia’s needs will require me to set the baby down in a safe, portable environment. What’s great is that I’ll be able to bring it outside while Gia is playing.

There are quite a few versions of the Rock ‘n’ Play out there. I was able to purchase one on Amazon Prime Day for $30 off the original price. Who doesn’t love a deal?!

#3: Double Stroller

Stroller shopping can be overwhelming because there are so many options. With Gia we bought a Peg Perego stroller and car seats. Naturally, since I loved them so much I immediately gravitated towards the brand’s Duette Piroet stroller.

The hardest part about deciding on what kind of double stroller to get was the side-by-side set up versus the tandem set up. Ultimately, after seeing both options from Peg Perego in person, Craig and I agreed the tandem version is what we prefer. My gut says it will be easier to maneuver and it will just work well with our lifestyle.

Beyond these items, I’m pretty much good to go. I have plenty of beautiful clothes that I’m excited to see our new girl in. We have all the toys and play accessories a baby could need. The last few things I need to do are along the lines of rewashing baby clothes, packing a hospital bag and making sure I have what I need for my own recovery.

I’m sure if we were to have a third child, I’d have a brand new blog post listing what I’d need for baby #3 that I didn’t have the first two times. There’s always new and amazing products, as well as things we think we just need to have.

For now, we are very happy to become a family of four and we’re planning on keeping it at that. Four has always seemed like the right number for us.

Now I just need to stick out eight more weeks of being hot and uncomfortable. We can’t wait to meet our newest girl. Gia is especially excited….for now! ūüėČ

Xo

Foolproof Funfetti Birthday Cake

Soooo, we’ve got a two-year-old now!! ¬†How bizarre is that?! ¬†I can totally relate to the saying, “The days a long and the years are short,” because that’s how the last two years have felt. ¬†Parenthood brings you lows and the highest of highs. ¬†It’s truly amazing how full your heart feels from raising a little one, and celebrating Gia’s birthday definitely made me feel all of the things!

Surprisingly enough, I didn’t turn into an emotional mess over Gia turning two this weekend. ¬†The biggest thing I felt though was pride. ¬†Pride over the little person she’s becoming, pride in myself for being the best mom I can be, and pride in my husband for showing me time and again why marrying him was the best decision ever.

This year for Gia’s birthday I knew I didn’t want a huge bash like we had for her first birthday party. ¬†Number one, it’s just a lot of work to do. ¬†Number two, at eight months pregnant there isn’t as much energy left to be the hostess with the mostess. ¬†Therefore, Craig and I agreed that inviting our immediate family who lived in the area would be the best way to celebrate. ¬†We kept it easy and very summery by having a BBQ that included Craig’s tri-tip, grilled veggies, watermelon and my potato salad. ¬†(My potato salad is damn good and so simple, so I might have to share that with you too!) ¬†No birthday is complete without cake, and this year that meant a homemade funfetti Elmo cake.

About a month ago I decided to recipe test before making the cake for Gia’s special day, and I’m really glad I did! ¬†Initially I found a recipe from Food52 for funfetti that I tried out. ¬†To my surprise, it was an overly oily cake. ¬†I was really disappointed because I own two cookbooks by Food52 that are excellent, so I figured this recipe would work out fine. ¬†Wrong! ¬†I mentioned the cake mishap to my mom and she said she had a recipe from one of her cookbooks for a foolproof funfetti cake. ¬†Of course I made her send it to me and I tried it out right away. ¬†Let’s just say that my husband, friends and neighbors were please that I had decided to recipe test cakes. ¬†Thank goodness all this test cake off my hands, or else I might have eaten my weight in cake leading up to Gia’s birthday. ¬†Pregnant lady problems can be very stereotypical at times!

I was really happy with how my cake turned out and was even happier with the cute cake topper I ordered from Etsy.  For those who asked if I would share the recipe for the cake, here it is:

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Like I mentioned before, this is not my own recipe and I believe it came from “Great American Cakes.” ¬†To make the cake my own, I dyed the frosting a dusty pink and used rainbow sprinkles to cover the sides of the cake from top to bottom. ¬†The three layers made it feel decadent and special, while still remaining light and delicious. ¬†It was a hit with the birthday girl and my entire family. ¬†Craig’s dad and mine even went back for a second helping! ¬†That’s always a compliment in my book.

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Overall, Gia’s second birthday party was perfect (although it wasn’t without a good two-year-old tantrum). ¬†Like most toddlers, she’s spoiled beyond belief and loved to no end. ¬†I’m pretty sure she felt like the rockstar that we all think she is. ¬†As much as I don’t want the years to fly by, I can’t wait to do it again for her next year. ¬†Making my daughter’s birthday cake is a privilege and something that I will continue to do over the years, just like my mom did for me.

I hope you all enjoy the recipe as much as we did!

xo

9 Things I Learned From Having My First Baby That I Hope To Remember With Baby #2

Two short years ago I was very pregnant with my first little girl, Gialina. ¬†I had no idea that she’d choose to over stay her welcome by one full week, then decide to come into the world with the ferocity¬†of a thrashing great white shark, all while weighing an ounce shy of 9 lbs.

Today I’m 30 weeks pregnant with Gia’s little sister and I can’t help but feel a little bit more anxious about her arrival. ¬†A lot of it has to do with the fact that I know what to expect when it comes to an unmedicated labor and delivery, but a bigger part has to do with how we will adjust to adding a new member to the family.

Don’t get me wrong, being a new mom isn’t easy – no matter how many times you do it. ¬†It’s always a challenge adjusting to no sleep, postpartum pain and numerous other things that come with the territory.

With my second baby arriving around October 4th, I know some aspects of this new mom thing will be easier. ¬†It’s not because I’m suddenly an expert after having one child. ¬†I’m still unorganized at times, drowning in laundry and tired. ¬†I’ve just got more tricks up my sleeve this time around. ¬†Most of my tricks are really just common sense that I didn’t have the first time around with Gia.

So expectant mamas and new mamas alike – don’t wait for your second or third baby to read this. ¬†If I could send a letter back in time here are a few things I would tell myself before having kids:

You will never be fully prepared for what it’s like to be a parent. ¬†It doesn’t matter how many books you’ve read, how many friends/family you have with children, how much you’ve nested, or how long you’ve actually waited to become a parent. ¬†No amount of preparation will truly prepare you for children. ¬†You will learn so much about yourself and your spouse the moment that little life comes into this world. ¬†You will have a lot that you will continue to learn, so consider this the most educational experience of your life.

Appreciate your pre-baby body for all that it has done for you. ¬†You will never realize how amazing and beautiful your body is until you’ve given birth. ¬†Before having a child I spent too many days worrying about that one dessert, worrying about how my jeans looked and all of the workouts that I just¬†had¬†to complete. ¬†As hard as it will be to see your body change through pregnancy, it is equally as amazing. ¬†Once Gia arrived I realized there was so much more to life than a bikini body. ¬†I can still want to look and feel good, but in a healthier way. ¬†I would never want my daughters to be so critical and self-depricating, the way I once was about myself.

It’s okay to ask for help. ¬†You think you know how to do it all, but you don’t. ¬†Take a few deep breaths and tell yourself, “this too shall pass.” ¬†You’re going to make mistakes, but how you come back from them is what matters most. ¬†You don’t need to be superhuman.

Tell everyone around you how much you love and appreciate them. ¬†They’ll never tire of hearing it, so tell them every chance you get. ¬†After giving birth you will appreciate your mother in a way that you never could before becoming a mother yourself. ¬†Tell your spouse how much you love them, because they will be your rock while you recover from labor and delivery.

Just when you think you’re starting to figure things out the routine changes. ¬†I felt like this was most relevant for me during the newborn phase. ¬†Just when I thought we were doing X amount of naps per day, it changed to Y amount. ¬†Babies and toddlers change and grow so quickly that you can’t expect these phases to last long. ¬†So be prepared, once you fee like you’ve mastered something it’s about to change in a hurry!

If nursing hurts and doesn’t get better after the initial latch, unlatch and try again. ¬†I did not consider myself successful at breast-feeding. ¬†In fact, I felt so shamed by the lactation consultants when I sought help. ¬†I remember after my first night in the hospital with Gia that I felt so lucky that she latched well. ¬†The problem was that she looked like she had a perfect latch (according to the nurses), but I still had issues. ¬†I gave breast-feeding my best shot for about a month or so. ¬†It was one of the most stressful things I’ve been through in adjusting to life as a new mother. ¬†I don’t say these things to scare new moms, but I say it in hopes of people taking initiative to educate themselves. ¬†Go take a breast-feeding class offered by your hospital. ¬†I did this and found it very helpful and I’m even signed up for the same class before baby #2 arrives. ¬†I developed a very, very severe case of mastitis while breast-feeding with Gia. ¬†It was so shocking to me that the signs and symptoms of mastitis were never mentioned to me during my first breast-feeding class. ¬†If your breast feels hot to the touch, has red splotches, or you have a high fever, it’s likely you are suffering from mastitis. ¬†This was what took me out of the breast-feeding game. ¬†TMI but, I had nipples that were cracked like the Grand Canyon, blood blisters, the whole nine yards. ¬†I mention all of this because there is nothing wrong with making the decision to stop nursing. ¬†At the end of the day fed is best and when our kids hit kindergarten no one will know who had formula and who had breast milk. ¬†You need to be the best mom you can be and sometimes that means knowing when to stop something.

Make sure the ruffles on the diaper aren’t tucked in. ¬†This might seem really stupid and basic, but it’s very helpful if your child is having diapers that explode often. ¬†Another good thing to try if you feel like you’re changing diapers and outfits on the regular is go up a diaper size. ¬†I didn’t really have to worry about this too much, but did have to remind relatives that ruffles go out!

Swaddle, sway, swing, shush! ¬†If you’re baby is having a hard time sleeping (day or night) you need to swaddle your baby. ¬†It makes them feel safe and secure, just like when they were in your tummy. ¬†Swaying and swinging motions help many babies fall asleep once they’re swaddled because that motion feels the same as the motion they felt while growing inside of you. ¬†Think about it – you didn’t sit your entire pregnancy. ¬†When you moved, your baby moved. ¬†It’s comforting! ¬†The shush noise was also something they heard in the womb. ¬†You have blood flowing and tons of other bodily fluids that are moving throughout your entire body that create a shush sound that makes baby feel at home because it’s all they hear all the time. ¬†(I just mention these tips because I remember they worked for me. ¬†All babies are different and just because I say it worked for me doesn’t mean it has to work for you and your baby.) ¬†I read a book called “The Happiest Baby On The Block,” prior to Gia’s arrival that really dives into these tips.

Just say NO! ¬†Now that I’m a mom of an almost two-year old I’m used to saying that little two-letter word. ¬†People are going to want to come visit you and the baby right after birth. ¬†People are going to tell you that you need to be feeding them solids by a certain age and that they should have rice cereal in their bottle. ¬†People are going to tell you that you don’t need to be so routine oriented about their sleep schedule. ¬†You know what you say to all those people? ¬†NO. ¬†Just because certain things worked for them doesn’t mean you should do it too. ¬†Anything being said to you that’s annoying, opinionated and unsolicited – just go ahead and say no. ¬†It’s your baby, not theirs.

The bottom line here is listen to your gut. ¬†Becoming a new mom for the first, second or third time is a lot. ¬†Like I’ve said many times before, we’re all just winging it and doing what works best for us. ¬†I’m glad I’ve put this all on my blog because it serves as something I can come back to so I can remind myself of these things. ¬†Lord knows that two months from now I’m gonna forget all about everything I learned the first time around with Gia. ¬†Here’s to hoping I re-read this post during all of the middle of the night feeding sessions that I’ll soon be experiencing. ¬†Don’t be hard on yourself, trust the process and¬†trust yourself! ¬†You’ve got this!

xo

Two Books To Help Me With My Independent (almost) Two-Year Old

Scores and scores of moms, and parents in general, are overcome with stress. ¬†Although at times we can see humor in stressful times, insight and occasionally find a practical solution to our stress, there’s still that serene lifestyle that is out of reach. ¬†Yes, when you have adult responsibilities such as a career, children, running a household, ¬†and financial commitments, stress is just part of the everyday norm.

If I’m being 100% honest with myself and totally transparent, my source of stress right now is my almost two-year old and the worries that most other parents face. ¬†Most days, Gia is my little shadow – she’s eager to please me, mimics everything I do and is an overall very happy and well-mannered child. ¬†Like any toddler, she has her moments and now those moments come around a little bit more often as she is tasting what it’s like to be an independent big girl.

The last week or two has brought about new behaviors that are usually directed towards me, mommy. ¬†After all, I am with her everyday, all day, so it’s only natural that she would show defiance and resistance to me more than daddy or grandparents. ¬†We all want to raise respectful, well-behaved kids who make good choices, but it’s not so easy at this age.

About two weeks ago when I took Gia to use the potty she was adamant about not going (because she was very busy playing) but it had been far too long without her taking a potty break. ¬†Most of the time if she says “no” to going potty, I honor her request but keep a very close eye on her because she usually refuses to go only to exert her power. ¬†This particular time I wasn’t going to bend because we were out in public and business needed to be handled before getting in the car. ¬†The short of it is that she smacked me right on the head because she didn’t want to go. ¬†This was a brand new behavior that was kind of shocking to me. ¬†I’m sure she’s seen other kids do this at our gym daycare, but I was still emotionally hurt by it.

This week, after an activity packed visit to San Diego to see her cousins, Gia has had more frequent outbursts that are quite obviously the “terrible twos.” ¬†I’ve always kind of hated that term, but it’s now truly starting to rear it’s ugly head just a couple weeks before her second birthday.

Learning to discipline such young child who is obviously very bright can be confusing and frustrating, to say the least.  There are so many methods of discipline and ways to parent, and everyone who has their opinions about it.  Craig and I are approaching this new phase of toddlerhood with as much patience as possible and with open minds.

I think that the hardest part about all of this for me is that I expect so much of Gia. ¬†I don’t expect perfection by any means, because I expect that of no one. ¬†It’s just difficult to remind myself that she still is quite young. ¬†Just because she’s grasped so many things at such a young age makes me forget that she’s still not quite two years old. ¬†Her mind is still developing and the concept of discipline is hard at this age. ¬†I mean, really, what kid her age will sit in time-out, even if just for one minute?! ¬†(If your kid does this, my hat is off to you and you can message me immediately about how you make that happen!)

What I’m getting at is that these little humans are evolving every single day and sometimes that means the days feel a little bit longer. ¬†I like to share these normal hiccups and challenges because as parents we ALL go through it but don’t always share about it. ¬†Sometimes it’s just nice to commiserate, simply to know that you aren’t alone!

As a result of our opinionated and independent girl developing new habits, we are slowing down and taking the time to explain things at her level. ¬†She has such empathy for her age and knows when people are hurt or even if feelings are hurt. ¬†If she hears me say to another adult that I was upset she immediately tells me, “Mommy, don’t worry.” ¬†The fact that she tells me this means we’re doing something very right.

We are just continuing to plow through and prepare her for life the best way we know how. ¬†We’ll continue to make mistakes along the way, but we’re all just winging it anyway!

In case any of you are going through this phase of toddlerhood, I’d like to share two books that I just ordered through Amazon to help me out: ¬†“Hands Are Not For Hitting” and “Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours.”

I know that people laugh about these kinds of books because they weren’t accessible to parents of earlier generations and their kids “turned out fine.” ¬†While that may be true, just because there’s new knowledge and support in the world doesn’t mean it’s bad or that we can’t be open to it.

Happy Friday my friends!

xo

Recipe Sharing Is Caring: Moroccan Chicken & Couscous

Until the age of approximately nine years old, I had no idea that mac and cheese came in a box. Now, there’s nothing wrong with boxed mac and cheese – I give my daughter Annie’s organic macaroni on nights I don’t feel inspired or want to have a food war.

What I’m getting at is that I grew up eating really good food because my mom was a chef for George Lucas (and that’s just the tip of the cooking iceberg with her). You’d think that being exposed to elevated cooking from a young age that I’d have this natural cooking ability…..

Yes and no. I’m far more recipe oriented than any legitimate chef who can easily combine flavors and make things on the fly. That’s part of the reason why I love to bake, because it always needs to be precise.

When I’m on top of things during the week with meal planning, I have recipes and ingredients ready for certain nights of the week. I rely a lot on leftovers so I can send my husband to work with good food to fuel him for his workday.

I’ve been asked to share this Moroccan inspired dish by multiple Instagram followers, so here we go!

What will surprise you most (or not!) is that it’s a simple slow cooker meal that’s bursting with flavor. Even better yet, my daughter Gia LOVED it! I know all little kiddos have different taste buds, but it has the potential to be a very kid friendly dish for an adventurous eater.

If you’re tired and uninspired when it comes to dinners, this recipe is a lifesaver. I hope you guys enjoy the ease of this dish as much as I do!

Happy slow cooking!

Slow Cooker Moroccan Chicken & Couscous

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 4 medium carrots, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/3 cup dried prunes, halved
  • 1/2 pitted green olives
  • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
  • 1 cup low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • pepper to taste
  • chopped fresh cilantro, for serving
  • lemon wedges, for serving

Instructions:

  1. In slow cooker, combine the chicken, carrots, onion, prunes, olives, garlic, flour, paprika, cumin, cinnamon, ginger, chicken broth, salt and pepper. Stir to combine.
  2. Cover and cook on low for six hours.
  3. When ready to serve, sprinkle with cilantro or nuts (optional) and serve with lemon wedges.

Notes:

  • I chose to serve the dish over couscous. ¬†Perfect pairing, in my opinion!

Recipe from Skinny Taste

Xo

Chocolate Coffee Almond Scones, A Perfect Morning Treat

Father’s Day this year was a busy one, yet still very low-key. ¬†I knew the moment that I saw these scones posted on Kate Wood’s “Wood and Spoon” blog that I’d be making them as a Father’s Day treat.

Anyone who knows me should know that I love coffee. ¬†My husband, Craig, was not a huge coffee drinker when we first got together seven years ago. ¬†Let’s just say, things have changed and he¬†needs¬†his coffee almost as much as I do! ¬†These scones are the perfect blend of everything that I love, so I had to share Kate’s yummy recipe.


Chocolate Coffee Almond Scones – recipe by Kate Wood:

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Before sharing the recipe goods, I’ll tell you a little bit more about how Father’s Day was spent this year…..

I woke up earlier than usual just to make sure that I could prepare the scone dough, give it time to chill and then bake before Craig became ravenous. ¬†My husband wakes up hungry and is usually wondering what’s for lunch before he can even finish his breakfast. ¬†Must be a man thing??

Our plan for the day was to have Craig’s dad and family over in the morning to share the scones with. ¬†They arrived around 8am and once they all had their fill of my fresh scones, we went to a little coffee shop across the water in the neighboring town of Martinez. ¬†I don’t really remember how I came across States, but it very well could have been my fellow coffee lover, aka, my mom.

We enjoyed our coffee at States, where I love to go because it’s very kid friendly. ¬†There are wooden blocks and old toy trucks that are left on the lower shelves for the children to play with. ¬†Gia always has a good time when we are there and even gets her own little coffee. ¬†(I just fill her little to-go coffee cup with water and she thinks it’s the coolest.)

After taking our last sips from our drinks, we meandered¬†through the Farmers’ Market that’s held on Sunday mornings in Martinez. ¬†Once we all got to take a look at the offereings, we packed it up and parted ways. ¬†Craig’s family went back home, while Craig, Gia and I had some family time. ¬†We went five minutes down the road to a nice little park across from a fire station. ¬†Gia played for about 45 minutes before we decided to head home, feed her lunch and put her down for a nap.

Later, after Gia woke up and played a little, we went over to my parents to see my dad for Father’s Day. ¬†My grandma joined us too – there’s no way she’d go without seeing my dad on Father’s Day. ¬†My mom made us a nice dinner and I’m pretty sure that the dads, as well as their stomaches, were happy.

Overall, we had a really nice day. ¬†Sometimes it’s just doing simple, easy things with family that are the most enjoyable.


Daddy and Gia swinging together at Nancy Boyd Memorial Park in Martinez:

IMG_2895


Hopefully you’ll enjoy these scones as much as we did! ¬†Now, for what you’ve really been waiting for, the recipe……

Chocolate Coffee Almond Scones

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup whipping cream, plus additional for brushing
  • 1 tablespoon espresso powder or instant coffee
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold and chopped
  • 1 cup chopped unsalted almonds
  • 1 cup mini chocolate chips

Instructions:

  1. In a small container, stir the whipping cream and teh espresso powder to combine and set aside in the fridge to keep cool.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder and sugar.  Use a pastry cutter or the back of two forks to cut the butter into the dry ingredients until it becomes a coarse meal consistency with pea-sized clumps thoughout.  Stir in the almonds and chocolate chips.  Add the espresso and cream mixture and sitr into the dry ingredients, just until evenly incorporated.  If a lot of dry ingredients remain in the bottom of the bowl you can add an additional tablespoon or two of cream, just barely enough to make it all come together into a dough. (I found that I definitely needed to add the extra bit of cream.)
  3. Pat the dough to 3/4 inch thick and use a biscuit cutter to cut 2 inch circles of dough for each scone.  Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Put the pan in the freezer to chill for 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  4. Once the dough is chilled, use a pastry brush to brush a thin layer of whipping cream over the top of the sonces.  Bake in the oven until golden brown around the edges of each scone, about 25 minutes.

Notes:

  • Chilling the dough ensures the scones will rise well. ¬†You can skip this step but it isn’t recommended for best outcomes.

Recipe from Kate Wood of “Wood and Spoon”

xo

Mother’s Day vs. Father’s Day: Both Are Important!

Regardless of your views and beliefs about religion, Christmas is easily one of the most recognized holidays across the globe. ¬†So why is it that Easter, another very important religious holiday, can’t compete with the month-long extravaganza that is Christmas? ¬†Easter is clearly the runner-up to Christmas, whether we want to admit it or not.

Likewise, retailers and bloggers have done their best to whip shoppers into a frenzied state prior to this Father’s Day weekend. ¬†Despite these efforts, Father’s Day seems to be treated with far less reverence than Mother’s Day. ¬†It’s no secret that Mother’s Day gets a lot of attention, but I’ll argue that Father’s Day doesn’t typically receive the same level of interest. ¬†Why is that???

When May rolls around each year, florists, chocolatiers and the trendiest brunch joints extol the importance of showing profound gratitude for all mothers. ¬†The way Father’s Day is marketed and treated with far less seriousness. ¬†Even though I shouldn’t be complaining, this kind bugs me.

Yes, Gia’s dad, Craig, is a lovable buffoon at times, but he is by no means a dimwitted figure who couldn’t possibly be expected to be bothered with feeding or bathing our daughter without first being issued step-by-step instructions. ¬†(I am guilty of leaving him detailed lists of what to do with Gia, as well as checking in on them when they’re alone, but part of that is me just being me.)

It’s 2018 people. ¬†Men are more involved than ever in the day-to-day caring of their kids. ¬†There are countless mornings when I’m on my way to the gym, with Gia in tow and I see the neighborhood elementary school yard filled with fathers. ¬†They’re making sure their kids don’t jump into the street, holding backpacks and giving hugs and kisses before seeing their little ones off to school. ¬†My local parks overflow with dads who seem especially doting.

Just yesterday as I walked into my gym, a member who I’m friendly with asked, “Where’s the baby?” ¬†I kindly said that she was with daddy having fun until I got home and it was his turn to head to the gym for his workout. ¬†What I wanted to say was, “She’s home alone watching TV and making sure the house doesn’t burn down.” ¬†Come on – where do you think she is?? ¬†Why are fathers seen as the “babysitters” and moms are seen as the “real” parent?

In my humble opinion, it’s insulting to all moms and dads. ¬†Yes, there may or may not be more pressure and unrealistic expectations placed on mothers, but this message we are sending is that fathers are less devoted. ¬†That’s simply not the case. ¬†Dad’s are not an afterthought and it’s time we start acting like Father’s Day is just as important as Mother’s Day – because it is!

I’m sure all of us want the father figures in our lives to feel special on Father’s Day each and every year. ¬†In my family, the fathers are probably okay without a purchased gift, but I enjoy shopping for the occasion anyway. ¬†For some, Father’s Day may be more challenging to shop for than Mother’s Day, but remember, it’s not about the gift. ¬†Just like mom, dad wants to feel appreciated and be told that he’s doing a good job.

I am not the sole nurturer of my child because my husband plays a huge role in that as well. ¬†Craig, if you’re reading this, you are a fantastic father. ¬†Expressing my thanks publicly like this for all of your unconditional love will never be enough. ¬†Your contributions to this family exceed all expectations. ¬†You are our provider, protector and a strong individual that we all should try to emulate. ¬†Thank you for never shying away from wiping a dirty baby bum, or putting our daughter to sleep. ¬†I appreciate the selfless care and protection you provide to us on a daily basis. ¬†We love you beyond measure.

Here’s to all of the fathers out there. ¬†May all your days with your family be filled with love, but especially so this Father’s Day.

xo

The Skin I‚Äôm In: Thoughts About Body Image During Pregnancy & Beyond

Some mornings I stand in the buff and look at my pregnant body with so much admiration. I’m creating another life and my body knows exactly how to do it. Organs, little ears and tiny limbs are all being made by me – and I guess my husband helped a little too. ūüėČ

Then there are mornings that turn into entire days where I look at myself in the harshest light. Yes, I know I’m pregnant and yes, I know my body is not mine right now, but I still feel bad about it. I feel horrible even writing that, because it doesn’t reflect how excited I am to have another child. I feel guilt just thinking that!

Obviously pregnancy stimulates a wide range of feelings about the body. Those who have been pregnant and are pregnant know exactly what I mean. Our culture, especially among certain social classes, makes no secret of how very important it is that women “get their bodies back” instantaneously. Too little attention is paid to why our bodies morph the way they do during pregnancy. We hold onto the baby weight for a reason, because it serves both the baby and mother.

Body shame in our world today is prolific and it leaves women (pregnant or not) feeling stymied. Pregnancy can be especially disorienting in so many ways. I for one, have felt an immense amount of anxiety and at times, depression about how I’m coping with my growing pregnant body.

After receiving a heartfelt and thoughtful DM from a childhood friend this morning, I felt inspired to write on this topic. My friend is pregnant with her first child and is feeling a lot of the things I felt while pregnant with Gia and how I feel now.

The other day my friend who DM’d me posted a photo to her Instagram page. The photo was a shot of her and her beautiful growing bump. She told me that when she was posting the picture she was so scared of what people would think about how she looked. She also went on to say how awful she felt for feeling that way because she was doing something amazing, growing her baby.

Like me, my friend has maintained a healthy routine through her pregnancy by working out, eating healthfully, while still allowing herself a splurge sometimes. Balance right?? Regardless of her efforts and mine to treat our bodies with kindness during this time, we have both beat ourselves up over our weight gain.

After messaging her back, we were both in agreement that we are doing the right thing for ourselves and our growing babes, but regardless of all that, our bodies are going to do what they’re going to do. For my friend that means more weight in her lower half than she’s used to or prefers. For me, that means having a cup size to rival any Victoria’s Secret hottie, as well as a growing lower half.


If I’m being honest, this picture makes me look smaller than I think I really look. ¬†Again, I was also hesitant in even sharing this photo. ¬†These pants are doing their damnedest to keep my bulging body parts in, but this is my version of six months pregnant.

We are all different people and all have different pregnancies. Sometimes it’s hard for me to not look at other pregnant women and be envious of their seemingly perfect bumpin’ belly and looking so petite everywhere else. I need to remind myself that those women and myself are totally different. I am a six foot tall athlete. I have been athletic my entire life. I’m going to look very different than a woman who is 5’4 and who has never played collegiate sports.

This weekend I even found myself comparing my six months pregnant body to a petite woman who was 15 months postpartum. How ridiculous is that?! First of all, I’M PREGNANT. Second, I was almost a foot taller than her with a totally different body type.

I really had to reel my thoughts back in this weekend. I also am constantly reminding myself that being pregnant is hard in so many ways. I’ve had an especially challenging time navigating my thoughts on body image through my last pregnancy and this one. I’ve mentioned briefly in a previous post that I did have an eating disorder towards the end of college. ¬†I was in the thick of under eating and over exercising. ¬†Because of all that, my last year I was unable to continue to play softball due to so much weight loss. ¬†Everything important to me, including my identity, was taken away so abruptly. (At some point I’ll share the full story about this, but that’s a post for another day!)

I am fully recovered from that dark time in my life, but it’s a constant battle to silence the negative and disordered thinking that I practiced for so long. I know that it will be something I need to be mindful of for my whole life, and that’s especially true right now, even while pregnant.

I think what I really want to say is we all have a struggle. Many times that struggle is silent and we feel very alone. This post proves that I’m not alone in my complicated feelings about my pregnant body, and neither is the friend who reached out to me. We both worked hard for our healthy pre-pregnancy bodies and we will both work hard to have healthy postpartum bodies.

We all need to give ourselves some grace and remember we have one body. Be kind to it, fuel it properly, appreciate all that it is capable of and be grateful.

After having Gia I’ve realized that life just goes by faster with each passing year. I can’t get hung up on putting pressure on myself to lose baby weight from this second pregnancy by a certain time. I should be more concerned with maintaining my good health to raise equally as healthy daughters, who I hope will one day love their bodies unconditionally. Like I’ve always said, God has given me girls so I never slip back into disordered eating and so I can teach them how their bodies are strong and perfect exactly how they are.

My tips to anyone who is struggling with body image during pregnancy:

Acknowledging You’re Body is Being Borrowed – Your body is in a major transformation process. Perhaps the negative feelings you have about your pregnant body may be about something other than the actual body surface, or in addition to it. Investigate your feelings and acknowledge them. Remember pregnancy is not permanent and is such a small blip of time in your whole life. Try and look at the good during this time.

Notice Self Talk And Feedback From Others – Comparison is the thief of joy and shame based internal chatter is a recipe for unhappiness. There will always be unsolicited comments about your pregnant state. Try just accept the comment and not think too far into it. Opinions from others about your bump are truly irrelevant, unless coming from your doctor. Keep doing YOU and say “screw those people!” (And I say that in the nicest possible way! Lol!)

Acceptance – Acceptance, especially body acceptance, during a time where you’re scared that your body will forever be enlarged is tough. Here’s what I’ve realized through both of my pregnancies….worrying does not modify what may or may not happen to my body through these wondrous months. Preoccupation with my body has never brought anything fruitful and steals joy from the present moment. It’s not fair to me or my family. Keep your eye on the prize – that end result, your baby!

Focus On Being A Role Model – Being gentle on myself as I navigate body image concerns serves as an ideal template for me to parent from. I don’t want Gia and her little sister to ever treat their bodies the way I have treated mine. I’ve been cruel to myself in the past and don’t want to teach that. As I journey through motherhood, modeling what it means to be a strong woman is what’s most important.


This little girl and her growing sister are the ones that I do all of this for.  They make me stronger, happy and oh so proud.  Little eyes are always watching.

And that’s all I’ve got! I think this post serves me more than others. It’s something I should reference back to when I’m feeling not so great about myself. I need to practice what I preach, and by writing it for all of you to read I’m holding myself responsible for following through with my words.

Hopefully someone who reads this can relate in some way. Remember we are all made perfectly the way we are and that’s what’s truly beautiful.

Xo