Currently | 12.22.2014

Monday, December 22, 2014

Can you believe it's already Christmas week?! As the year winds down I can't help reflect on the goals I made nearly a year ago. Did I check everything off my list? Nope. But overall I'm pretty satisfied with how much I did accomplish.

For example, I tried A LOT of new recipes. Read 18 books (plus about 30+ children's board books). I learned new skills during an Indian cooking class and even taught a craft class to other women. I exercised regularly for about 3/4 of the year. We bought a home and oh yeah, I had a baby. A pretty full year if you ask me. As one year slips into the next here's a final update of how I've been spending my time.

READING: This uplifting book about femininity, faith and motherhood. And this article about travel and narcissism.

WATCHING: Gilmore Girls on Netflix. I'm new to the series so we started at the very beginning.

EATING: This super easy and delicious crockpot soup. Followed up with these chewy double chocolate cookies.

ENJOYING: Christmas light displays and annual traditions.

MAKING: Instagram photo books. Perfect for collecting pictures of our little miss.

SPLURGING: Special foil pressed holiday greeting cards and address labels.

REMEMBERING: Faraway and departed loved ones. Sometimes they seem a little closer this time of year.

EXCITED FOR: A New Year's getaway and what 2015 holds in store.

Wishing you a bright and joyous holiday season. See you next year!

Amelia Jane: 16 Weeks Old

Friday, December 5, 2014

Sometimes when I'm out in public with our sunshine girl I'll start chatting with a stranger and get the usual questions like age and gender (if she isn't dressed in pink). But occasionally someone will ask me if I get to stay home with her. To which I respond yes. Every time this happens the other person always reacts positively. They'll tell me how lucky I am or how great that is for the baby. And while I know circumstances are different for everyone I'm quick to agree with them. I am lucky. Lucky that for the past 16 weeks I've stayed home to see our girl make tiny daily changes.
Lately she's taken to NOT hating tummy time. She gets into it. Legs up, arms swimming, torso surfing like she's working towards a new personal best. Plus she's mastered the art of the drool. Thank heavens for bibs. So many bibs. Also, she's discovered her feet. She's pretty precise with her point and flex, which is particularly entertaining when her footed pants have happy faces on them.

It's such a funny experience being a mama. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd be so attached to another person. Not only for the obvious reason of feeding, but just wanting to be with her. That sometimes I simultaneously want a break from her (desperately), but then an hour into our being apart I'll miss her like crazy and long to be reunited. This week we moved her from the bassinet beside our bed into her own room. Truthfully I kind of miss having her close. Now that she's five feet away I'm afraid she might just run away and join the circus during the night.

Homemade: Chili Verde

Thursday, December 4, 2014

There's something incredibly comforting about mincing garlic and chopping a heaping bunch of fresh cilantro. A winter kitchen comes to life with such vibrant aromas. While chili verde isn't exactly a Christmas dish, seeing jars of tomatoes blend with green chilies and oregano create the culinary colors of the season and it just feels festive. In my family any time is a good time for Mexican food. It runs in our blood. It's part of my heritage. This recipe is my grandma's. One she learned from her mother. Then passed to her son. It brings to mind my great-grandmother, my namesake, slapping homemade flour tortillas between her hands. My grandma making other native dishes from memory. It's the type of meal that crosses generations and binds them together in the shared warmth of a familiar story.

Chile Verde
(serves 6)

3 lbs cubed pork
2 T dried oregano
1 1/2 t. minced garlic
1/2 t. cumin
2 t. salt
1 t. chili powder (or to taste)
1 can (60 oz) whole tomatoes drained
1 can (7 oz) diced green chilies (heat depends on your preference)
1 can (7 oz) green chili salsa (Trader Joe's has a good one)
6-8 green onions chopped
1 bunch cilantro chopped (for garnish)

You can make this on the stove, but I like to make it in a crockpot so that the meat cooks for hours and falls apart with a fork.  Place cubed pork in the crockpot, cover with spices, and remaining ingredients. Let simmer on low for 7-8 hours. Serve with warm flour tortillas. Also pairs nicely with refried beans and spanish rice. 

Click here for more recipes.

Monday Confessional

Monday, December 1, 2014

I know it's the most wonderful time of year and everything but I'm not feeling it. Nope. Not one bit. Maybe it's because I've been under the cloud of the most nasty cold of the year for the last week, but you guys it's only December and I already feel like I'm living Groundhog Day. Let's be honest, winter isn't my favorite. However am I going to honor this season?

A Full Heart

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

I'm standing at the television with my laptop propped open, staring out our living room window as the snow falls wet and heavy; swaying gently with a sleeping baby on my chest. Joni Mitchell appears on my musical rotation. Which is entirely fitting. I really don't know life at all.

In some ways this life, my life, still seems like a dream.

A last-minute sickness is keeping us home this Thanksgiving. So it will just be three of us. Three little bears hibernating with a small semblance of a turkey dinner. Maybe ordering pizza the next night, watching White Christmas and lots of rest.

When I remember past holiday seasons (as an adult) what I remember most vividly is a deep ache and usually at least one meltdown. Five years ago this life didn't exist. I could not fathom that I would get what I so deeply wanted. That life could be different. And then, it's like I snapped my fingers and here we are. A husband. A home. A baby. That's not to minimize the heartache others currently experience or the hopes others have but have not yet attained. And so often I resist celebrating these rich moments because I'm afraid. Afraid I'll offend someone or afraid that it will all vanish as quickly as it seemed to materialize. I suppose it could. But that unraveling is for another day.
Today, on this wintry Thanksgiving Eve, I look at where I've been and where I am now and my heart bursts in gratitude. Grateful for the slow work of God. Grateful I'm in this place. Grateful I've made the choices I have. Grateful to be learning and growing in new ways every day. I'm working hard to stay focused on the present and really savor this moment. Thanksgiving is less about the food and more about those we surround ourselves with. The connections and love we share with one another and how much richer life is because of our relationships. After years of resistance, and feeling as Anne Lamott puts it I have spent so much of my life with secret Swiss-cheese insides, I'm finally coming to understand both the abundance of love that exists for me and the abundance of love that is mine to give.

Special thanks to Alexis for taking these pictures.

35 Things I'm Thankful For | Part 2

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

1. my firstborn
2. postcards
3. wood floors
4. a romantic husband
5. proximity to numerous parks
6. baby carrying
7. virtual book club gals
8. wood burning fireplace
9. little giggles
10. pie
11. board books
12. walking to trader joe's
13. dishwasher
14. unexpected packages
15. clean air ducts
16. swimming
17. gym friends
18. taquitos, beans, and rice (i.e, my birthday dinner)
19. natural light
20. supermarket flowers
21. health insurance
22. essential oils
23. meal planning
24. house plants
25. happy eyes
26. free museums
27. facetime
28. a clean, but lived-in house
29. forgiveness
30. impromptu photo sessions
31. sharing a new tv series with ken
32. scented candles
33. floss
34. snuggles
35. king bed

See my first list here

Currently | 11.14.2014

Friday, November 14, 2014

READING: This delightful children's book based on a true story. This dead-on article. And this book.

WATCHING: More like pining to watch so many movies. I have a goal to get to the theatre by myself before the end of the year. Mainly to catch this film.

EATING: Belgium chocolate. Such a special treat. Oh, and millet muffins—weekly batches because they're so addicting.

MAKING: Christmas care packages. And planning to make everything from this darling book.

ENJOYING: Watching eyes sparkle when new family members meet Amelia for the first time. Makes my mama heart burst.

SPLURGING: On gifts for new parents. Babies everywhere! Now that I'm a parent I have an entirely new arsenal of what to give at a baby shower.

REMEMBERING: Hearing Billy Collins at a reading a couple weekends ago. He joked that the sold-out audience created a poetry traffic jam into the library parking lot. True story. He ended his entertaining reading with one of my favorite selections.

EXCITED FOR: Christmas music on the turntable. Buying a live Christmas tree. And spending Amelia's first Christmas in our cozy little home.

Amelia Jane: 11 Weeks Old

Friday, October 31, 2014

It's hard to believe our little lady just keeps growing, not yet three months but barely fitting into her three month clothes. I try to take a picture (or several) of her every day. Sometimes it turns into a full on photo session, wherein I try to snap as many pictures as possible, hoping one will turn out. Because man, babies are wiggly. Suddenly holidays are more exciting. Especially when it involves turning a tiny human into a tortured artist. Or imagining what it would be like to dress her up like a turkey. Too much? Our days are filled with mostly the mundane still, but Amelia is as animated as ever and loves story time, cooing, walking to Trader Joe's and bath time. She impresses her parents daily. The other night I had a dream that she said her first word. But instead of a word, she said Yeah, that sounds great! And it is great. Being a mama to this munchkin is pretty great.

New(ish) Songs to Fill Your Ears With

Monday, October 27, 2014

It seems like forever since I last put together a Music Monday post. Let's imagine for a minute that I'm working on a mixed tape. You know the kind—handwritten playlists that come in surprise snail mail packages. Here are a few songs I would work into the mix. I won't wax on about them, instead I'll just let you have a listen. Hopefully something will settle into your soul.

An Autumn Outing

Monday, October 20, 2014

Ken and I fondly refer to autumn as our season, since that is when we met. Besides recounting sappy dating memories, we always make it a point to go on a couple drives during this time of year. Through the years I've loved the Rocky Mountain foliage of my youth, the rolling Shenandoah hills from my East Coast time, and now the unassuming display of Midwestern leaves. Somehow, no matter how many times I experience this seasonal burst of color, autumn still intoxicates me.
Remember when we discovered Pere Marquette State Park when we moved to Missouri two years ago? Over the weekend we crossed rivers and roads to show Amelia what fun it was to rendezvous, play in the leaves, and collect driftwood. All in all it was a lovely outing.

Currently | 10.2.2014

Thursday, October 2, 2014

READING: I just finished reading a lovely compilation of essays by Shauna Niequist. Her love letter to life around the table resonated with me on many levels. However the chapter that satisfied me most was about all the tastes; where she discusses exploring the world through different culinary dishes. Thereby coming to understand that people are nourished in different ways no matter where they live. Specifically she spoke of wanting to teach her children to appreciate different dishes in various native lands and I thought Yes. YES! That's what I want! Besides being an enjoyable read, the recipes are approachable and perfect for creating a simple or elaborate shared meal.

Also, have you read this article about being a stay-at-home-parent? Yeah.

WATCHING: So I finally got on the Parks and Recreation bandwagon and now I literally have an internal debate about which character is my favorite. Literally. I know, important stuff, right?

EATING: After Amelia was born one of our church friends brought us this vegan salad and I haven't stopped thinking about it since. It's basically like all the tastes of summer crammed into one bursting bite. Also, pumpkin. I dig it. I think a pumpkin tiramisu might be in order.

MAKING: The other day I was having one of those overwhelmed new parent moments and I realized that I hadn't been making time for me. Namely I had not made something in far too long. And I missed that. So last night I broke out the brads, paper, scissors, and string and made a festive little banner. Boom. Instantly I felt better.

EXCITED FOR: Concocting two-month-old Halloween costume ideas.

Image by me; taken at the Missouri Botanical Garden. 

Amelia Jane: Six Weeks Old

Friday, September 26, 2014

One thing I've learned as a new parent is that everyone tells you to savor this newborn phase because It goes by so fast! and it does. Mostly. While our days still consist mainly of erratic sleep patterns, feedings, and diaper changes, Amelia melts our hearts most minutes of the day. Her birth hematoma, that was on the back of her head, is nearly gone. Yet she retains a splotchy red "stork bite" at the back of her neck and a tiny little peck mark on her left cheek. But in a way I'm glad. I think of birthmarks as special little kisses from those she left behind before she joined our family. Her greatest love, besides her doting parents, is the black living room ceiling fan. She simply can't look away. Apart from sleeping and eating on demand, Amelia likes spending time in her solly wrap and taking neighborhood walks (often twice a day).
Some mornings I wake up and swear I am holding an entirely new person. And in a way I am. Our little girl changes daily. Not just in size, but in the way she holds her neck a little stiffer. Or how her eyelashes are thicker. Or how her reflexes start looking like coordinated dance moves. All signs she's growing healthy and strong. Most of her hair is still strawberry blonde (thanks to Grandpa Flynn) and people say she has my lips. She smells like a bowl of cereal, sweet and milky, and her button-sized chin is beyond adorable. The best part though? Daily doses of coos and gummy grins. Baby smiles, you guys. Pure crack!

Words: Wisdom

Thursday, September 25, 2014

In this old world, all of us get a little nicked and scarred, beat up here and there. We become damaged in some ways, and we probably do more damage to others than we'd like to think. Along the journey, we become a bit jaded, weary and wary, and its easier to mistrust than trust, easier to abandon hope than harbor it, and perhaps for good reason. We have to protect ourselves. It's a part of life, unfortunately; part of what we experience. Maybe that's why we all need to hold a newborn every so often. Looking into the eyes of an infant, all you can see is peace and innocence. And if you look a little deeper into a baby's eyes, perhaps you can see hope and sweetness in the reflection of your own face. Babies give us a chance to leave one world and enter a better one.

— Donald Smurthwaite

Apple Picking at Centennial Farms

Saturday, September 20, 2014

It can't possibly be autumn until I've gone apple picking. This morning we gathered up our gear, loaded our little person, and ventured about an hour outside the city for what was the warmest apple picking I've ever experienced. We arrived a few minutes before the farm opened and even snagged some of the last rare and coveted mutsu variety. Our haul was just shy of 20 pounds, which should be just enough for a pie and maybe some ice cream. How are you ringing in the change of seasons?

Currently | 9.16.2014

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

READING: After a week of becoming a mama I purchased this book. Which is nice to read just one chapter a week. Truthfully, I was a little worried that my new gig might put a crimp in my reading habit. Fortunately, that hasn't been the case. This week I finished reading #Girlboss and started S Street Rising. Also, something about autumn makes me hungry for the words of Margaret Atwood. Perhaps I'll reread one of her books soon.

WATCHING: Amelia, of course! But when I'm not watching our sweet lady, I find myself scrolling through Red Box to look for all the movies I missed while I was pregnant. Also, we just finished watching the last season of Parenthood which was such a realistic view of what it means to belong to a family. With a host of likable characters, compelling story lines, and moments that remind me of my big extended family, I'm looking forward to finishing the series.

EATING: Soup and cake. Tis the season. Actually, have we talked about this cake? Amazing.

MAKING: Little crafts and art projects for the nursery. It's fun to see what I can repurpose from around the house. Next up I think I'll make a fox plushie. Because why not?

EXCITED FOR: Breaking in our fireplace. Apple picking. Pie Day. And family coming to town in a few weeks.

Ps. We have a one-month-old! 

Seven Things I Learned Having a Baby

Monday, September 8, 2014

First, let me be clear, this is not a birth story. Whenever someone asks to hear The Birth Story I raise an eyebrow, half smile and say something like Well, it was long. But I'm just so happy our darling girl is here and that she's healthy and I'm healthy. Because that's the truth. The other truth is this: I don't like comparing birth stories with other women. In my opinion, it's like swapping war stories and can quickly become a game of one-upmanship. Not to mention I find the entire practice a little obtrusive and somewhat ostracizing. Bottom line: I dislike birth stories. Instead, what I would like to share are a few notes I jotted down in the bleary hours after Amelia was born. Things I have learned from my experience as a new mother.
1. Hospital Bag Essentials—Before I went to the hospital I could not motivate myself to pack a bag. I knew it was one of the things I was suppose to do, but the task daunted me. The Internets were full of advice about what I should pack, but even still it seemed like an insurmountable job. Fortunately Amelia was 10 days late, which meant I wasn't pressed for time. Finally, I threw a few things together and ended up making two bags. One for me and one for baby. And what did I use out of those two giant bags? THREE things. My toiletries, my essential oils (peppermint for headaches and lavender for relaxation), and my brand new robe. That's it. Four and a half days in the hospital and that's all I needed. Lesson learned? Don't stress the hospital bag.

2. It's Okay to Ask—Alright, I don't know that this is something I learned, but it's more like something that was reaffirmed to my core. By nature I have what you'd call an assertive personality. I hold to the opinion that it never hurts to ask. Which is especially true when going through the trenches of labor and delivery. For example, after being under the care of several attentive and kind nurses, I had the misfortune of getting a nurse that simply didn't listen to me and caused me unnecessary pain. I immediately knew that this particular nurse was not a good fit for me. Upon this discovery I quickly asked if she would find me a replacement nurse, which she gratefully complied. Ultimately, my comfort was worth a few minutes of an uncomfortable request. Similarly, it's okay to ask friends/doctors/consultants about why something isn't working or why what is supposedly natural isn't happening for you. Asking does not equate ignorance. In fact, asking is really about empowerment.
3. Trust Your Body—I repeated this mantra throughout my pregnancy and right into the delivery room. Although it seems like a simple statement there is power in trusting what is right for you. The more I tuned into my body, listening and responding to what she needed, the better my body functioned for me. For example, a couple of times in the hospital I rejected pills simply because I knew I did not need them. Similarly, this practice is what made me confident that even though I was  induced I knew I could birth my baby without a cesarean delivery. Trusting your body is trusting yourself.

4. Bonding is Intimate—Again this may seem obvious but I am beyond grateful that I had some one-on-one time with our daughter before the well-wishes of family and friends. For this reason we only had two family members visit us while I was in the hospital and asked that friends wait until we were home before visiting. Limiting distractions enabled me to bond with my baby. This is also why, in the hospital, I made the deliberate decision not to look at or do anything on my phone whenever Amelia is nursing.
5. Recovery Takes Time—After experiencing two major health challenges in my recent past (one in 2011 and the other in 2013), I know a little about slowing down and letting time heal wounds. Putting your body through the rigors of childbirth also requires great care in the recovery process (which can vary a great deal from woman to woman). While I knew I wouldn't be back to the gym overnight, I had no idea about many of the difficulties that would follow having a baby. It's emotional just as much as it is physical. Luckily Ken has helped me through a lot of the recovery process, as have short neighborhood walks.

6. Meals are Little Miracles—Now that I know, really know what the first days and weeks of hallucinatory newborn fatigue feel like, I'm convinced that the BEST gift, apart from sleep, new parents can receive are home cooked meals delivered right to your doorstep. One day, after having spent time back in the hospital for some additional blood work, we came home to a plate of muffins. They tasted like ambrosia and nearly made me cry with gratitude. Between having family in town and thoughtful local friends we have been nourished well by the generosity of others.
7. We are Divine Beings—No matter what you think about the existence of God or a Supreme Being, I can honestly say that I feel more convinced about the divinity of our souls by being allowed the opportunity to birth another person into this world. Becoming a mother, with all the accompanying mental and emotional energy it produces, convinces me that we are more than just flesh and bones. When I look into my daughter's eyes I am certain we come to this earth trailing fine fragments of that inherent divinity from which we are born.

Our Darling Girl

Monday, August 25, 2014

Ten days ago on Friday, August 15th at 7:37am sweet Amelia Jane entered our lives and forever altered everything. Weighing 9 lbs 2 oz and 21 inches long, our little daughter took her time coming to us. She's been adored and cherished ever since her arrival. Several months ago my mom gifted us the beautiful dress pictured above with a note attached that read In case she's a girl. Inwardly I smiled, because from the very beginning we always knew she was a girl. Our darling girl.

Be Our Guest

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Have you ever stayed in one of those luxury hotels? One that has a turn down service and leaves chocolate mints on your pillow? Little touches like that tend to make an experience feel extra special. Which is really nice when staying somewhere other than home.

In the next month we have three separate sets of house guests coming to visit us. And while I might not be playing my usual tour guide self, I wanted to make sure our company had some conveniences at their fingertips. Since I already have the #1 item for house guests, I decided to go beyond the basics and create a canister of visitor goodies. (Basics being: clean bed linens and fresh towels.)

For this project you'll need a glass cracker jar or wire basket and a handful of travel items. Simply fit the toiletries into the jar until you are satisfied with how it comes together and then set it on the nightstand where your guest will be staying. Have you tried something like this? I think our guests will approve!

Board Books for Bébé

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

One of the best parts about not finding out what the gender of our little munchkin is are the gifts. Better baby gifts! And for someone like me, whose love language is split between receiving gifts and acts of service, I'm kind of happy with this arrangement. Sure our baby won't have anything to wear, but she/he already has a sizable library. And really, isn't that enough?

Before & After: Our Bathroom Renovation

Monday, July 28, 2014

Because buying a home and having a baby within a few weeks of each other wasn't exciting enough, we decided to add a major home renovation to the mix. A triple combo I don't recommend. One of the surprising things about major home renovations is that they ALWAYS take longer than you think and cost more than expected. That's just the way it is. However, if you are planning a major remodel I recommend the Cost vs. Value site as a useful starting place.

When we closed on our home I knew the bathroom was simply a non-functional space. I immediately started getting bids from contractors and putting together a Pinterest inspiration board. One of the strangest things about the bathroom was a two foot wall that cut into the faucet side of the tub; making it nearly impossible to turn on the shower without actually getting into the bathtub. Thankfully I never had to use that shower. Awkward placing of fixtures made the space feel small and unwelcoming, not to mention gross. After entirely gutting the space we discovered that ours was likely the fourth (and hopefully final) renovation.
We decided to extend the bathroom entrance by about 2 ft, making the original swinging door into a pocket door that would be flush with the hallway. This gave us additional space and allowed for the removal of the awkward quarter wall near the shower. In addition to the cosmetic changes, we had the old galvanized steel pipes removed and replaced with copper pipes, which greatly improved both the water pressure and taste of our water. Another design trick we used to give the illusion of added space was installing a floating vanity as opposed to a floor mounted one. (So far I love how easy it is to clean under.) When selecting the floor and shower tile I went back and forth between natural stone and porcelain, eventually settling on a marble looking porcelain that was more affordable and easier to maintain. Installing three shelves across from the toilet gave us storage space and an unexpected nook between the vanity and toilet ended up being the perfect spot for the trash can. While dealing with contractors and being without a fully functional bathroom for five weeks was a huge hassle, one of my favorite parts was picking out all the components and tying them together — especially finishing touches like paint and light fixtures. Now that that our outdated 1980s brass bathroom has been transformed into a pleasing modern oasis I can honestly say I am genuinely delighted with the results.

Baskets, Towels, and Shower curtain — Target
Rug — Ikea
Tile — Daltile
Vanity — Modern Bathroom
Faucet — Henry Plumbing
Mirror — Lowe's
Light fixtures — Home Depot
Paint — Home Depot (Behr Citrus and Rhino; hallway Kentucky Blue)
Soap — K Hall Designs
Art — Etsy Aeropagita Prints

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