Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Favorite Breakfast Meal Prep Recipes

As I mentioned last week, I will be sharing some of my favorite recipes for meal prep. This week I am sharing five of our go to breakfast recipes so you can start your day off with zero stress. I have tried to include recipes for everyone, or ones that can be easily modified for your own dietary restrictions. All pictures are by each blogger, and the recipe is linked in each description.

Hash Brown and Sausage Breakfast Casserole



Whole 30 compliant, dairy free and gluten free. I discovered this casserole by 40 Aprons when I had to go dairy free while nursing. It is creamy, hearty, and keeps well in the refrigerator. Oh, and did I mention it's super easy to make? This recipe is both husband and toddler approved, so it's a keeper.


Simple Banana Bread


If you have bananas that are going a little too ripe, this is the perfect recipe to use. With minimal ingredients and skill required it is a great on the go treat or addition to a larger meal. You can also modify it by adding anything you like! Nuts, chocolate chips, or berries.


Vegan Overnight Oats


If you're vegan, gluten or dairy free, then look no further than Oh She Glows overnight oats. Easily modified to be none of those things, this is a great "base recipe" and only takes a few minutes before bed each night to whip together. Overnight oats are wonderful during the summer, because they are cool and creamy. Sometimes I heat mine up in the morning, and it is still faster than cooking oats from scratch. 


Zucchini & Caramelized Onion Egg Muffins



These Tone It Up  egg muffins are quick and delicious! They keep for about 4 days in the fridge, and can be used for more than breakfast. If you need a quick high protein addition to a meal or snack, they are just as good as grabbing a hard boiled egg. I like eating mine with a little hot sauce.


DIY Starbucks Protein Bistro Box


Last week I told you that we always hard boil eggs as a part of meal prep each week, and these are a great use of those. In fact this "recipe" by No. 2 Pencil is great for those who like to portion out full meals for the entire week. I still approach these by loading them up the night before, but they are hands down my husband's favorite breakfast to take with him to work.  


What are some of your favorite meal prep recipes? 

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Meal Prep 101: Getting Started



Oh, meal prep. I cannot tell you how much it has changed not only my life, but our family life. Taking some time each week to plan out our meals and prepare items ahead of time obviously saves time but it also saves money, too! When my husband and I first started budgeting each month we noticed that most of our money was being spent on last minute "quick bites" aka unhealthy fast food. We have saved money by eating at home more often and we have been living healthier lives as well. Win-win! Meal prep can look different for everyone. I will break down different methods today and what has worked best for us.

Start with a clean refrigerator. Take some time to take inventory of what you have in the fridge and what you need to replenish. I like to do this on Fridays by taking everything out, wiping down the shelves with some DIY cleaner, and making my list as I go.

DIY Refrigerator Cleanser:
- 1 teaspoon of castile soap (I use Dr. Bronner's unscented)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 4-6 cups of warm water
- 3-5 drops Lemon essential oil (optional) - I like to add this in for the scent, and because lemon oil is great for cleaning grime without a lot of harsh chemicals.
Mix all ingredients together and use a microfiber cleansing cloth, washcloth, or paper towel to clean off your shelves

Make a list of essentials you need to restock. For us this is fruit, milk, and eggs. What do you find yourself reaching for consistently? Assess your pantry items as well - what has gone out of date? What are you running low on?

Create a weekly menu. This is where we get into different thought processes. I have seen people come up with one meal idea, such as a salad and sides for lunch, and put together 7 containers of individual meals. You can find this all over Pinterest and Google. This is not feasible for our family because there are too many people and not enough space. Personally I would prefer to make a big batch of that meal and take some time at night to put it in the container needed for work the next day rather than dedicating that much room in my refrigerator for lunch alone. However, if you have the room then go for it! Break out all of those containers and create individual portions. It makes grab and go very easy and you can keep on track with portion control. On the other hand, we tend to make a menu/list of what we will be eating throughout the week and I make certain items ahead of time. I organize that list like so:


Monday
Tuesday
Wednesday
Thursday
Friday
Saturday
Sunday
Breakfast
Egg muffins, fruit
Egg muffins, fruit
Egg muffins, fruit
Deli boxes
Deli boxes
Leftover items
Scrambled eggs, toast, fruit
Lunch
Salad + protein
Salad + protein
Salad + protein
Sandwich, snacking vegetables
Tuna sandwich, snacking vegetables
Leftovers from dinner
Anything left in the fridge, thrown into a soup or salad!
Snacks
Protein muffins
Protein muffins
Protein muffins
Greek yogurt + berries + granola
Greek yogurt + berries + granola
Greek yogurt + berries + granola
Snack on protein muffins/balls, any vegetables left from the week
Dinner
Tray bake
Leftovers
Crock pot meal
Leftovers
Fish + vegetables + rice
Grill out
Leftovers


Keep in mind we have a toddler, so we also make a list of her favorite foods such as fruit, yogurt, hot dogs, etc. to have on hand. While we always offer her meals we eat in order to encourage her to try new things, she is definitely on a toddler diet and we have to play it by ear.

Certain meals may vary week by week (such as dinner) but certain things I meal prep each week without fail:

- hard boiled eggs, perfect as breakfast or a protein add-on to any meal
- chopped vegetables for easy snacking such as celery, sweet peppers, carrots, cucumber
- freeze bananas for smoothies
- wash and slice berries, our daughter's favorite
- a large salad for lunches or as a side for dinner - kale is a perfect base for this because it is hearty enough to marinate in dressing for several days without getting soggy

Do the main meal prep on Sunday, and refresh on Wednesday. Wednesday is the day I boil more eggs, run out for milk if we ran out, and freeze any bananas that look like they are getting too ripe. I may also replenish our lunch salad bowl. It is also a time where I may notice that we have more leftovers than anticipated, so I can make some menu items the following week, such as chicken breast. I will freeze any meat or bread that will not be needed after all so as to not go bad.

Soon I will be sharing my favorite/go-to recipes for meal prep! Have you tried meal prep? What has worked for you?

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Making friends in a new city


Our first weekend in Cinci, 2013

Shortly after undergrad I was in the middle of applying to graduate programs when my husband received a call from an employer offering a full time job and a master's degree. The only catch? It was in a different state. He had been excited about this program and telling friends about it for months, so I didn't think twice about it when he asked me to move with him. It would be a new adventure together as a married couple. We had a family member living there, and extended family within driving distance.We packed up our small car with suitcases, an air mattress and our cat to move from Raleigh, NC to Cincinnati, OH.

Now this would be different living in a new city solo. We had a family member introduce us to a few people, and I had my husband with me. However I have lived in new cities by myself, too. Catching up with friends via text, phone calls, or messenger was nice for a short period of time but I found myself longing for an in-person friendship. I wanted to form my new tribe, so to speak. Connection is important, and I wanted to have people to share this new chapter of my life with. On my first birthday in my new city I decided to make a change and really put myself out there. It took time, but slowly I formed relationships and now five years later I can confidently say we have "settled" into a new circle of friends.

But I'm an introvert, I can hear some of you thinking. Me too. I am what I call a "very extroverted introvert" in that I am often bubbly and can talk to people, but I recharge individually. Whether you have twenty friends or one very close one is up to you and what you feel comfortable with, but it is still important to make those connections. Here is what I learned over the last few years.

Let your friends, family, and acquaintances know where you are moving. Often times someone you know will know someone in the area you are moving. Even if you do not form long lasting, deep connections with them it is nice to feel like you can reach out to someone if you need to. Say, if you have a flat tire. I've been on both ends of this: seeking people out who lived in the area I was moving, and having people let me know someone they are close to is moving into town.

Join groups or clubs that interest you. It is different making friends in your twenties than it is in college, when you are surrounded by people in the same situation as you all day and night. You have to seek people out with similar interests. Join a class, a young adult group, a moms group, a church group, a singles meetup, a community organization, a subcommittee at work. Being in close proximity to people who are into the same things as you takes out the awkward what do we have in common stage of getting to know someone. You already know you have something in common! It at least gives you something to talk about, whether that is a project you are working on together or a broader topic.

The internet is a beautiful thing. I joined a website - and there are a lot out there - which was essentially like Tinder for friendships. (Does Tinder have this? I'm a decade into a relationship so I don't know!) I know it sounds a little strange, but I actually ended up meeting up with and forming a friendship with a lady off of the website. We are five years in, and I would consider her one of my closest friends! There are meet up websites as well, so think outside of the box and give them a try. Note: be safe and use your best judgement. This website specifically verified you were a female, a real person vs. a bot, and lived locally.

Step outside of your comfort zone. Try new clubs or activities, go to an event where you have one trusted friend to fall back on, and meet up with that friend of a friend who lives in the same city as you. You really never know what will become of it. I have met people at parties through mutual friends, joined groups that neighbors are a part of, and connected with people on Facebook groups such as Blessed is She in person. Sometimes those have turned out to be great and I have continued to hang out with them, and other times I left knowing it wasn't going anywhere but feeling more confident in myself that I was able to get out and be a little more extroverted. It never hurts to practice!

It's all about your mindset. As a therapist I can tell you with utmost certainty that your thoughts are powerful. If you have negative, fearful thoughts, they will hold you back. The ultimate truth is not everyone you meet will like you, just as you do not necessarily like everyone you meet. I'm here to tell you that's okay. If everyone were the same, life would be boring. There are people out there who are meant to connect with you, who bring out the best in you, and can make you feel comfortable. Not everyone will be that for you, and you will not be that person for everyone. Go into situations hoping for the best with no expectations. Use your strengths to build your confidence. If you are introverted, chances are you are a good listener. If you are someone who is great at planning events, invite people over. If you are great at something work oriented find a need for that in the workplace such as a subcommittee or a club. Identify your strengths and use them to your advantage.

Most importantly, it takes time. It took about five years for me to feel like I have my foothold in this new space, and even then I am always growing and learning. Give yourself a little grace, it will take some time to adjust to this new chapter.

Hopefully this was helpful to you, and I wish you best of luck in your new city!

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

How do I know God loves me?



I am so excited that an article I wrote all about this question has been featured on a new ministry's website. Here is an excerpt:

As a clinical social worker, I have heard and seen a lot of pain.

Often people would sit across from me, wondering aloud if they were loveable, if they were worth fighting for, if anything they said or did mattered. Hundreds of people. People of different ages, different ethnicities, different genders. It’s a universal question I am sure we have all asked at one point or another in a moment of darkness. As a Christian woman, I have been taught that God loves us infinitely. However, it is so innately human to ask…how? How do I know God loves me? If you are a Christian, then the answers can be found in His word.
One of the simplest answers to this question is that God never forces His love upon anyone. Love is consensual, and God respects us enough to invite us into His love without demanding it. God has given us everything we need to find our way to Him if we so choose, and He longs for us to do so. For centuries people have looked to the stars and asked if there is something greater, and that is due to a desire He has placed into our hearts. The Catechism puts this beautifully: “In many ways, throughout history down to the present day, men have given expression to their quest for God in their religious beliefs and behavior: in their prayers, sacrifices, rituals, meditations, and so forth. These forms of religious expression, despite the ambiguities they often bring with them, are so universal that one may well call man a religious being.” We can find God through the world and it’s beauty, other people, scripture.

If you would like to read the article, it can be found here.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Why (and How) I am going Non-Toxic

Overall health and wellness has always been important to me. I have several family members who have been diagnosed with serious illnesses, some of whom didn't make it. Unfortunately, seeing the people in my life who I cared for and loved deeply suffer made me realize how fragile and fleeting life is. I am aware that some of those things were unpreventable, but I began to question whether there was anything I could do to give myself the best chance for a long and healthy life. Over the years I started to switch to balanced, clean eating by weeding out a lot of unnecessary processed foods. I began to incorporate physical activity into my everyday routine. I also prioritized my mental health including self care. Still, I never looked into the household and beauty products I use every day until the beginning of the year.

That is, until I started looking at all the ingredients listed on the back of the products I was using on my one year old. 

Suddenly I began asking myself, "what the heck is that ingredient?" I honestly never questioned it before, because I assumed that stores wouldn't allow companies to sell products unless they were safe for use. Why pay more money for products that are already working perfectly well? I began to Google just what those preservatives, fragrances, and other unpronounceable words were and I was shocked. "Fragrance" which is listed on almost every product you use on a daily basis commonly contain parabens, phtalates, and synthetic musks that can cause hormone disruption, reproductive problems, or other serious health concerns. According to the Environmental Working Group many companies are allowed to use "fragrance" as a catch-all term without having to describe what chemicals make it up. Even in my own life I have had allergic reactions such as rashes from products such as Tide, and was told by doctors to switch to fragrance free blends. 

I'm certainly not trying to condemn any company in particular, or any mother who uses conventional products. I simply began to have a shift in thinking. "If I am told not to take or use this while pregnant...then why use it when I'm not?" It must not be good for me, either. I decided to get back to basics. As I am currently a stay at home mom, the home is my workplace, so I am going to be overhauling it this year slowly to as many non-toxic products as possible.

The plan of action is this: I am going to replace items that we run out of with "better" options. My husband and I are creating a hierarchy of what is the most important to us for being non-toxic, and what we are fine continuing to use. The products we would like to focus on are ones that touch or are absorbed into the skin, as well as cleaning chemicals which we may be breathing in. This is especially important to me as I often clean with the little one around. I also plan on making many products at home. I can share DIY "recipes" as I perfect them in this space.

Switching to (mostly) non-toxic products can be quite expensive. That is why we are focusing on doing this over the year rather than all at once, and as we run out. DIY cleaning solutions often use things in the home such as vinegar, baking soda, and castille soap. Therefore it will be easy to throw them together with what is on hand.

I am excited to share this journey and what I learn along the way. If you have switched to non-toxic products, I would love to hear from you! Let me know your favorite products/DIY solutions. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

How I survived 1st trimester


Sounds dramatic, I know. Listen, first trimester is difficult. There is no getting around it. I know it's a miracle that you are growing a little human. I know you may even feel guilty letting other people know you are having a difficult time because there is a misconception that you are somehow ungrateful. You aren't. You are just tired of throwing up, tired of not being able to stomach any food...and just plain tired.

Every pregnancy is different, but I have learned some tips and tricks along the way to help make this one easier for myself. If they can help you too, great!

Give yourself a break. You are doing the best you can.
You are growing a human. Your body is going through so many changes, and that baby is developing at a rapid pace in those first few weeks. The brain and spine began to develop and the heart is now beating. Limbs are forming. Heck, even the baby's nose is starting to take shape. (Read more about development here.) It's no wonder that you might not have the energy to cook a fancy meal. Give yourself a little grace. Your home doesn't have to be perfect, and neither do you. Take some time for a little self care. Rest! I assure you if this is your first, you won't get a lot of rest when the baby is here. Nap or simply be still as often as you can.

Listen to your gut. Literally.
I am a huge proponent of intuitive eating. I could go on about this for a while, but I would suggest doing your own research. A really great blog post all about intuitive eating during pregnancy can be found here. Your body will react the way it does to pregnancy, and that will look differently for everyone. I carry babies differently than other women do, and I have cravings you may not. In fact our eating habits may be in stark contrast to each other. If you are in tune with your body, practice gentle nutrition, and are mindful about your eating then you will gain the amount of weight your body needs. I know I fell into the trap last pregnancy of feeling as if I needed to eat more than I wanted to because I was "eating for two". That isn't a healthy mindset, and frankly it's uncomfortable. Your baby takes up room in your body, and if you are like me then you won't be able to eat that much at a time! I have been eating balanced meals, and I usually eat several smaller meals throughout the day rather than three large ones.

Get your protein in.
Experts recommend 75 to 100 grams of protein a day for pregnant women (source). That is a lot! I have an aversion to meat when I am pregnant, so this is always difficult for me. However, I made a conscious effort this pregnancy to get as much protein in as I could. Turns out I had a much easier time this pregnancy! I know several factors play a role, but I am convinced my nutrition helped ease my symptoms.  Smoothies are your friend in the first trimester. I would often make a protein smoothie with water, chia seeds, frozen fruit, and spinach so that I could pack as many nutrients in as possible. Even when I felt sick, I could always get a smoothie down. Often drinking one would help my blood sugar, and I would be able to eat a small meal about thirty minutes later. Greek yogurt, cheese, eggs, and beans are all good sources of protein.

Blame the hormones.
One stereotype that is founded? You aren't in complete control of your emotions when you are pregnant. Remind yourself that those times where you are irrationally irritable, tearful, or anxious will pass. That isn't to say you can go around being mean to everyone and blaming the pregnancy, but the truth is hormones do crazy things to your moods. I cried over my husband turning down the heat one degree because I told him my bones hurt. I was luckily able to laugh about it and make fun of myself even while it was happening. You aren't being yourself, find the humor in it.

Find your tribe.
You are not alone! I have relied so much more on friends and my support system this time around, and I am glad I did! I asked my husband to pitch in and cook dinner sometimes, I asked people for recommendations on healthcare providers, and I learned to say yes when I was offered assistance with my toddler. The thought of miscarriage is scary, but I would rather have gone through that with people I know, love, and trust than all alone. I shared what I was going through with those closest to me, because I knew I didn't have to suffer in silence.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

First trimester recap

As I have mentioned several times I started this blog due to how helpful I found other motherhood blogs during my first pregnancy. Being an eleven hour drive away from my family I often turned to my friends and the internet for support. It only makes sense then for me to share my experiences with this pregnancy in case anyone else does a frantic Google search at two in the morning, because we've all been there.


SYMPTOMS

Nausea - This pregnancy is both very similar to and very different than my first pregnancy. I knew what to expect this time, so I prepared myself. With my first pregnancy I was sick every single day, multiple times a day and often had to carry a discreet bag in my purse with a toothbrush, mouth wash, and change of underwear (I know, sexy).  I have only been sick three times. It may be that my body is used to pregnancy this time around, I am getting more sleep, or because I am taking a different prenatal vitamin. Whatever the cause, it has been a God-send! I feel queasy and icky often, but believe me I would prefer that over what I experienced last time.

Food aversions - I experienced aversions to just about any and every food, specifically meat. Even looking at pictures of food was unpleasant until about the 12 week mark. This is the same as my first pregnancy, often meaning I had to force myself to eat anything my stomach would allow. Luckily I have learned a few tips and tricks to get all of my essential nutrients, which I will share in another blog post. Fortunately my appetite has been returning as of week 12, and I eat several small meals throughout the day.

Fatigue -  has been my most prevalent symptom, and while I certainly experienced it with the first pregnancy I am convinced it's worse because I have a toddler to keep up with! You can't take a nap before dinner when you have a fourteen month old climbing on you. This means the house is less than perfect, and I have been focusing my energy on caring for my daughter, husband, and myself. I have taken time for self care when I can either by resting when my daughter naps, sneaking off for fifteen minutes when my husband gets home, and going to bed earlier. It is upsetting that the house is messy, but my family will be happier if I am taking care of myself because their needs will be met with kindness and compassion.

Exercise has gone out the window, if I am being honest. I respect women who continue to go to the gym when they are in the early stages of pregnancy but my energy levels didn't allow it. I was in survival mode! I went for walks indoors to keep moving, and now that my energy is returning I plan do be more active. Walking actually helped my nausea and lifted my spirits when I felt hormonal. If you are able to exercise avoid any twisting exercises or laying on your back, and keep things simple. I wasn't running before I became pregnant, so I am not going to start running now. I'll go for long walks, do some prenatal exercises at home, and work on both pelvic floor strength and postural strength.

Acne - My skin always becomes very sensitive and dry during pregnancy, so I have simplified my skincare and am using gentle products. I am currently dealing with cystic acne, which is painful and embarrassing, but are a result of all the hormones and changes my body is undergoing! If you have any recommendations on how to treat that, let me know.

Sensitive to smells - Luckily I am not in the early stages of pregnancy during Lent this time around because I cannot be around fish currently. Even thinking about it right now is making me queasy. This was awful when I worked for Catholic Charities and my desk was right next to the kitchen. I had to smell fish once a week! It has been easier to avoid this pregnancy, and I usually just power walk past that section in grocery stores. Cigarette smoke also sends me over the edge, but again no one in my family smokes so I don't smell it often.

Cramping - I always get anxious about cramping in the first trimester. It is important to remember that you are feeling your uterus grow, and it is (usually) completely normal!

I have also experienced some vivid dreams and mood swings, but they haven't been too bad this trimester.


CRAVINGS

As far as cravings go, they are the same as I had before. I crave fruit, especially apples (which I don't like outside of pregnancy) and citrus. Either this baby is a girl, or that is something I will have with each pregnancy! I will be interested to see if there is a correlation. While overall I continue to have an aversion to meat, I do crave a burger every now and then. If I am being honest though, I don't experience cravings like other women seem to. I get moments where something finally sounds good to eat - and I need to take advantage of having an appetite - or certain things tasted better to me, like fruit. I don't wake up in the middle of the night craving things like you see in the movies, and didn't the first time around either.


LOOKING FORWARD TO 2ND TRIMESTER

Yes, we will be finding out the gender of the baby at 20 weeks and no, we don't have any preferences or predictions. We would love for our daughter to have a sister to play with, but would be happy with a brother for her as well! It is so funny because at my 20 week anatomy scan with my daughter I completely forgot about finding out her gender. I was so impressed with how I could see the four chambers of her heart, and how far technology has come! There is something about seeing a beautiful, healthy child that is more special to me than whether they are a girl or a boy.

I am doing things very differently this time around, which I will expand upon in another post. The jist of it is this: I am working with a different team, and planning an unmedicated and (hopefully) intervention free birth. I was "open to whatever" last time, which resulted in an unpleasant hospital induction, as well as several medical interventions where I had absolutely no input. While those interventions may have been necessary (I don't know and will never know, I am not a doctor) they made me feel as if I was not in control of my own body, and didn't have a choice in my labor. I know that I cannot ultimately plan my labor, but I want to take as many steps as I can towards a different experience. We'll chat more about that another time.

Lastly, a confession for you guys: I missed church pretty often in my first trimester. I was often afraid of throwing up in mass, sometimes threw up right before, and sometimes had no energy to look after my toddler during that time. My husband would let me sleep as much as possible during the weekends and often that would mean I slept through Sunday service. I am sharing that because I want to be open and honest about pregnancy, and that was something I experienced. I am not beating myself up about it, I kept holy the Sabbath by praying, reading the readings at home, and being kind to myself and my family. I am not holding myself up to a standard of perfection. I am glad that my symptoms have calmed down and to have more energy to attend regularly again.



This is such an exciting time, and I am happy to share this with you guys! If you are pregnant too, let me know how first trimester is going! I will be praying for you and your growing families.