an honest mom moment

As a Mom -- especially a first time Mom -- I am learning to take life one day at a time. I'm working on letting go of my expectations (which, let's get real, I have a lot). Some days I expect to get a lot done and then nothing gets done (other than snuggling in our pajamas all day, of course). Other days I plan to be lazy. Those are the days I get 3 loads of laundry done, finish all our grocery shopping, clean the house top to bottom and still have energy to spare. Funny how that works. So I try to approach each day with a positive attitude, an open mind and a calm heart while letting go of expectations. What gets done, gets done. What doesn't, doesn't. I'm learning that if the choice is between folding laundry or playing in a giant teepee with Olivia, my heart is always more full with the latter. (Don't get me wrong, I believe in keeping a neat and tidy house, wearing clean clothes and staying organized, I am just working on letting go of the constant urgency and stress of it all).

Back to my honest mom moment...
Yesterday was a day that proved to be more challenging than most. Being that for the past two weeks we've been living in an arctic tundra with what feels like 10 feet of snow surrounding our house and below zero temperatures day after day, I am not surprised that last night my husband pointed out that I am beginning to get cabin fever. I couldn't agree more. 

Yesterday was one of those days where from the first moment you get out of bed, you question why you did. I woke up after having gotten a terrible night of sleep and from the time my feet hit the bedroom floor, everything that could go wrong seemed to. Now it was all minor things, but still things I didn't plan on happening -- a fresh container of blueberries spilling all over the kitchen floor, a bad headache that wouldn't seem to go away, forgetting to mail a check for a bill, and a baby that fussed a lot more than usual. (Now, to Olivia's credit, I'm sure her little gums hurt and I know any day now she is going to show us her first beautiful and shiny little tooth. I don't blame her for her behavior, and in fact I would probably want to cry and chew on everything in sight too if I was teething.)

But the day just seemed so long. Olivia wasn't very interested in napping for either of her naps (which thankfully, is unusual) so I wasn't able to get much of a break. I began to wonder how I could possibly make it with more than one baby in the future. God gently reminded me to handle the baby He has put into my hands and not to worry about the next one. (Did you read my post on wanting a big family? Check more out HERE.) Well yesterday was a day where I felt like I am totally unprepared to have another baby. But then again I don't think you ever feel ready to have another - whether its your first or your 10th (more on that later).

Back to yesterday. My husband got home from work on time but then spent an hour shoveling and after the day I'd had, one hour felt like 10. Honestly? I was counting the minutes until he stepped in the door and I could step away to clear and quiet my mind. 

I think the hardest part was that all day, it seemed like nothing I did would soothe my baby girl, which is heartbreaking because as a Mom you feel like you should always be able to soothe your child. When Dad can't calm your baby, you always can. When nothing else works, Mom's arms are the best spot. When all a baby does is feel like crying, at the sound of mom's voice they are quiet. Well yesterday that was totally not the case. Thankfully, Dustin got Olivia laughing up a storm as soon as he walked in the house. (Of course).

By 6pm, I was feeling so run down and frustrated -- with myself, with the weather, with the headache I couldn't seem to shake -- and I just kept wondering why I got out of bed. (Obviously, I didn't have a choice but in theory, it was a valid question). After dinner, Dustin ran to get us DQ blizzards...which seemed appropriate considering (1) we're living in what feels like a never-ending blizzard so we might as well stick to the theme and (2) after a hard day, Reese's peanut butter cups always cheer me up. 
While he was out, I fed Olivia and then got her into her pajamas for bed. While I was doing so, I told her that I was sorry I wasn't myself today and that tomorrow we would both have a better day. I told her that no matter what, I will always love her. No matter what, she will always be my baby girl and I will always take care of her. No matter what kind of day we have, I will always be her Mama and she will always be my Baby. 
I kissed her forehead afterward and she began to giggle. I kissed it again and more giggles. 
Again and again, giggle after giggle. 

And then I realized, her giggle was the reason I got out of bed. 


homemade baby food | our favorites

I have had a lot of Mamas asking for me to share some of my favorite baby food recipes. 
(Clockwise from left; pictured above is roasted zucchini, roasted sweet potato, petite green peas, roasted red pepper & cauliflower; butternut squash in the center)

Making homemade baby food is SO much easier than you think and if you're interested in a full post about the process I use to make Olivia's food, you can read more HERE. Back in November, I posted about introducing solids and how I am approaching feeding Olivia. You can read more about that HERE.

Below are the vegetables I ALWAYS have on hand in the freezer (portioned out into 1 oz cubes for easy feeding) with the (super simple) preparations included.

Purchase fresh while on sale (at Whole Foods, it goes on sale every few weeks); slice and coat with extra virgin olive oil (unrefined) and place on a baking sheet; bake at 375° for 12-15 minutes; while still warm, puree in food processor (adding EVOO if needed) until smooth; serve immediately or freeze in tovolo perfect cube trays (available HERE); to reheat from freezer, place cubes in shallow frying pan with a little olive oil; heat on medium until warmed, stirring occasionally

Purchase fresh (I buy 3 lb bags from TJ's for $3.99); lightly scrub outside of potatoes; place on baking sheet lined with foil; depending on size, bake at 375° for 45-60 minutes or until fork-tender; let cool and peel skins away from potatoes; puree in food processor (adding coconut oil if needed) until smooth; serve immediately or freeze; to reheat from freezer, place cubes in shallow frying pan with a little olive oil; heat on medium until warmed, stirring occasionally

*Sweet Potatoes are excellent for MIXING with MEAT; every few weeks I bake a free-range turkey breast and then puree the turkey with sweet potatoes; meat is difficult to puree and freeze without any vegetable added and the texture is extremely undesirable (yes, I have learned from experience!)

Purchase two bags frozen; steam until tender (about 4-6 minutes); while still warm, puree with a few tablespoons of extra virgin coconut oil (EVCO) or extra virgin olive oil; serve immediately or freeze; to reheat from freezer, place cubes in shallow frying pan with EVCO or EVOO on medium until warmed, stirring occasionally

Purchase 6-8 large organic red bell peppers fresh; cut each pepper into 4 pieces, removing stem and seeds; place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper and coat in EVOO and S&P; bake at 375° for 15-18 minutes or until skins are charring and slightly peeling off; while still warm, puree in a food processor; serve immediately or freeze; to reheat from freezer, place cubes in shallow frying pan with EVOO on medium until warmed, stirring occasionally

Purchase frozen (I typically prepare 2 bags at once); steam in large pot until tender (about 8-10 minutes); while still warm, puree with a few tablespoons of real butter until smooth; serve immediately or freeze; to reheat from freezer, place cubes in shallow frying pan with butter or EVCO on medium until warmed, stirring occasionally

Purchase fresh or frozen; steam until tender (about 5-7 minutes); while still warm, puree with a few tablespoons of organic extra virgin coconut oil (our favorite HERE) or REAL butter; serve immediately or freeze; to reheat from freezer, place cubes in shallow frying pan with a little coconut or olive oil; heat on medium until warmed, stirring occasionally

(Clockwise from left; pictured above is lovely lentils, green beans, coconut carrots, turkey + sweet potatoes & broccoli)

My favorite recipe for Lentils can be found HERE.

Purchase fresh or frozen; rinse and trim ends; steam until tender (about 6-8 minutes); while still warm, puree with EVOO in food processor until smooth; serve immediately or freeze; to reheat from freezer, place in shallow frying pan with EVOO and heat on medium until warmed, stirring occasionally

Purchase 2-3 lb bag of rainbow carrots fresh; leave skins on but clean thoroughly; trim into 1 inch pieces and place on baking sheet lined with foil; coat in EVOO and S&P; roast at 375° for approximately 25-30 minutes or until tender; while warm, puree in food processor, adding EVOO as needed until smooth; serve immediately or freeze; to reheat from freezer, place in shallow frying pan with EVOO and heat on medium until warmed, stirring occasionally

Bake free-range turkey breast according to instructions; puree with cooked sweet potatoes until smooth with a 3:1 ratio of T:SP (I simply use sweet potatoes as a BINDER in this recipe; I want the majority of this to be turkey, so I know she is getting adequate protein when I serve this to her with other veggies); once pureed, serve immediately or freeze; to reheat from freezer, place in shallow frying pan with EVOO and heat on medium until warmed, stirring occasionally

Purchase fresh or frozen; rinse and chop into 1-inch florets; steam for 5-7 minutes; while still warm, puree in food processor with EVOO until smooth; serve immediately or freeze; to reheat from freezer, place in shallow frying pan with EVOO and heat on medium until warmed, stirring occasionally

(Clockwise from left; pictured above is extra virgin olive oil, extra virgin coconut oil, organic free range low sodium chicken stock (frozen), butter, and unrefined sesame oil)

ALWAYS be sure that any OILS you buy are UNREFINED! This is extremely important. Depending on the food, I add a small amount of a binder to make pureeing the food easier; with turkey, I add chicken stock; with most vegetables, I add EVCO or EVOO or Sesame oil; when I am reheating food, I tend to add a tiny bit of butter; it is a great way for Olivia to get healthy fat in her diet 


Hard-boiled Egg Yolks -- Get our favorite breakfast recipe HERE.

Wild Caught Salmon (Coho or Sockeye) -- purchase when on sale, freeze all but 1 fillet; bake and serve immediately (blended with veggies) or store in fridge up to 2 days; pull fillets out as you need them from freezer and bake

Wild Caught Alaskan Cod -- purchase when on sale, freeze all but 1 fillet; bake and serve immediately (blended with veggies) or store in fridge up to 2 days; pull fillets out as you need them from freezer and bake

Organic Free Range Chicken Breasts // Organic Free Range Turkey Breasts -- bake, blend with sweet potatoes (3:1 ratio) and freeze or serve immediately

Grass Fed Beef -- Olivia has only had a little bit of beef so far, mainly because we ourselves don't eat much beef. When we've fed it to her, it has been fresh (just cooked/not frozen) with peas or broccoli. 

We always try to offer Olivia 2-3 types of VEGETABLES PER MEAL with her PROTEIN; today for lunch she had zucchini, sweet potato, green peas, and red pepper blended with baked cod; for dinner she will have butternut squash, cauliflower and green beans blended with cod // I don't always mix the veggies together, sometimes I serve 2 oz green beans, 2 oz red peppers and 3 oz cod, all separately, it just depends on the day! 

In the morning after breakfast, I take out the cubes of veggies I will be feeding her for the day and leave them in fridge to unthaw; by lunch time, they are semi-thawed and I heat them in a shallow frying pan until warm; I then put them in the food processor and puree with whatever protein I'm using that day until smooth; you can then heat the meal again in frying pan or serve immediately (sometimes if the veggies are really hot, there is enough heat to warm up the protein)

Cod + Green Beans + Green Peas
Cod + Zucchini + Butternut Squash
Salmon + Sweet Potatoes
Salmon + Cauliflower + Carrots
Turkey + Butternut Squash + Sweet Potatoes 
Turkey + Carrots + Green Peas
Chicken + Sweet Potatoes + Broccoli
Chicken + Roasted Red Pepper

I typically feed Olivia 2-3 oz of LOVELY LENTILS for a midday snack if she is hungry but not interested in a full meal; it gives her protein and because I pack a ton of veggies (carrots, celery, onions) into the recipe, she gets an adequate amount of complex carbs too. Her meals are between 4 and 6 oz depending on the day; always at least 50% protein. Her snacks are between 2 and 3 oz, one to two times a day.

I also try to give Olivia one to two new foods each week to try, integrating them one by one to be sure she doesn't have an allergies. In February (at 9 months old) we will be introducing steamed asparagus, roasted brussel sprouts and tilapia! In March (at 10 months old) we plan to introduce quinoa and possibly brown rice to Olivia, along with other new veggies.

Do you make your own baby food or know someone who does? I'd love to hear from you if you have any favorite combinations, recipes and of course, any comments or questions! 


enjoy today, mama

“You will never have this day with your children again. Tomorrow, they’ll be a little older than they were today. This day is a gift. Breathe and notice. Smell and touch them. Study their faces and little feet. And pay attention. Relish the charms of the present. Enjoy today, Mama, it will be over before you know it.” 

EATures | Rustica Bakery

The first post of this new series - EATures - will be focusing on one of my favorite bakeries in the Twin Cities, RUSTICA BAKERY, near Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis.

Dustin and I have been enjoying all the fresh-baked goods that Rustica offers for a few years now, and because there is no other cookie like a Rustica cookie, Dustin took me there on my birthday last week to pick out my favorites. They must have known it was my birthday because our favorite kind - the Rustic Chocolate Chip - was fresh out of the oven, just warm & waiting for me.

I have to say, everything at Rustica hits the spot. They offer a wide variety of coffee and espresso beverages, fresh baked bread, European tarts and tortes, countless pastries,  miniature cakes, unique cookies and now even tiramisu! It is a perfect location to visit in the spring or summer when the weather is starting to warm up. You can grab a bottle of water and a cookie (or two three) and enjoy the afternoon walking around Lake Calhoun or sitting on the beach. It is also located next to Barnes & Noble, so on a colder day you can grab a pastry and coffee and get lost in a book right next door.

While I’ve tried a few different things, hands down my favorite two items are the Bittersweet Chocolate Chip Cookie + the Rustic Chocolate Chip Cookie. The Rustic is so unique and hard to explain; it is unlike any other chocolate chip cookie you've had before. It is the perfect balance of buttery, chewy, soft, crunchy, crispy, melty, sweet goodness. 

The Bittersweet is what you would get if a perfectly soft + chewy dark chocolate brownie had a baby with a warm, plump cookie (I couldn't resist). It is rich, laden with chunks of bittersweet chocolate, and always soft and chewy. It has the perfect amount of sweetness to it but the decadent flavor of bittersweet chocolate still carries through every bite. 


I'm telling you, if you're a local and you haven't gone there already, you must. 
Tomorrow Today.

Have an idea for my next EATure post? I'd love to hear from you!


our feeding favorites

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7

I thought I would do a round up of my feeding favorites since I have been so happy with all of these items that we've been using for the past few months since Olivia started solids.

(1) The Boon SWAP Spoons make it easy to feed Olivia and wipe her mouth -- and you have two choices of textures to use (rubber vs. metal). I love boon products and these are the only spoons I'll ever use! 

(2) I have nothing but amazing things to say about the Keekaroo Highchair -- it will grow with Olivia and has been perfect even from 4 months old (we started putting her in it two months before giving her solids so she could get used to it). Once she is a little older, we can take the booster seat out and use it at our dining room table or convert the high chair into an infant chair. We originally chose this high chair because I had used it when I nannied for family friends, and I love it because it's sophisticated, not bulky or made of (cheap) plastic, and it will grow with your babe. 

(3) The Boon Pulp Feeder is so great for Olivia to use with fruit when she is teething, and it is super easy to clean; mesh teethers wear out and get icky pretty quick. Because this is plastic, it can be thrown in the dishwasher and it's like new again after every wash!

(4) The Tovolo Perfect Ice Cube Trays make homemade baby food so easy to portion out and freeze. Read more about making your own baby food here.

(5) The A&A Burpy Bib is wonderful because it covers Olivia's body AND arms! I put that on first (especially when she is wearing a nice outfit) and then put a wipeable bib on top. I use the Burpy Bib as a burp cloth after her meals also. 

(6) The Boon Stay Put Edgeless Divider Plates are awesome for portioning out her food and not always having to mix everything. I want her to taste foods individually and learn what she likes. Plus the colors are fun and they are so easy to clean.

(7) MODIFIED: Any wipeable bib is great to put over cloth/muslin bibs. Our favorite are Snap Bibs (available here). I had a few cheap sets of wipeable bibs from Target (pictured) but once I received Snap Bibs to review, I fell in love! They can be washed with soap and water after each use and come in the most fun colors!

Happy Tuesday!


Meet Me Mondays | On Being an Only Child

I’m starting this last week of January off with a new series called “Meet Me Mondays” where once a month -- usually the 2nd Monday -- I share a post with information that most people may not know about me having simply read my blog. Now that I've launched my new blog - A Blessed Nest (formerly Mommy at 23) - I wanted to allow my readers to take a deeper look into my life and get to know me on a more personal basis as my blog changes and grows.
My goal is to do this every month for 2014.

I think it is so much fun to read other blogs but what I love most is learning about (& "meeting") the bloggers behind the posts. Some Mondays the topics will be light-hearted and others will be more serious, but each will cover different aspects of my life including marriage, parenting, my personality, experiences I have had, activities I am involved in & more. I hope you enjoy this series as much as I enjoy sharing it with you!

Born in the winter of 1990, I was the firstborn to my parents - the oldest. Of course, I didn't know it at the time but I would also be the youngest. And the last born; the only born. 

An only child.

When I was about 3 or 4 years old, I started asking my parents for a brother or sister. Oh how I wanted to have someone my age to play & pretend with. Someone to be with me so I never had to be alone. Someone who I could read with or do puzzles with instead of taking naps. A playmate that was always home, ready for an adventure. Because of this deep yearning for a brother or sister, I asked for a sibling for every Christmas and every Birthday until I was about 12 years old. (Obviously, at the time I didn't know it wasn't that simple). 24 years later, I'm still an only child.

When people meet me and find out I'm the only child in my family, they say "oh you must be so spoiled," or "oh you're so lucky," or "oh I wish I was an only child." But to me, it brings more of a sadness that I missed out on having a sibling. Now that I am married and a mom myself, I completely agree with my parent's decision to just have one. My Dad was starting up his business in 1990 and my mom went back to work full time after her maternity leave. I was blessed to be living with my maternal grandparents and to have Grandpa Milan and Grandma Bea as my primary caregivers. They played with me and read to me and did all the wonderful things that Grandmas and Grandpas do, of course, but they still didn't fill my desire for a sibling. On the weekends, my mom commuted to southern MN to help my Dad run his business. 

So this was what her schedule looked like:
Work 40-50 hours/week M-F in a stressful career (while taking care of me in the evenings)
Pack me up & make a 3-hour trip down South on Friday afternoon after work
Work all weekend in my Dad's business while also caring for me
Drive back home Sunday night, get me to bed and do it all over again

Get this, my incredible mom did this for 13 years straight from the time I was two months old! 
Can you see why I am an only child? And can you see why I love and respect my Mom so much?

Olivia keeps me and Dustin plenty busy and I have his help 7 days a week! On the weekends we don't commute anywhere and during the week, my only job is to be a mom, and while it's a never-ending job, it has so many amazing perks. It's a job I wouldn't trade for the world.

For many years, I struggled with being an only child. I always felt like I was missing out on something that so many people around me had. The bond you form with a sibling is unlike any bond you will ever have with anybody else, and that bond would be a special one I would never experience. Part of my heart still aches for a sibling, but I know the choices my parents made were the right ones and I am blessed far beyond my wildest dreams with the family I have, so I focus less on the lack and more on the abundance.

In the 24 years I've been alive, I've met many people who are only children, and 9 times out of 10, I find that they want to just have one child also. They loved being the only one growing up and hope to give their child the same experience. I always find this so intriguing, because my heart is pulled completely in the opposite direction.

Because I grew up as an only child, I want a big family. I've always pictured living in a big house out in the country, with lots of kids and lots of love. I envision big family dinners on Sunday nights, where my husband and I gather around a large table and share a meal as a big family. I daydream about all my children and their relationships with one another, their different personalities, their quirks and their love for being a part of a big family. I hope that our house -- filled with chaos & noise & little babes everywhere -- is the house that everyone always wants to be at. I think about hosting holidays and celebrating birthdays and tucking in all my babies at night. I pray for a big family since I grew up in such a small one. God shaped in me this desire through the experience I had of being an only child. And I know that when God places a desire in your heart, He brings it to pass.

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