Family

Slow down, momma!

April 26, 2016

Ainsley_3

Like many days before it, one day last week I was rushed. We had been stuck inside for a couple days because of endless rain and cold wind, and I was, admittedly, going a little stir crazy being cooped up inside with a teething toddler who wanted to climb on all the things and a to-do list a mile long. That say, like every other day, I was trying to strike a balance between getting things done and being a present parent, engaged in Ainsley and her activities while juggling laundry and freelance work during nap time and answering e-mails while she played on the floor.

In the quiet moments at the end of the day, when I’m giving Ainsley her last sippy of milk and rocking with her in the chair, my body finally slows. My mind rests. I realize that without realizing it, I’ve been “sprinting” through my day jumping from one task to another trying to do it all.

“Slow down!” I hear a voice in my head say. “Find time for what matters.”

Ainsley was having a little toddler meltdown. But this time, on this day, instead of brushing it off or trying to distract her with something new I simply sat down next to her and started watching her play, letting her hand me toy after toy. Her mood instantly mellowed. She become calm and content and played happily with me by her side.

How did I miss the fact that my “fussy toddler” really just wanted my undivided attention and time? All she desired was for me to stop, slow down and sit with her, to see the world through her eyes. The greatest gift we can give our children is the gift of ourselves, when we’re not distracted or multitasking, just present and fully engaged.

When Ainsley wakes up early in the morning or cuts a nap absurdly short or fights bed time and comes to sit with mom and dad on the couch, I tend to get a little agitated. It’s my first response because I’m human and “my time!” has been taken away. But I read somewhere on the internet this week that you can change the conversation. Instead of thinking about those moments as interruptions, think about them as “God appointments” with our children. Special, unexpected moments that we get with them while they may have otherwise been asleep or doing something that didn’t require our attention.

Last night we put Ainsley to bed at her usual 7:30. She feel right to sleep without a peep, but around 8:30 she woke up entirely distraught, which was unusual for her. We gave her milk and put her back down. Still upset. I rocked her and cuddled with her until her breathing slowed before I laid her back down. Still upset.

Finally, around 9, Joe scooped her up and brought her into the living room with us to watch Dancing With the Stars. Ainsley doesn’t watch much, if any, television and is obsessed with music, singing and dancing so it was a very special treat. She clapped her hands after the performers danced and bounced up and down as the music played. She was mesmerized and we had such fun watching her. The night got even better for Ainsley when she got to share a bowl of ice cream with daddy. The look of delight and satisfaction on her face was priceless.

I don’t know what it was last night, but Ainsley needed us. She needed cuddles, time, attention and love. What a joy it is to be able to be the ones that she wants.

So today, slow down, momma. Find the moments in your day to give to your time and attention to your little ones. Love them, cuddle them, play with them. Put your phone down (I’m speaking to myself, too!) and observe the way they process the world around them. What they need most is you.

Madison

Food & Recipes

Weekend Breakfast // Brown Sugar Bacon

April 25, 2016

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Weekend brunching was one of my favorite things to do in Minneapolis when we lived there. Picking out a new restaurant or visiting an old favorite first thing Saturday morning, drinking really wonderful lattes and getting a slow start to the weekend. Since Joe and I are morning people (and now, so is our kid) we’ve always been the kind of people who were first to brunch, meaning we could skip the lines and masses of people, too.

Sadly, weekend brunch spots are very limited these days, so we’ve started our own breakfast traditions at home. Good because we save lots of money. Bad because I have to clean the dishes after. I love living in small-town Iowa, but man I miss all the great restaurant options in MSP.

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Joe would eat bacon every morning if I would make it, but it’s reserved for weekends in our house. I’ve taken to making bacon in the oven because it doesn’t make a mess and keeps the bacon smell contained a bit more, too. The lingering bacon smell is the greatest detraction for me when considering bacon-making at our house, but the oven or grill both work really well and remedy the smell issue for the most part.

This brown sugar bacon recipe isn’t really a “recipe” at all since I sort of just threw it together without measuring, but that’s part of the fun. It’s a no-fuss weekend idea that yields amazing bacon every time. Caramelized, sweet and salty and oh-so good. Even this vegetarian had to have a few bites. 😉

Weekend Breakfast // Brown Sugar Bacon
 
Ingredients
  • 6 or 8 slices of thick-cut bacon
  • Brown sugar (about ¼ to ⅓ cup)
  • Sea salt and cracked black pepper
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Lay bacon in a single layer on prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle with the brown sugar. Press the brown sugar into the bacon to coat evenly in a thin, even layer. Flip bacon and repeat on the other side.
  3. Sprinkle the top of the bacon lightly with the sea salt and cracked black pepper.
  4. Bake 15 to 18 minutes or until bacon is dark around the edges and crispy. Remove bacon from pan and transfer to another piece of parchment paper to cool. Bacon will get crispy and almost candy-like as it cools.

 

Food & Recipes

Hummus Platter Made Easy

April 22, 2016

This is a sponsored post written on behalf of The Women Bloggers in association with @KendalKingGroup and #SoapboxInfluence; however, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

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As a vegetarian, hummus is my go-to food of choice for adding protein to meals and added flavor to sandwiches. It’s crazy how much hummus we go through in our house each week, and I’m the only one eating it! I’ve been all over the hummus board, making it myself from scratch, buying it in the store and eating it in restaurants. I guess you could call myself a hummus connoisseur – I know good hummus and really bad hummus.

Small-town living has changed the way I cook. We don’t have access to nearly as many food options as we did living in Minneapolis, meaning I cook at home nearly every night of the week. I’ve been trying to create more “restaurant-like” meals at home in an attempt to keep things fresh and fun.

With the warmer weather on the horizon, this hummus platter is perfect for summer entertaining. There’s just something so enjoyable about setting out a platter full of goodies and allowing the group to mix and match their perfect platter, right? Plus, it can be prepped in advance for stress-free entertaining, which I’m all about.

For this recipe I used the new Bush’s Hummus Made Easy. I’ll be honest in saying that I was a little skeptical when I first saw the package. Are you sure this is going to work? And more importantly, how will it taste? Believe me when I say that they now have a customer for life.

I know the Hummus Made Easy product is geared toward ease, but it also happens to make the best tasting hummus I’ve had in ages without all the junk that’s found in a lot of the pre-made hummus. Each packet contains a mixture of tahini, olive oil, lemon juice and spices commonly found in hummus recipes. All you have to do is combine the packet with a can of Bush’s beans (chickpeas or black beans, depending on the flavor) and pulse in the food processor. Since I like my hummus with a little texture, I only processed it for a few seconds and it was perfect.

Hummus Platter Made Easy
 
Ingredients
  • 1 packet Bush's Original Hummus Made Easy
  • 1 can (15 oz) Bush's canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • ¼ cup crumbled Feta cheese
  • Olive oil and cracked black pepper
  • Dippers and Garnishes
  • 4 to 6 white or whole wheat pita breads, cut into wedges
  • ½ of a medium English cucumber, sliced and cut in half
  • ½ cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Sliced red, orange and/or yellow sweet peppers (bell peppers)
  • Kalamata olives
Instructions
  1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the Hummus Made Easy and chickpeas. Process until you get desired level of smoothness. I like mine a little chunky so I processed only about 15 to 20 seconds.
  2. Spoon hummus into bowl. Top with the crumbled feta and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with cracked black pepper to taste.
  3. Place bowl on a large tray. Arrange desired garnishes and dippers around hummus as pictured.

 

Fashion

Best Anthro Finds Under $100

April 20, 2016

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I think one of the best ways to analyze your wardrobe is to look through what you have in your closet and examine the pieces that have stood the test of time. You know, the tops and dresses and pants that have been with you for years, that you keep coming back to wearing and loving time and time again. It’s been by doing this that I’ve really been able to see what stores are worth buying clothes from and what stores I should avoid.

It was by doing this that I noticed that tops and dresses from certain stores never got more than a couple wears before they were no longer flattering or didn’t wear well. I also realized that there were certain brands and retailers that were pricier on the front end but have been worth every penny in the long run. Anthropologie is one of those stores. The tops and dresses I’ve purchased there are high quality, beautiful and yes, a lot more expensive than other stores. However, the clothes that I’ve purchased there are always long-term favorites and the clothes I get the most compliments about. So, moral of the story is to invest in quality, beautifully made items and you will spend less in the long run.

I’ve curated a few of my favorite finds from Anthropologie that won’t break the bank. Every item is under $100 and perfect for spring and summer weather!

1. Everleigh Edgewise Peplum Tee  $68
2. Moon River Eyelet Blouse $98
3. Corbara Peplum Tank $78
4. Holding Horses Faye Tank $68
5. Maeve Calia Tunic $78
6. Crosswrap Dress $69.95

Madison

Uncategorized

An Expert’s Guide to Wine

April 19, 2016

Wine

Madison’s Note // Friends, I have a treat for you today! My dear dar friend, Emily, is sharing all about wine. While I don’t claim to be an expert on all things wine, I do like to drink my fair share. When I was texting with Emily a few weeks ago about a handful of wine questions, she graciously volunteered to share some of her expert tips one how to select the best wine and, more importantly, how to find the best wine at the grocery store. Living in a small town, our access to great wine isn’t as great as it was when we were living in Minneapolis, so this was super helpful to me, too! Now, I’ll turn it over to Emily! 

My husband and I moved to Sonoma, California almost five years ago, and it’s safe to say we’ve reached the point of total spoiledness over the amazing wine selection around us. Beyond the wines we’re able to taste through both our jobs–he’s an assistant winemaker and I work for a winery-specific public relations company– we’re surrounded by boutique wine shops and hundreds of tasting rooms. In other words, our cup overfloweth, something I see most clearly when we visit our hometown in Iowa and pop into the local grocery store for a bottle of wine. There are two almost opposite challenges to finding a bottle of wine at a supermarket: on one hand, there isn’t a staggering amount of diversity (in 2012, over half of the wine sold in the US came from three companies). On the other hand, one look down the wine aisle shows dozens of unique labels, multiplied by different grape varieties from each brand. Either way, wine selection can be a daunting task, so below are a few tips I’ve picked up during my early years in the wine industry and a few wines which, in my humble opinion, are worth grabbing from the shelf:

  1. Drink what you like. This is probably one of the most commonly heard mantras of the wine world: above all else, drink whatever floats your boat. No shame, even if it is that bottle of $2 wine from Trader Joe’s.  

  2. Don’t drink that $2 wine from Trader Joe’s. Let me clarify: above all else, drink what you like, but I will say this: those $10 bottles of wine are priced there for a reason–whether that reason is ultra-cheap grapes or industrialized winemaking practices that make sub-par juice palatable with stabilizing chemicals, added sugar and/or oak chips for flavor. By spending a few dollars more, you’ll enjoy a far better glass of wine.

  3. On picking grapes. Typically one of the most prominent words on a wine label is the grape variety: what Fuji, Granny Smith or Golden Delicious are to apples, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and more are to grapes/wine. The variety is the single most significant indicator of what a wine will taste like, so a basic sense of the “Big Six” can go a long way in navigating the wine aisle:

    Sauvignon Blanc (white)— high acidity, tropical fruit, green bell pepper or fresh-cut grass flavors
    Chardonnay (white)– apple and melon flavors, sometimes toast or buttered-popcorn-flavored Jelly Belly character if it spent time in oak
    Pinot Noir (red)— tends to be a lighter wine, sour cherry or raspberry and sometimes earthy flavors
    Cabernet Sauvignon (red)– fuller-bodied, tannic, blackberry bramble, sometimes green pepper flavors
    Syrah (red)– even fuller-bodied than Cabernet, peppery or smoked meat flavors and ripe black fruit
    Zinfandel (red)– full-bodied, ranges from raspberry flavors to dark black fruits or bramble, even chocolatey flavors. (White Zinfandel is a sweet rosé or pink wine – it’s not to my taste, but see Rule #1)

  4. Tour the world. In general, wines that come from a specific region like Sonoma Valley, Napa, Bordeaux, Tuscany or the Barossa Valley are better bets than if the label just says California, USA, France, Italy or Australia. Some wine regions outside the US–Italy, Australia and New Zealand, for example, are known for great quality for the price, though my list below sways to the patriotic side. 🙂

  5. Take two. (Two bottles? That, too.) Two quick minutes on the internet can leave you with a solid background on the wine you’re enjoying–and who doesn’t like whipping out a piece of trivia to impress one’s husband or dinner party guests?

One Wine Gal’s Opinion on Best Grocery Store Buys

Riesling – Kung Fu Girl or Chateau Ste. Michelle
Riesling is the cool kid’s alternative to Moscato. The wine can range from totally dry to super sweet, and these two are somewhere in the middle. Kung Fu Girl is a part of Charles Smith Wines, which is, like Chateau Ste. Michelle, based in Washington State.  

Sauvignon Blanc – Kim Crawford
Kim Crawford is a great wine name to know. When my husband and I took a wine class a couple years ago, this was the first wine we blind tasted: our instructor selected it because it’s one of the most quintessential examples of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, priced around $20.  

Chardonnay – La Crema or Kendall Jackson
Chardonnay is tricky because there are so, so many available–it’s the most largely planted variety in the world. These are two that I think show the grape well; both are large Sonoma-based wineries that have been around for 35+ years, and while they make a lot of wine, they put a lot of emphasis on people and place.

Pinot Noir – Simi or Bogle
Simi has been around since the late 1800s (with a break for Prohibition), Bogle Winery is on their sixth generation of family winemakers, and the wines reflects the solid reliability that comes with their histories.

Cabernet Sauvignon – L.M. Martini
Another longstanding Napa winery, Martini is another example of a winery that sells single-vineyard (AKA pricier) wines locally and in certain big cities, but their Napa or Sonoma Cabernet is much more widely available for a more approachable price.  

Zinfandel – Ravenswood Vintner’s Blend Old Vine
Ravenswood is one of the pioneering wineries in Sonoma, and they created their Vintner’s Blend to offer a big and bold counterpart to other brands’ White Zinfandels. While they make high-end Zinfandels from old vine vineyards, the Vintner’s Blend is distributed nationally and is a lovely wine for the price.

Syrah – Coppola Diamond Collection Claret
This is actually a Syrah/Merlot blend from Francis Ford Coppola Winery, which is a pretty rare combination. Francis Ford Coppola Winery is in northern Sonoma County, and they make a significant amount of wine, from $75+ bottles to under $10 (see Rule #2).  The Diamond Collection is their mid-tier range of wines, typically in the $15-$20 range.

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