Tips for Meal Planning Success

We’re big fans of eating out in our household. It’s quick, provides lots of options, and doesn’t require much thought or planning. But good gosh does it get expensive. And if I’m being totally honest, even with the abundance of places to grab a bite literally around the corner from our house, I’ve gotten bored. Yesterday, I stopped by Panera to pick up a late lunch for myself and after ordering a measly half sandwich and a teeny little cup of mac & cheese and then being given my $10+ total (seriously?!?), I was over it. We plopped ourselves down on a blanket outside in the perfect weather while I ate my overpriced food and did some serious meal planning for the week.

For now the goal is simply to not eat out. Moving forward as we get better about planning, I’ll work towards cutting even more costs and eating cleaner and healthier. I’m hoping we can keep this up and I can hold myself accountable by posting our plans here on the blog. To start, I’m sharing a few tips I’ve learned from attempting meal planning in the past!

TIPS for MEAL PLANNING:

1. MIX IT UP: This is key for me, though not for the hubs. He can (and will) eat a ham and cheese sandwich every single day for lunch and be perfectly happy, but I will absolutely and positively fail by Tuesday if I don’t mix it up a little bit to keep things interesting. For lunch specifically - I have to be excited about what I have, or it’s way too easy to join someone else to grab tacos or the aforementioned expensive turkey sandwich.

2. PREP AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE: Last night, this meant cooking a few chicken breasts in a grill pan, making a big pot of quinoa, chopping up produce, and making my lunch for today so I could just grab it in the morning and go.

3. RIP OFF FAVORITES: There’s a little café across the street from my office that makes fantastic salads, but at $10-12 a pop it adds up quick. So, I bought all the ingredients at the store to make essentially the same salad myself. Making it on my own provides the bit of variety and excitement I mentioned before, and while it’s not as cheap as a ham and cheese sandwich every day, it’s still a definite cost savings over eating out.

4. PLAN EVERYTHING: Between breastfeeding and the medication I’m still on for my vision, I am a hungry hungry girl these days (and it shows in my waistline… oh well). Add to that the fact that Adeline goes to bed so early, so we’ve been eating dinner pretty early as well… and then by 8 or 8:30 I’m hungry again and end up eating junk. Knowing that we will likely want that extra something in the evening, we bought a few peaches this week to share instead of wolfing down 2 bowls of late night cereal like I usually do. I also grabbed fruit for afternoon snacks when that 3pm lull hits and I’m still at my desk for a few hours before dinner.

5. TREAT YO SELF: Adeline’s daycare is closed this Friday, so Dan is staying home with her and they’re going to meet me for lunch out that afternoon. Treating going out one day as a “reward” for not eating out the rest of the week gives me something to look forward to and makes me more likely to succeed.

Boobs for the Win

/ /  Six months of the most unnatural natural thing in the world  / /

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On September 6th, our little bitty munchkin turned 6 months old. We didn't take photos to celebrate because the poor thing was fighting a miserable cold and running a fever so she basically slept all of Labor Day weekend away, but I did a little mini personal celebration in my head because you know what else Adeline's half birthday meant? 

I DID IT.

I made it 6 months breastfeeding. And let me tell you - it was probably the hardest thing I have ever done. I've hinted at it before on the blog that I didn't really want anything to do with breastfeeding when I was pregnant, so making the decision to give it a fair shot and then actually managing to keep it up was kind of huge for me. So huge, in fact, that I decided I needed a blog post all about it tooting my own horn. It's long, and it probably mentions boobs more than you were planning on reading about today. You're welcome.

Here's the thing. I never really had boobs to begin with - we're talking barely-there A-cups on a good day. And thanks to teenagers being total assholes, this meant that I got made fun of a LOT growing up. The most notable of the ridiculing would be when I was called "board chest" by a guy for the entire summer leading into high school (he later asked me to homecoming and I laughed in his face, so there's that at least), but he was far from the only one that took note of my body skipping over certain parts of puberty. So fast forward a decade and a half later to when I got pregnant, and I can assure you that I wanted nothing to do with spending literal HOURS a day with my boobs as the center of attention. I actually asked my doctor at one appointment if boobs as small as mine could really manage to sustain life and was honestly shocked when she said yes (and also grateful that she didn't laugh at me for asking). It didn't help that everywhere you turn these days there's an article or a blog post or a friend or a total stranger reminding you that "breast is best!!!" and formula is frowned upon by basically the entire world. Let me be clear - this is bullshit, and the only person that should have any say whatsoever in how you feed your baby is YOU, but I digress. I still read all the articles even though they made me feel like garbage for even considering formula. I smiled and nodded when people gave me their unsolicited opinions about it all. At one point when I was feeling somewhat optimistic about the whole thing, I signed Dan and I up for a 3 hour long breastfeeding class and then threw a major temper tantrum the morning of it because I changed my mind and did NOT want to go. We still went, I was a huge brat the rest of the day because of it, and later on I told Dan that while I understood the benefits to both me and the baby, it was ultimately my decision on whether or not I was going to even give it a try.

And then Adeline came 5 weeks early and landed herself in the NICU. 

One of my favorite moms that Dan works with told me a story when Adeline was a couple months old about how she once described motherhood to a friend by comparing it to when you see a lioness being fiercely protective over her cubs. She explains it much better than I'm doing here, but the point is that the second I saw my baby being wheeled away from me to go get hooked up to a bunch of monitors I got REAL protective and immediately didn't care about anything else except doing whatever I could possibly do for her... and at that point, it meant accepting the fact that I was going to be spending a LOT of time with my boobs in the future, because I knew that breastmilk was the very best thing for her. I couldn't hold her nearly as much as I wanted to, I couldn't stop her from needing to spend a whole day under the lights for jaundice, I couldn't avoid the tests she had to get, I couldn't take away the feeding tube that ran through her nose into her stomach, I couldn't take her home. But I could pump, every 2.5 hours around the clock, to get as much milk as possible to go into the feeding tube and do exactly what I never thought it could do - sustain life.

One of the benefits to the extra time in the hospital was that I had lactation consultants available to me several times a day, so by the time we got home Adeline and I had sort of established latching and I was starting to get a handle on what worked for us. We also never had to deal with nipple confusion since she had to take bottles in the hospital, which I hear is a blessing in disguise. We were cleared for straight nursing by the pediatrician a couple days after getting home (instead of having to measure milk precisely into bottles to know exactly how much she was getting), and that was that. I was a breastfeeding mama, and I couldn't believe it but for the most part, I didn't totally hate it. Funny how life surprises you sometimes, huh?

We have definitely had our ups and downs - like how around 7 weeks I was all "check me out we totally have this breastfeeding thing down, I'm a rockstar mom" and then Adeline suddenly decided she had no clue what she was doing anymore and would freak out and throw her head around unable to latch until we were both in tears. There was Easter at my gramma's house when she was just a few weeks old - I went upstairs to a bedroom to nurse and thanks to my previously mentioned teeny boobs, between my shirt and my bra and her fancy dress there was just too much in the way and the poor thing couldn't actually reach so I had to basically strip the 2 of us down while she screamed bloody murder with my entire extended family downstairs. She also peed all over the futon while I was changing her diaper after that which I can assure you did a serious number on my mom ego. Then there was going back to work and getting into the routine of pumping at the office. My VERY FIRST day back and the VERY FIRST time I pumped at work I was having one of those few and far between moments where I felt like "I can totally do it all! Look at me with my career and my baby!"... and then when I went to pull my nursing bra back up I realized the pump had been leaking the entire time and my bra was soaked. I texted Dan in a panic and he had to interrupt Adeline's nap to pack her up in the car and bring me a new bra in a grocery bag so I could change. I mean, come on

At this point, I wouldn't be surprised if all of our neighbors have seen me half naked since I basically spent my entire maternity leave without a shirt on because it's just easier and who's actually looking to make things any harder when you have a newborn, am I right? I've also nursed Adeline in a few parking lots, in a mall, in a random alley in the city (in the car, don't worry), and in a booth at a Houlihan's, so there's probably a lot of other random people that have seen my boobs as well... and you know what? I don't really care. It has (somehow) worked for us despite all of my pessimism about it, and for that, I am really really proud. Between the special bras that get in the way, and the nursing covers that don't work, and the nipple cream, and the pads to make sure you don't leak while out in public, and the pump that makes you feel like a cow being milked, and everything else that comes along with it, I think it's sort of obnoxious for anyone to insist that breastfeeding is totally "natural," but it IS pretty incredible, so there's that.

So here we are at 6 months - I've officially made it the standard amount of time that the American Academy of Pediatrics majorly suggests, and in that funny way that things work out I'm not in a terribly huge rush to quit. I made a deal with myself that at 6 months I wouldn't beat myself up anymore if I don't have time to pump twice at work or if I want to go to bed before pumping at the end of the night, and I'm slowly starting to adjust to letting go a bit and have gone out a few evenings leaving Dan to do bedtime with a bottle. Adeline has had some formula here and there since I went back to work and doesn't mind it, so we've gotten into a pretty good routine of just going with what works day to day. But I adore the time I get to spend with her nursing in the morning and at bedtime - even more now that I am back at work and only get to see her for a short time each day during the week - and it is so incredibly clear to me that it's a huge comfort for her, which has been really encouraging for me as a new mom.

Oh, and - I can't possibly end this without a MASSIVE thank you to the hubs, who has been the biggest encouragement through all of my ups and downs with breastfeeding, and who has also probably filled no less than 1,000 cups of ice water for me since I literally become parched the second I start nursing or pumping and NEVER remember to get water beforehand. I won't hate you if you say "I told you so."

Fly By Summer

/ /  Realizing just how busy "normal" can be  / /

Well friends, it's been a hot minute hasn't it? I guess in the grand scheme of things a month between blog posts isn't that bad for me, but I'd definitely like to write more often. The thing is, being a new mom is pretty insane, and while I'm loving it just as much as ever, I've quickly learned just how fast the days can fly by. Thankfully, we sort of loosely have a schedule these days, which helps me stay sane almost all the time. This is largely due to Adeline slowly but surely coming out of a HELL of a 4-month sleep regression, which made for a really tough few weeks. Given how well she slept from the get go and the fact that I was on leave when she was a newborn, I can honestly say that July was the hardest month I've had so far as a mom and I do NOT handle sleep deprivation with grace. 

My weekdays have been pretty full of commotion thanks to being busier at work than I think I ever have been in my entire career, and trying to fit in 2 pumping sessions between half a dozen meetings a day means that most days by the time I take a second to breathe it's 3pm already and I have a stack of things piled up on my desk to sign off on before I leave at 5:30. I'm not complaining - I love my job and how it's constantly changing and providing me with new creative opportunities - but I can't say I would mind it if I didn't get an average of 150 emails a day all the time ;).

Outside of work, I try to keep things as stress-free as possible, mostly because we only get a little windows of time with our munchkin during the week and I want to soak in as many minutes with her as I can. I SO look forward to the weekends with her, and we've enjoyed the summer weather with a couple farmer's market trips, lots of BBQs at my parents' house and a few outings for things like the Fourth of July and my birthday. 

Buuuuuut, I don't really know how to just let myself relax, we have lots of excitement coming up over the next few weeks. We're hosting a happy hour for my department this week, friends from out of town for part of the weekend, my extended family for a BBQ in early September following the Lungevity Breathe Deep walk to raise money for lung cancer research, and my father in law's 60th birthday bash the weekend after that. Wish me luck! And given some fun projects we've done around the house lately, I really do hope to blog more in the coming months. Here's to the beautiful weather sticking around for it all! 

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Nordstrom Anniversary Sale! Early Access Spoils

/ /  All the goodies I snagged with Early Access!  / /

It's time for the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale, and truth be told I don't usually really care because designer clothing on sale is still waaaay out of my budget. This year though, I decided to take advantage of my Nordstrom debit card and splurge a teeny bit, and treated myself to a few quality pieces at fantastic price points. Unfortunately, given my fluctuating size lately I have NO idea if the clothing items I ordered will even fit, but I'm excited about the potential for a couple new pieces and am also thrilled with the beauty products I picked up! The big spend here is definitely the fancy pants Donna Karan Cashmere Mist deodorant set - this stuff isn't cheap but I'm a sweaty girl and it gets rave reviews so we'll see if it's worth the price tag. And of course, if all else fails, there's still a set of super cute socks for the munchkin that I absolutely cannot wait to put on her with a little dress in the fall. Shop my finds below!

My Bookshelf: 26 Kisses

I've got a lot of super talented friends - artists, photographers, designers and the like. But the pre-teen book nerd in me has to admit I never really thought I would know an author. Books were always such an escape for me when I was younger, and the people that wrote them were like celebrities to me. You know how when you were a kid if you ran into your teacher out in public it was the weirdest thing because you never really realized that teachers were also just regular old people with regular old lives like the rest of us, grocery shopping, walking their dogs and doing things with their families on the weekends? Maybe that was just me, but that's sort of how I always felt about authors too - they were people in my head who never really escaped their author photo and who clearly were only put on this earth to write stories for me to lose myself in.

Decades later, here I am working in publishing and meeting authors on a regular basis at work events and around the office. Don't get me wrong - I still sort of fangirl a teeny bit sometimes, but I've learned to keep my cool for the most part. And then!!!! Suddenly a good friend of mine (also a colleague) told me she was publishing a book and I got all awkward about authors again. Little old me HANGS OUT with someone who has a real live book that people can buy in stores? In my mind, Anna Michels, you're pretty much famous.

So my pal Anna wrote a book, and I thought it was only right that I blog about it since I devoured it during the last few naps of my maternity leave and absolutely loved it. Anna's debut 26 Kisses chronicles a summer full of kisses - one for every letter of the alphabet - for Veda, who's trying to get over an unexpected breakup. I don't want to spoil too much, but I have to share that Veda has a cat named Fat Snacks and her mom does Prancercise, so obviously the entire story is amazing. It is an absolutely perfect summer read, whether you're lounging on the beach, staying cool inside with a drink, or packing reading material to take on a weekend road trip. 

I can't recommend 26 Kisses enough, and in honor of Anna's book, I thought I'd pull together a little roundup of kiss related goodies - enjoy!

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