Food & Recipes

A Wine + Chocolate Girls NIght

January 28, 2016

*This post was sponsored by Ghirardelli. All opinions are my own. Thanks for supporting the brands that make E&C possible. 


January is a long month in the Midwest. I mean, after New Year’s there is a long stretch filled with cold days without much to celebrate. So what’s a girl to do? My answer was to get the girls together for a wine and chocolate party. It was the perfect way to break up the weekday routine and host friends in our newly renovated house for the first time. Although the house isn’t finished quite yet, we have a few finished rooms and that calls for a party!

The good thing about not having much on our walls right now was that I had a nice open wall to set up the spread of wine, chocolate, fruit, cupcakes and chocolate-dipped marshmallows. I was aiming to keep things on the simpler side so it wasn’t too hard to pull together on a busy weeknight but I tried to get a lot of “wow” for my minimal effort.


Because it was a weeknight and our kitchen isn’t yet finished, I used boxed dark chocolate cupcake mix in these pretty pink foil liners I got from Walmart. The frosting was also purchased, but piping it on with either a piping bag or a zip top bag with the end snipped off makes it look a little more homemade. I topped each cupcake with a Ghirardelli Valentine’s Day chocolate and I think they turned out pretty cute!

The marshmallows were dipped in melted milk chocolate and once the chocolate hardened I used paper pop sticks and ribbon to finish off the look. And I added some fresh fruit to the mix for a lighter option and the fact that fresh fruit feels like such a luxury in the middle of a Midwest winter, doesn’t it?


When we moved back to Iowa from Minneapolis I was a little worried we would have a tough time finding good wine locally. Growing up I remember the options being seriously limited, but I was happy to discover that has changed. Small-town Iowa has upped their game in recent years. The night’s wines were a selection of red wines (pinot nior, merlot and cab) from Josh Cellars, which has always been a favorite.

Sometimes life feels so busy and hectic that I feel as if I don’t have the time during the week to do fun things like girls night. It can be hard to coordinate child care, the busy schedules of others, food and drink, etc. But I was reminded last night that it’s absolutely worth it, and maybe even necessary, to take time to build and maintain relationships with the women in our lives. As everyone left, we all agreed that we should make it a regular thing. Thanks, ladies, for taking the time out of your schedules to make this happen!



The Number Doesn’t Matter

January 27, 2016


A few weeks ago, I made a rookie mistake. You see, I found the perfect pair of jeans a few months ago. They fit great, looked good and were so dang comfortable. Then, a couple weeks ago, they started to feel a little bit loose. So what’s a girl to do? I bought the size smaller. Despite making huge strides in my journey to body self-acceptance, I let myself slip into thinking that the number on a pair of jeans had anything to offer me in terms of telling the story of my self worth.

Sure, the jeans zipped and buttoned, but they didn’t make me feel great. Actually, they made me feel like a sausage. I felt uncomfortable and self-conscious and generally gross. Because instead of seeking out clothes that fit my body just the way it is, I started chasing the number on a tag. And, as most of you know, that’s never a road that leads to happiness or satisfaction.

Since I needed a little reminder and re-focusing, I went back and read my post of finding the perfect pair of jeans. Hint hint: Tip number 5 was finding a pair that fits well, regardless of the number on the tag. Why do we always need to be reminded of this?!

In this case, the smaller number wasn’t the best fit. I felt more comfortable, confident and good about my body in the jeans that I had been wearing all along! And in case you’re looking for some additional reading, I remember reading this article from my blog-buddy Stephanie that is totally worth the read!



Mommy Martyr

January 26, 2016


Yesterday was not a particularly shining day for me. I woke up feeling flat-out sorry for myself for a handful of reasons that now seem too petty and foolish to list. Most of the time Mondays as work days for me, but I had rescheduled our childcare for the week so we could take Ainsley to a doctor’s appointment in a city about an hour and a half away. My mom was planning on coming along so we could make a full girl’s day of it – shopping, Costco, Starbucks, but when the weather turned nasty that direction we decided to stay put and reschedule our appointment.

I was bummed. What was going to be a fun day out of our routine turned into a day at home with Ainsley in the middle of our construction zone with a bunch of mundane tasks on my to-do list. At breakfast Joe told me it would be a good idea to reschedule appliance delivery until another issue in the house was resolved. I snapped at him and told him how I had to have all the hard conversations and he got to “boss me around” (yes, I really said that!) Before he left for work, I told him to go to the gym after work, secretly thinking what a nice wife I was because I was encouraging one of his favorite activities. Meanwhile, I spent my day running errands, grocery shopping, trying to track down a specific brand of wine for a blog project I’m working on, and having conversations about our renovation.

When Ainsley when down for her (short!) afternoon nap, I did the “mommy hustle” and ran downstairs to put on workout clothes, get my 30 minute workout in, shower and be ready for inevitable wake-up 50 minutes after she went down. I felt rushed, per usual, and when she insisted on being held the last 2 hours of the day, more than a little frazzled.

Before Ainsley was born I dreamed about this type of schedule. Where I worked part-time in a creative job I enjoyed and got to invest time and energy into blogging part-time as well. When Ainsley came along it was so hard to be away from her 40+ hours a week and I longed to spend more time with her, something a part-time schedule allowed. But yesterday? Well, it got the best of me.

By the time Joe got home, I was in full-blown mommy martyr mode.

I had to spend the whole day with Ainsley, meeting her needs and cleaning up endless dirty diapers and preventing her from eating construction material. Poor me!

My workout was rushed. It didn’t consist of getting away to the actual gym but instead involved a workout video, free weights and a yoga mat in my messy basement. Poor me!

I had to have tough and/or uncomfortable conversations surrounding our house remodel. Confrontation is not my style. Poor me! 

The last two hours of the day Ainsley needed to be held, meaning I got dinner on the table while holding a fussy baby. My arm feels like it is about to fall off and there is a pile of dirty dishes in the utility sink waiting to be washed. Poor me! 

The list goes on and on. I was stuck in a pity party rut that ended with me blowing up at Joe for not being helpful enough. And then this morning, while doing my devotional and drinking a hot cup of coffee before everyone else woke up, I flipped the conversation and thought about things through Joe’s eyes:

He worked all day and spent precious time away from me and Ainsley while we spent time together. He works a full-time corporate job because he loves the structure, yes, but also because it allows for me to work my flexible job. When I couldn’t find the right wine at our local grocery stores he willingly ran after work to pick them up for me near his work. I got to workout during the middle of the day while Joe had to spend more time away from us to get his workout in later. After his workout, he ran to my mom’s house to pick up a few items for me for our home decor. He woke up early to let our dog out and let her out last thing in the evening, too.

When I flipped the conversation a bit, I realized that the story I was telling myself was SO one-sided. I was playing the mommy martyr game really, really well while Joe was quietly going about doing task after task without complaint. Have you ever had a day(s) that turned out like that? It was a light-bulb moment for me. Not to say that I’ll never act this way again, but taking just a few minutes to think about the other side of the equation put my own thoughts into proper perspective. Now that I’ve had some time for reflection, devotion and quiet time, it’s amazing how my heart becomes softened toward my husband and less focused on me, me, me!

For me, I’m realizing more and more that the key to a good day starts with getting up before the rest of the house. Mornings have always been my favorite time of day, and having a solid hour to sit, drink my coffee and eat breakfast, get in God’s word and then attack a few pressing tasks sets my day on a completely different trajectory than if I wake up when Joe gets up, just 30 minutes before Ainsley’s 7 am wake up time.

Today, I’m starting my day thankful. Thankful for forgiveness and fresh starts and the blessings that abound in my little corner of the world. And when you start your day thankful rather than in pity? Well, it changes your whole day.



The Food I Eat :: Postpartum Edition

January 25, 2016


My body has gone through a lot of changes in the past year. I’ve grown a baby, gained 30 pounds, had a baby, lost 35 pounds and now spend a good portion of each day chasing after a little one who is always on the go and on the verge of walking. Personally, I think what I eat is a fairly dull topic, since I tend to be a bit of a robot in terms of my daily food choices, but I’ve had a number of inquiries as to how I got back in shape after baby and what I eat these days.

First things first, I should say that the way we all eat is so very personal. What I eat works really well for me and my body, but it may not work well for you. Some people do really well with Paleo-style eating or cutting out all carbs or not eating dairy. For me, not eating meat has always jived well with my body. I eat a vegetarian diet that is heavy on veggies, whole grains and plenty of fat in the form of full-fat dairy, heavy cream in my coffee, butter and nut and seed butters.

During the weekdays I like to keep things simple, choosing to eat the same most days for breakfast and lunch, only really mixing it up for dinner, which we eat together as a family. On the weekends I mix things up a little bit more, and I try to never count calories or restrict my eating in any way (other than not eating meat) because it messes with my mind and my natural barometer as to what makes my body feel its best.

Over the years I’ve been slowly making progress toward eating without guilt, enjoying treats in moderation. Once I gave myself the freedom to eat whatever I wanted, I started to make food choices based on how foods made me feel. And the truth be told? You crave what you eat. Most of the time (I said most!) I would rather eat a big bowl of roasted veggies than a bowl of pasta with alfredo sauce or a big piece of cake.

Cooked oatmeal with chia seeds, a splash of milk, cinnamon and a little stevia with a couple tablespoons of nut or seed butter. When fruit is on sale or in season, I try to add some raspberries or blueberries to the mix. I also consume multiple cups of coffee with heavy cream in the morning, but I’m working on drinking more water to balance everything out.

++ Multi-vitamin, fish oil, probiotic and vitamin D

Most days I have a smoothie made with Vega Protein + Greens. It contains vegan protein and two servings of veggies in every scoop, so I love knowing that I am getting plenty of nutrition mid-day. I make it with whole or 2% milk, a spoonful of nut butter, ice and some sort of frozen fruit.

Afternoon Snack
This is hit or miss for me, but most days I usually end up having a small snack to tide me over until dinner. Some nuts, veggies with hummus, a couple cheese sticks, nut crackers, etc. It’s never anything too fussy or fancy, just enough to keep me from getting hangry at my family.

This meal is all over the place. I have been trying to get into a routine of cooking more new recipes from blogs and cookbooks to keep myself fresh and sharp and creatively inspired. I’ve had a few people ask me about how I cook for my non-vegetarian husband and myself. Usually I’ll start with a recipe that is vegetarian or vegan and then figure out how to add meat into the dish or on the side for Joe. Stir-fry recipes with veggies and a whole grain are filling for me and easy to add meat in at the last minute. Or I’ll make a pot of chili but reserve some without meat.

Sometimes I made a roast in the crock pot or shredded chicken sandwiches in the slow cooker and that works for Joe for a couple meals. In that case I’ll make a huge pan of roasted veggies, some type of whole grain and beans, lentils or cheese for protein. I like dinner to be on the simpler side when it is left up to me.

That said, it’s not all discipline and perfect eating at our house, either. We love pizza and make it at home all the time. And I’ve been known to dress up a pot of Annie’s mac and cheese with black beans and sauteed kale and call it a meal. It’s filling, quick and a little indulgent, which is fine by me.

I’m always going to be the type of person who needs something sweet in the late evenings. Lately my favorite combo is a little bit of nut butter with a little bit of cocoa powder and a small drizzle of honey all mixed together to make a healthy “truffle” of sorts. Or sometimes I’ll have a little piece of dark chocolate, a few chocolate covered almonds or a bite of something sweet Joe is having. It’s never really a true dessert, but when paired with a cup of dark roast decaf coffee it makes for a pretty satisfying end to the day.


Pregnancy, Family

Sibling Spacing

January 21, 2016


When Ainsley turned 9-months-old, the questions about baby #2 started to roll in. I’m not sure if it’s just me, but that sounds a little early to start talking about the (hopefully, God willing) next baby, doesn’t it? I mean, I’m still calling myself a “new mom” and still very much feel like a new mom in so many ways, and people are wondering if I’m thinking about round two?

Like most women once they’ve had a baby who starts to grow away from baby and closer to toddler, I get nostalgic for those sweet newborn cuddles, itty bitty clothes and everything that is so very tiny and sweet about a new baby. I see commercials with babies on TV and I oooh and ahhh about newborns because let’s face it, they’re so incredibly cute! (See example, below)


I joke quite often that I vacillate between wanting to have 10 kids and wanting to only ever have one kid depending on how the day is going. But these very real questions about baby #2 have me thinking about if there really is a good time to start thinking about the next. The answer, I’m sure, is that there is never any perfect timing in life and eventually you just have to do the dang thing, but I’m pretty certain that having one baby has made me even more terrified to have another. Knowledge is power, right?

The truth is this: Our family has now fallen into a pretty good rhythm with Ainsley. She sleeps well, naps (fairly) well, we’re becoming more mobile and enjoying all the things that we couldn’t enjoy with a very little baby. Each and every day she gets more and more fun and my enjoyment for motherhood grows with her.

But when I think about those first few months I get a little sick to my stomach. I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining, because after two miscarriages I’m so very thankful to have the opportunity to be a mom. However, those early months were so much harder than I could have anticipated, and going back there scares me to death.

Since Ainsley didn’t nurse I was stuck in the most awful cycle of exclusive pumping and multiple midnight feedings. I would feed Ainsley a pre-pumped bottle of milk, then put her back down and pump for the next feeding. It took so much time and energy and drained me emotionally. Next time around if presented with the same situation I think I would give myself permission to throw in the towel right off the bat.

And then there are those awkward first few months that come with the postpartum body. Anyone who has been pregnant knows what I’m talking about, right? Between the night sweats, the ever-changing sizes and the clothes that don’t fit and more, it’s just so very awkward. Now that I’ve finally gotten back into shape even thinking about doing it all over again is giving me pause.

We’ve always said we think we want a little more space between our kids, but I can see the obvious benefits to having your kiddos close together in age as well. And while it’s ultimately going to be a personal decision from family to family, I’m curious to know: How did you decide when the right time was to have another baby? How did you decide on spacing and age gaps? 


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