Friday, September 28, 2018

Healthy Recipes & Efficient Meal Prep

Greetings faithful blog readers, 

When we first came home with Willa, I secretly worried that we'd never have time to cook again; Brendan and I both find that eating the majority of our meals at home is key to staying healthy, and cooking has always been something that we enjoy. We both were concerned that we would rely more on the processed easy go-tos (veggie nuggets, boxed mac and cheese, frozen pizza), and that isn't something we want to do every weeknight. With less time, we've adopted three new strategies for weeknight dinners: meal planning, weekend prepping, and recipe doubling. 

Meal Planning isn't a new concept to many of you, but it is for us. We make a big grocery list and shop over the weekend where we decide the plan for the whole week. In the plan, we include leftover nights, which we plan to coincide with busier evenings (like this past Tuesday when Brendan had to be at a lecture and parent's night for Willa's school) or evenings we know we just won't have the energy. We're typically cooking four nights a week. 

Four nights a week would be a lot for us if each meal was taking an hour plus to prepare, but that's where our second strategy comes in. Once we're home from the store, I typically take care of Willa while Brendan goes on a marathon prepping binge (think slicing, dicing, making dressings, etc). It takes a few hours, but since it's the weekend, there's no stress and prepping can be done at a casual pace. I can put Willa in her carrier and do any activities that don't involve knives like putting food into containers and labeling them. This also creates less to wash during the week (and since I'm on dish duty, that gets three cheers from me!) 

Our third strategy is if we think a recipe will freeze particularly well, we double it to eat half and freeze half. Our frozen stash is for later this semester when we enter survival mode. If we add one meal to the freezer stash a week, it adds up. 

Here are recipes we've recently added to our repertoire. Thanks to Brendan for cooking these delightful meals; I'm adding in his notes. We hope this is useful to you and your family too. 

Farro Breakfast Bowl (we ate this for dinner). This was perhaps my favorite recipe we've made recently. Brendan added some grilled tomatoes and sauteed kale. Soft boiled eggs are my jam and make any dinner memorable. Plus avocado is on my love list. 

Sweet Potato Peanut Soup. This recipe was my find, and I'm so glad we discovered it. It was perfect for a cold rainy Wednesday, and it made leftovers for a second dinner plus three lunch size portions. 

Fire Roasted Eggplant Dal. Lentils have never tasted so good. Brendan added both kale and spinach, extra cayenne pepper, and extra curry powder. HEB sells the naan bread, and we topped it with plain greek yogurt. Yum in a bowl. This made leftovers for a second dinner.

From the inspiralized cookbook, this Beet Rice Superfood Bowl is delightful. It tastes so fresh and the uncooked beets were actually delicious, which surprised us. Hint: recipe says it makes 3-4 servings, but we ate the entire bowl just the two of us.

This Hot and Sour Seared Tofu with Sugar Snap Peas (note: may need to be a NYT subscriber for this link to work) was for dinner last night, and it was absolutely delicious (this and the Farro Breakfast Bowl were my two favorites). Brendan added bell pepper and carrots (hint: buy matchstick carrots and save yourself time). If you don't want to subscribe, our recipe for basil lime stir fry tastes similar. The saddest part was that it didn't make enough for leftovers.

Skillet Ratatouille. This was the night that Brendan decided to bake his own loaf of bread using this No Knead Bread Recipe. He says the process takes 24 hours, but most of the time the dough is just sitting. Both the bread and the Ratatouille were excellent...this felt like the perfect end of summer/beginning of fall dish. We got another dinner and a couple of lunches out of these leftovers.

Not pictured:

Broccoli, Cheddar, and Brown Rice Cakes. These are different but good. My favorite part about them was leftovers that are already perfectly portioned for lunches.

Sweet Potato Medallions with Almond Sauce and Chickpea Salad: These were wonderful. Sadly, they were so wonderful that we didn't have leftovers (it says it serves 4, but not in our experience!)

Now that the weekend is here, it's time to rest up, stock up on groceries, and prepare for another week ahead. Our last tip is that Saturday night is an awesome time for grocery shopping...where is everyone else?!

In other news: tonight, I tried Yoga Nidra for the first time, and I'm already a true believer. It was so relaxing. I felt like I was asleep, but I wasn't. If you like meditation, I highly recommend giving this a try. I made it to 10 workouts this month, and I hope to squeeze in another yoga class tomorrow morning. I'm wearing jeans that button again, but I'm still eating almost nightly ice cream. It's about balance, people.

Brendan and I are going to continue with our new Netflix obsession: Maniac. We hope everyone has a great weekend and cooks something scrumptious. Tell us what's on your menu. Let's recipe share!


Monday, September 17, 2018

One Day in My Life

Greetings faithful blog readers,

Back in the day, I used to regularly read several blogs where the writers would do "day in the life" posts. I always enjoyed reading them but also found them kind of cheesy. My day to day life is so different than it used to be though, so I thought it'd be fun to write one up. I know one day I'll enjoy looking back on this sweet and tiring time. Before I had Willa, it seemed impossible to me that I could manage a baby on top of everything, and yet, it quickly becomes simply the norm. I'm not good at taking pictures all day, so you'll have to use your imagination. Here goes my first ever day in the life post.

3AM--Lola wakes me up by scratching the chair in our room. I don't even open my eyes since I know who is to blame. I get her to stop and go back to sleep.

5AM-Willa wakes up and is hungry. Brendan changes her diaper, and I nurse her in bed. She kicks while nursing, and Zoe plays a game pawing at her feet gently. It's really cute and makes up for my 3AM wake up. I put Willa back in her bassinet and fall asleep.

6AM-The alarm goes off. Brendan knows that even though I say I want to get up, I don't really. He gets up and lets me snooze.

6:45AM-Brendan brings me coffee. I get up and drink it and pour myself some granola.

7AM-the reality that snoozing was a bad idea hits me. I now have an hour and a half to do all the things. Luckily, Brendan agrees to make me a sandwich. I defrost milk and get Willa's bottles ready for daycare before getting in the shower.

7:30AM-Willa is up. I brush my teeth, put on lotion and foundation, and put in my contacts before getting her changed and dressed. My hair is wet, and I am only wearing underwear. I nurse her and Brendan leaves for work.

8AM-I put Willa in the Mamaroo so I can load up the car, feed the cats, and pump. I put on clothes and realize my hair still looks completely soaked. I blow dry for one minute and put on pearls hoping this will make me look put together. You know what? I think it's pretty effective!

8:33AM- We are in the car. No traffic today. I am parking at daycare by 8:40AM. I feel like I have this down!

8:45AM-I drop off Willa and her carseat and unload her bottles and realize I forgot the sandwich that Brendan lovingly made me at home in the fridge. I feel very sad as I realize I have to make it until 4PM with a cheese stick and a yogurt and a package of peanut butter crackers. Oh life.

9AM-I teach my American Lit II class. We talk about "The Open Boat." I love my lit classes. Those hours just fly by.

10AM-I'm in the Language Hub for tutoring. Co-worker feels sorry for me and gives me a package of Bevita. Alright!

11AM-I'm back in the classroom. This time, I'm teaching Comp I. I've assembled a master outline from group work my students completed on Friday, and we're going over it. The technology in the classroom is having issues, so I need to rush through my lesson in 40 minutes to give the IT people 10 minutes to help my students with their MS Office 365 log ins. We're behind because of the technology issues, so I'm a little stressed.

12PM-I call the daycare. Willa is awake. Score! I use a 30 minute break I left in my schedule to go nurse her.

12:30PM-2PM. I head back to the office and eat the Bevita on the way. Once I get there, I eat my yogurt and cheese stick while catching up on emails. I manage to finish grading journals for the literature class. I do a lot of random tasks. I am haunted the entire time by the nagging feeling that I'm forgetting something important.

2PM-Back to the writing center for another hour of tutoring. It's early in the semester, so it's not that busy, but I do help some students with technology issues. Fun fact: "Use Chrome instead of Explorer" solves like 90% of problems students have.

3PM-Head to the faculty senate meeting. Can't help but participate. Get assigned to a committee. Why do I do this to myself?

4PM-Arrive home. Brendan picked up Willa after his workout and is unloading the dishwasher. I love that man! I change Willa and nurse her. Then I put her in the mamaroo and pump for 15 minutes. Then we play on the floor some and read a book.

5PM-Willa is cranky. Brendan gets dinner in the oven and gets in the shower. I nurse her to sleep. She will nap at home, but only if one of us is holding her. I don't know how daycare gets her to nap in a crib (but they do). Brendan calls his grandma to wish her a happy birthday. I check stuff on my phone while Willa naps.

5:30PM-Willa is up! We call Brendan's sister to wish her a happy birthday (yes, they have the same birthday) and keep Willa entertained by playing on the floor.

6PM-We eat dinner and entertain Willa in her rock and play. Brendan baked a loaf of bread and made skillet ratatouille. I thought he was picking an "easy recipe" and cannot believe that baking a loaf of bread is what he considers easy. Easy to me is like a box of mac and cheese. The house smells wonderful.

6:30PM-Brendan cleans the kitchen. I nurse Willa and respond to a couple of work emails. She is getting wiggly and easily distractible, so emailing is not ideal, but it has to get done. I change her, and we load her into the stroller.

7PM--We go on a walk around the neighborhood. The sunset is full of gorgeous pinks and oranges. The weather is a cool 81 degrees. I love fall here! Willa falls asleep. We check our mailbox on the way home. My $5 Pampers reward coupon arrives. Everything else is junk.

7:45PM--Brendan takes care of some yard work, and I give Willa a bath and get her ready for bed.

8:15-8:45PM--I nurse Willa and lie with her until she falls asleep. Then, I move her to the bassinet.

9PM--I eat ice cream, look at Facebook, send some emails, and type this post all while lounging on the couch. It's glorious! Lola and Zoe hang out with me and purr.

10:30PM--getting ready for bed; the cats erupt into a hissing fight. Lola licks the ice cream bowl. Sigh. Hoping I'll fall asleep before 11PM.

Goodnight world!

Monday, September 10, 2018

The BIG Transition (Back To Work)

Greetings Faithful Blog Readers,

Let me cut to the chase here. I'd LOVE to write a post for you about what we've figured out about making working full time "work" for our family, but that would be a relatively short post because the truth is we're three weeks in and everyday still feels chaotic and like we're making it up as we go. Still, I want to check in here even though I don't have much advice and talk about some things I've noticed during our big transition. Feel free to leave me a comment if you have any suggestions or just want to say "I feel ya."

1.) Everything Takes Longer!
If getting out the door for work pre-kid used to be a "production," now it's a Hollywood action movie in which I star as the comic relief. Everyday I pack my school bag (planner, class folders, and all the stuff that would be in one's purse), my pump bag (with pump, pump parts, and bottles), a cooler (with Willa's milk and my lunch/snacks), my water bottle (I'm SO thirsty, send all the water), and the diaper bag (cause you never know, and that thing has back ups for everything I should remember but probably didn't). Add to that my American Lit II book which weighs so much, and you can see why I don't even know where anything is.

2.) What Was I Saying?
I used to consider myself highly capable at multitasking and remembering everything. Now...wait, what are we talking about? I just need to write things down.

3.) Pumping Ain't Easy
It takes forever. It isn't nearly as effective as nursing. It's a necessary but not fun part of my day. Sometimes, to fit it in, I have to do it in the car while someone stalks my parking spot. At least we have electric pumps.

4.) You Can't Schedule a Baby
I stop by to nurse Willa, but sometimes she's sleeping, and I have to move to plan B (see car pumping). At home, she pretty reliably nursed every 2 hours, but daycare is a different story. You know that saying "expectations are the root of unhappiness"? I'm trying very hard to let go a little and realize that I don't have that much control over the schedule. Not knowing if I'll be able to nurse makes packing bottles and knowing how much to bring tough (especially since I don't want milk to go to waste). While I'd love to say we have a system in place, there's a lot of guesswork, calling the daycare, and sometimes miscommunication involved. I definitely stress about the feeding schedule, especially since Willa seems to hold out until we're together, and full bottles are being sent back home. She has started waking up in the middle of the night again to nurse, and it's often hard for me to fall back asleep.

5.) General anxiety: I got it.
There's what you intellectually know (that your baby is okay) and what you instinctually feel (that it's tough to be apart). One of the biggest hurdles of the last couple of weeks is just getting used to feeling a little anxious. I hope that the "fake it until you make it" rule works. I notice that the busier I am, the better I do.

6.) I'm Probably My Own Toughest Critic
As one of my friends said give yourself some grace. I really should start focusing on everything I DO get done in a day and not be hard on myself over where I fell short. Also, when I'm tired, everything feels more stressful and confusing than it probably should.

7.) I Value Our Time Together SO MUCH
Before I had Willa, I assumed I'd be fine leaving my kid in daycare so I could run errands or workout or whatever. The truth is, I don't like to be apart from her for any time longer than necessary. Brendan feels the same way, and usually one of us can get her by 2PM.

8.) 9PM is the new 11PM.
I can barely keep my eyes open any later.

9.) Leftovers are KEY
After a day at work and an evening taking care of a baby, cooking falls low on the priority list. We've been using our weekends to cook big meals (stuffed peppers, lasagna, quesadillas, chili, pasta sauce) and freezing our leftovers. This helps us keep variation in what we eat each night without having to cook during the week.

10.) I will be LUCKY if I can squeeze in 3 workouts a week.
I can probably get to the YMCA on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.  Other than that, stroller walks and lugging my ten bags around campus will serve as my exercise.

11.) Put a bouncy chair in your bathroom. This is the best idea ever. You can dance and keep your baby entertained while brushing your teeth. I don't know how you'd get ready otherwise.

12.) Keep a burp cloth in ALL YOUR BAGS. Save your work clothes.

One thing that does help me is reminding myself that each phase is fleeting. I will enjoy the good parts and remind myself that she won't be a baby forever when it all feels overwhelming. Being apart from Willa is tough, but when I teach, I'm in my element. Most days, the time goes by quickly, and I love getting her back in my arms.

When did you make the big transition back to work and how did you survive?

Send tips!

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