Friday, March 24, 2017

How to Meal Plan Like a Pro

It IS possible to cook delicious, healthy and affordable meals at home on a regular basis. Not only that, the options are endless! Here are 6 tips for creating totally doable meal plans!

1. Keep it simple
   I'm a foodie at heart and would love to make a 3-course meal every night, but it's just not realistic. We are a family of four on one income. Time is limited, and so is our budget. My goal when meal planning to have an attainable goal set for myself with meals that are affordable, fast, and healthy.

2. Shop the sales
   Every week I look at the sales at my favorite local grocery store and use those ingredients, along with what I already have, to plan my meals. This past week; ravioli, Greek yogurt, fresh herbs, and butter were all on sale. I already had garlic and paprika at home, and that gave me all the ingredients to make Weeknight Turkish Manti. I wanted to add a fresh side dish and saw that tomatoes were also on sale, so I put together a tomato and cucumber salad. The only thing I paid full price for in this meal was a cucumber!
    If you see ingredients that look like they'd go well together but you don't have a particular dish or recipe in mind, check out the ingredient search on

3. Start with produce
   In an effort towards plant-based eating, I look at the produce that's on sale first. That way I start the meal-planing process thinking about the veggies I want to include, rather than making them an afterthought.

4.Warm up to leftovers
   Why do I only plan 3-4 meals a week? Because I only want to take the time to cook 3-4 times a week. This way, I can maximize the savings by making larger batches that will feed us more then once, and I get a few dinner's-already-done nights off! every week!

5. Use what your mama gave you - your slow cooker
   It doesn't always work out, but I try to have a slow cooker meal on the menu once a week. It gives me a sense of accomplishment in the morning that dinner's already been made, and it frees up my time in the evening so I can get more done elsewhere or, on a good day, have some extra downtime with Hubs.

6. Branch out
   When you're trying to eat healthy, quick, and affordable meals, it's easy to find yourself in a rut. Look to cuisines that you are less familiar with and try something new! You could make that tuna casserole ... again, or you could try whipping up some gazpacho or pineapple enchiladas!

Do you have any other tips for planing meals? I'd love to hear them!

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Dear Me at 3 am: An Open Letter for Sleep-Deprived Mothers

Dear me at 3am, 

First of all, I know where you are. I know you haven't felt rested in what feels like years. I know this is the 5th time you've put the baby down tonight and he's teething on you as he nurses. Ouch. I know you eat most meals standing up, and if you manage to sit you're probably feeding a baby at the same time and trying not to drop food on him in the process - all while trying to make sure your oldest doesn't feel ignored and knows how much he is loved. I know it feels like your children are abnormal in their ability to survive without sleep, and if one more website says the baby should be taking multiple 2-hour naps, you may need to replace your phone (plus whatever it hits when you throw it). I know you have exhausted yourself meeting the needs of those around you and you could really use a nap, a hug, a glass of wine, and a cookie.

But here's what you need to keep in mind ...

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

5 Questions That Will INSTANTLY Help You Achieve Your Goals

You decide that this is the year that you finally achieve that goal that keeps escaping you. This is the year ... but what is it that is going to make this year so different than the others? Is there anything that can help make this time around the last time?  Rest assured that there is! Answering these five questions can help you boost your chances of success before you even start! For added impact, make sure to write down your goals and answers where you can see them throughout the year. I'm writing mine in my bullet journal. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

My Unmedicated VBAC : L's Birth Story

I really, truly cannot stress how different my two birth stories are. With Z, I knew when labor was starting, and the whole process was very straight forward until he stopped descending and I needed an emergency C-section. You can read his full birth story HERE.

If L's birth story is any indication, he definitely seems like a child that will have a mind of his own and will keep me on my toes! My Braxton Hicks contractions started around week 20 this time around, much earlier than with Z. This "false labor" continued off and on for weeks. Finally, the Monday before my due date, it seemed like things were starting to progress. Z was a few days early, so it didn't seem too far fetched that L would be even earlier. We walked the zoo, we walked the mall, we ate all the foods thought to induce labor, the whole shabang. No baby.

Mall walking at 39 weeks
Tuesday, my contractions were consistently close enough together for Hubs to stay home - we knew L was on his way! Until the contractions kept coming at the same rate and didn't progress ALL. DAY. LONG. I tried to use the time well and got in for a final chiropractic adjustment. L had been OP (sunny-side up) and we were using the Webster technique to encourage him to turn. Z's OP position and raised chin are the very things that kept him from descending and led to my C-section, so we wanted to do everything we could to achieve a VBAC this time around.

Wednesday the contractions were consistently even closer together, but still stayed at the same steady rate all day long. I had a prenatal appointment that day and finally asked for a cervical check. Let's see if all these contractions are getting me anywhere! I was very happy to hear that I was 80% effaced and 4-5 cm dilated - however, L was still at a -3 station. Despite the cervical changes, he was not descending at all.

Not again.

I spoke with my doula and started learning some exercises from the Spinning Babies site to encourage L to move down. Labor seemed to slow down a bit, so I welcomed the night off and planned to start doing the exercises in the morning.

Thursday, my mother-in-law was staying with me (just in case) and helping me get to another prenatal appointment with Z in tow.  As a VBAC, I was only able to go past my due date after taking a peek at the baby and confirming that everything looked healthy. We decided to grab breakfast on the way and my contractions started to pick up in timing and intensity - but this had been happening for days, so I wasn't too concerned.

By the time we made it to the OB, I was having to focus on breathing through the contractions a bit more. I remember sitting in the lobby and closing my eyes to breathe through a pretty strong one when I heard my nurse midwife utter a knowing "uh-oh". She decided we needed to skip the exam that I came in for and do another quick cervical check. I was even more dilated and effaced, and L had moved down to a -1! Amen!!

It's a good thing the OB was right across from the hospital because that's we were heading. Do not pass "GO". Do not collect $200. It's time to have a baby. I called Hubs, my doula, and my mom on our way out the door.

Everything after this point gets a little foggy. I filled out what felt like a mountain on paperwork in between contractions, and I heard my husband's voice behind me as I headed to the hospital room. My mom and my doula arrived shortly after and helped me focus through labor. They had to do continuous monitoring (I know, not my ideal) so I spent the first half-hour or so on the bed while they got a baseline. That wasn't the most comfortable position for me, even once I switched to kneeling on the bed and leaning on Hubs for support.

Finally, I was able to labor off the bed and try different positions. At this point, my contractions were far more intense than they ever were with Z, even after several hours of natural labor. I think the way he descended so quickly made for some VERY strong contractions. I found it most comfortable to be standing or sitting up, so I alternated between the two and my water broke while I was sitting on the bedside potty that we were using as a birthing stool. Once that happened, the intensity went from a level 10 to a 15. I asked several times if it was too late to get an epidural, asked for one a couple of times, and told them to let me know before it was too late to get one. They knew, though, that I did NOT want an epidural.  The pain and intensity was causing me to have some moments of weakness but I hated the way the epidural made me feel with Z and I had made it very clear to the team that I wanted to go "natural".  I prayed. I cursed. I thanked the team for their help.  I told them I didn't like them at all and they needed tic-tacs. I was emotionally all over the place.  

I had no choice but to push now. There was so much going on internally that I became largely unaware of what else was happening in the room. The next thing I knew my birth team was telling me to get on to the bed as quickly as possible and the amount of people in the room seemed to triple. I heard them telling me that I needed to get on the bed for the baby and that he needed help, but I was so overwhelmed by everything that was happening in my body and the contractions were coming so quickly that it seemed nearly impossible to move.  Eventually though, I made it onto the bed and they helped me onto my back. The rapid decent was causing L's blood pressure to drop too low and they needed to get him out as soon as they possibly could. I pushed once and they said they said they could see him crowning. On the second push I felt a big release and the warmth of L's body as he slid out.  I thought it was over but then I realized I needed one more big push.

3 days of labor, 4 hours in the hospital, 3 pushes and this boy was out!

Baby L was placed on my chest and Hubs cut the cord. L was here and it was all over.

Except it wasn't quite. I had torn significantly and needed to be stitched up - and I would later realize that the quick labor also bruised my tailbone and knocked it out of place. (By the way, I didn't feel the "ring of fire" or the tear happen at all)

I lost a lot of blood during the whole process and started to feel very faint and turned even more pale than my usual Scotch-Irish self, but a bag of IV fluids helped almost immediately.

We had the room to ourselves as a family for a couple of hours and we brought Z in to meet his baby brother. Soon thereafter, I noticed L's breathing sounded a little funny and I had the nurse take a listen. Long story short, the fast birth left some fluid in his lungs and he had to go to the NICU for a few days. I wasn't able to nurse him for a while, but I pumped and brought the milk to him for when he was able to take it. Unfortunately, the IV fluids meant a lack of poop, which meant jaundice - but soon we were able to bring L home!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Black Bean Soup (With all the Fixin's)

First off, I want to apologize for the lack of posts lately. My computer has been practically unusable and I've been trying to figure out what the issue is. Unfortunately, my technical issues are happening just as my prenatal and chiropractic appointments are moving to every week and Z appears to be dropping his one nap.


When I'm 9 months pregnant.


Silver lining though - as a result of my "I'm too pregnant to feel like doing anything but not pregnant enough to be nesting yet" state, I've been trying to think of super easy but healthy meals. This week I whipped up a simple but delicious black bean soup with all the fixin's. You seriously won't believe how easy this is to put together. It would make the perfect side dish to a Mexican or Southwestern meal, or you can add some rice to make it entree material.  I'll get a proper photo up once my technical issues are resolved!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Update: 35 Weeks Pregnant

Ack! We only have 5 weeks left before Baby L is expected to arrive. We've had a productive couple of weeks.  The hospital bags are packed and the birth plan is finalized and with the doula. We splurged to have the condo cleaned and the car detailed (no 2-year-old crumbs for Baby L). We have the infant seat base installed in the car and, last but not least, I chopped off my hair!

No, chopping your hair off isn't usually a pre-baby to do, but I was desperate. Florida heat and the third trimester do not a good pair make ... plus, I stopped dying my hair red sometime ago so I had an ash blonde to faded red ombre look going on.  No more! Take a look!



I am so glad I finally cut my hair.  I've been thinking about it for the longest time and never had the guts, mainly because I was afraid of my "at risk" chin (you know, when you suddenly get a double chin when you look down to check your watch?)

The thing is, I was just yanking my hair back 24/7 anyhow, so it's not like I was making any attempt to hide it.  Ergo, later hair! It feels so light and healthy now! I'm also getting a chance to rediscover my natural hair color after 18 years of dying it. Thanks TSwift for bringing ash blonde back.

I promise I will get one of my usual posts up soon, but right now I'm going to take a nap.  :)

Did you make a drastic hairstyle change when you were pregnant? I'd love to hear about it!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Caprese Orzo Salad

Whew! I still have 6 weeks go and this baby feels like he's ready to arrive any day! I'm getting everything washed and packed into our hospital bags, finalizing the nursery and getting the car seat bases installed. We also have our Spanish mama in town and a tropical storm hitting as we speak - so it's been exciting!

But now onto the good stuff ... 
A caprese salad is probably the most refreshing, simple, and elegant vegetarian dish I know of.  Hubs and I often enjoy it along with pasta, and we frequently have leftover bits that are difficult to transfer to lunch bags... it just becomes too sloppy! I thought it would make a great healthy lunch option otherwise, so I created this Caprese Orzo Salad. Try it for your next summer cookout or family gathering!

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