Thursday, December 4, 2014

{On Loving My Post-Partum Body}

As crazy as it is to believe, this Saturday I will be eight weeks post-partum with our sweet Julia. Truth be told, this is such a hard stage for me, I mean I feel great, life has gone back to business as usual and we're slowly finding our new groove as a family of four. But despite feeling like myself physically, my jeans do not want to button, most of my wardrobe is still snug and I still have almost twenty pounds to lose. I seriously wonder how that is possible, given that I have got to be burning a million calories a day just keeping up with my little ones milk demands! But alas, the scale doesn't lie. Being that this isn't my first rodeo, I know that with time, a good diet and some hard work, I will get back into my old jeans, but in the meantime I am working on loving my body right now, during the process. So I decided to put some of my thoughts in writing, to serve as a reminder to myself on the inevitable hard days ahead when I need a little pep talk.

While getting ready today I hopped on the scale, only to be disappointed at this seemingly slow process of getting back to my pre-baby weight. But as she usually is, my three year old shadow was not far away, serving as a reminder to keep my negative thoughts about my body to myself. It's funny isn't it, how kids make us so aware of the words that come out of our mouths?! Instead of what I wanted to say, which was something about my tummy still being soft, I looked at Claire, who was watching me and delights in the fact that our bodies are so alike, and said, "Isn't Mommy's body beautiful?!" Of course, she excitedly agreed and added, "Mine is, too!". In our short conversation I went on to tell her that not only were our bodies beautiful, but they were strong and capable and that Mommy was so grateful for the way my body had carried and nurtured her and her sister. I believe there is power in the whole "Fake it 'til you make it" because I can honestly say that just that few moments of gratitude toward my body and what it's blessed me with, gave me new grace toward myself in that moment.

This got me thinking about what a little mini-me Claire has become. She is certainly an independent little girl with her own ideas and opinions, yet it amazes me how many times a day I hear her repeat the things I say. All I have to do is watch her play mommy to her baby dolls for a few minutes and it's clear that she's taking her cues from me. Given that I will be one of the most influential people in their lives for the next several years, I am faced with the responsibility to set a positive example of the qualities I desire my daughters to possess. And what I want is to raise strong, confident, gracious young women with a healthy body image.

So going forward, I will be more gracious to myself, remembering that my body allowed me to grow and birth two beautiful baby girls! I will be more patient and not expect to lose all of the baby weight in an unrealistic time frame. It will take time and hard work, but I will get there. I will remember to eat for nourishment and exercise for enjoyment. And lastly, I will continue striving to be a strong, healthy example to my girls, remembering that the scale doesn't give the whole picture.

These sweet babies will my motivation!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

{Happy 2nd birthday, Claire Elizabeth!}

{Claire: clear, bright, famous; Elizabeth: the fullness of God}

To my sweet daughter,

Today you are two years old! What an incredibly bright, charming and fiercely independent little girl you have become! Every day with you is an adventure, whether you're surprising us with new phrases or getting into typical toddler mischief. I'm sure I will say this many more times, but this stage might be my favorite yet! You are full of spunk, silliness and are a total chatterbox. If I could bottle up your personality and cherish it forever, I would!

I always knew that having a daughter would be amazing, but you have brought new joy and wonder to our lives that I couldn't have imagined in my wildest dreams. I adore your tender heart and the way you show compassion when somebody is hurt or crying and it warms my heart to watch you love and nurture your baby dolls (you are going to be an amazing big sister!) You somehow manage to strike the perfect balance of girly and feminine with a wild and adventurous spirit that is simply captivating. I love every single ounce of you!

You are so excitable and always game for an impromptu dance party (and girl, you can groove!) A few of your favorite pastimes include: coloring and painting, playing dress-up, taking walks, playing at the park, "cooking" with Mommy, throwing balls outside with Daddy, reading and your favorite shows to watch are Dora and Jake and the Neverland Pirates. You are also obsessed with Minnie Mouse and all Princesses. And possibly my favorite thing of all is how you long to be just like Mommy and Daddy, mocking everything we say and do. Seeing ourselves through your eyes is a hoot!

For most of your second year, you went through a phase of being really shy with strangers and even family you didn't see very often, but you've come out of your shell as you've gotten older and more comfortable with the idea of people coming and going. We are so blessed to live around so much family and it's amazing to watch how much you are loved by them, as well as our friends! Over the past year you have spent a lot of time with your cousin Anuhea and you two have developed such a sweet bond. You are always telling Daddy and me that Anu is one of your best friends :) You are such a lucky girl!

Claire Elizabeth, you have stretched me in more ways than I can count and I praise God daily for blessing us with you. Being your Mommy is the sweetest joy and my prayer is that you ALWAYS know how deeply you are loved!

Happy Birthday, Princess!

Love, Mommy

2 year stats 

Height: 37 in. (100th percentile)
Weight: 30 lbs. (90th percentile)

100% perfection

Thursday, October 17, 2013

{Courtesy of Nap Time}

Until about a year ago, a good, solid nap from my child was something that eluded me. We struggled through that transition stage from two naps to one and Claire just didn't want to work with her tired Mama. That is until she turned 14 months and something just clicked. She gave me one, glorious 3-hour nap. And again the next day. And the next. And so it went, like clockwork magic, day after day after day. And sometimes, when she's feeling really nice, she'll sneak in a 4 or 5 hour nap here and there. But on the regular, I get about three hours during the day to catch up on housework, regain my sanity and sometimes, sneak in a nap myself. It is honestly what keeps me energized on crazy days of tantrums and potty training. 

We recently went through about two and a half weeks of a nap revolt. Yes, I wanted to pull out my hair on a few of those days, but praise the Lord all is back to normal! Toddlers, they like to keep you on your toes alright!

All that to say that earlier this week, in an attempt to celebrate restored sanity in our house (and because I realize I have no idea how much longer I will have the luxury of these marathon naps) I decided to try a new, ridiculous looking recipe for chocolate chip cookies. Little did I know that I would discover the worlds best chocolate chip cookie! But please, don't take my word for it, make them yourself and you'll see.

I'm not sure exactly how these are sooo amazing, but it seems to me that the method is key, so trust me on this and be sure to follow the recipe to the letter. Got it?  Fantastic! But be warned, these cookies are no joke! The only adequate word to describe them would be ginormous [to quote Buddy the Elf.] So get baking, my dears and enjoy!

Levain Bakery Chocolate Chip Cookies (copycat recipe)
found on Brown eyed Baker

3 cups (13½ ounces) bread flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
¾ cup + 4 teaspoons (6 ounces) light or dark brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
2 eggs, cold, lightly beaten in a separate bowl
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1½ cups dark chocolate chips (I used 1 cup dark & 1/2 cup white)
1 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped (I substituted pecans)

1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside.
3. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until it comes together in one cohesive mass, about 1 minute. Add both sugars and continue to beat for another 1 to 2 minutes, until all of the sugar has been incorporated into the butter. Gradually add the eggs and vanilla and continue beating on medium speed until mixed, scraping the sides of bowl once (the batter will appear lumpy). Reduce the speed to medium-low and gradually add the flour mixture until just a little bit of flour still remains. Stir in the chocolate chips and nuts with a rubber spatula.
4. Divide the dough into 12 even pieces, just grabbing it by the handful and roughly shaping it into a ball (it should not be smooth). Place them (evenly spaced) on the prepared baking sheet. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
5. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Bake for 18 to 24 minutes, or until light golden brown on top. Let cool for 5 minutes on the cookie sheet, then remove to a wire rack to finish cooling. Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days.

Friday, September 20, 2013

{On Frugality and Pulled Pork}

You could say that the past couple of years has really transformed the way we meal plan around here.
You see, not only are we now feeding an additional mouth, but our budget has changed quite a bit since I no longer work full-time. We've always kept a pretty modest budget, so we've simply tried to add a few helpful practices to make sure we get the most out of each dollar and aren't frivolous spending hard-earned cash we could be saving!

Three very helpful things I've implemented to help us create and stay within our monthly food budget, while still buying high-quality ingredients, have been to spend some time clipping coupons, consciously look for the best deals before going to the store and bringing cash only for groceries. These things alone, while new for us, have been a big help!

I hope to share more in the future about some other things we've done to cut back on expenses and our goal to live completely debt-free, but for now let me to touch briefly on these three ideas.

First of all, let me just say that I am no fanatic couponer (nor do I have any desire to be!) but I do spend five to ten minutes every Monday going through the mailers for good coupons on items I already need to purchase. I am very conscious to only save a coupon if it is something I am already going to purchase, otherwise I end up spending more than I need to anyway!

Secondly, I pay closer attention to store ads and deals. For instance, I have learned that Sprouts typically has some of the best deals on seasonal & organic produce and certain meats (this week I got fresh Ahi fillets for $5.99/lb.!) Just being more aware of sales and such has not only saved us money, but allowed me to buy more pricey items we wouldn't normally spend the money on.

And finally, a brand new practice we've implemented is paying cash for groceries. While not rocket science, it definitely makes me think twice before buying something we don't necessarily need and keeps the budget in check. Since I've got a competitive nature, this is kind of a fun thing for me to see how much I can come in "under budget".

So now you know a bit more about where my head is at lately, I want to share a great recipe I recently tried for Pulled Pork! I should probably tell you that this is not something I would normally cook, but while grocery shopping at Sprouts last week I noticed a really great sale on boneless pork loin, like a REALLY great deal! So I purchased one and started looking for a fresh, new recipe to add to our menu. I quickly came across a simple crock pot recipe on that looked promising. Of course, my husband was thrilled as pulled pork BBQ sandwiches are right up his ally. So you see, it was a win/win!

This was such a delicious meal (& made for excellent leftovers!) And sandwiches are just one of many possibilities. I'm thinking tacos or a salad would be equally tasty, and not to mention a great option for company or a party!

 Easy Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

2 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced
4 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 cup chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 (4-1/2- to 5-pound) boneless or bone-in pork shoulder (also known as pork butt), twine or netting removed
2 cups barbecue sauce (optional)

  1. Place the onions and garlic in an even layer in the slow cooker and pour in the stock or broth. Combine the sugar, chili powder, measured salt, cumin, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Pat the pork dry with paper towels. Rub the spice mixture all over the pork and place the meat on top of the onions and garlic. Cover and cook until the pork is fork tender, about 6 to 8 hours on high or 8 to 10 hours on low.
  2. Turn off the slow cooker and remove the pork to a cutting board. Set a fine-mesh strainer over a medium heatproof bowl. Pour the onion mixture from the slow cooker through the strainer and return the solids to the slow cooker. Set the strained liquid aside.
  3. If the pork has a bone, remove and discard it. Using 2 forks, shred the meat into bite-sized pieces, discarding any large pieces of fat. Return the shredded meat to the slow cooker, add the barbecue sauce, if using, and mix to combine. If you’re not using barbecue sauce, use a spoon to skim and discard the fat from the surface of the strained cooking liquid, and then add 1/4 cup of the liquid at a time to the slow cooker until the pork is just moistened. Taste and season with salt as needed.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

{A Sweet Place to Start}

With Fall just around the corner and let's face it, any excuse to bust out my slow cooker, I decided it was time to test out a variation of "overnight oatmeal" I'd been seeing all over the web.

It seemed to me that because oatmeal takes less than ten minutes to cook on the stove top, it was a kind of a waste to go through the hassle of cleaning my crock pot for something that I don't mind cooking the old fashioned way.

That is until my mom pointed me to a recipe for overnight steelcut oats. Ah, now you're talking! I love me some steelcut oats, but am rarely willing to invest the 30+ minutes to cook (what can I say, my toddler is impatient when it comes to her food!). So earlier this week I looked through a few recipes and decided to create my own version based on what I had on hand.

Best part about making oats this way-making a large batch and having lots of leftovers. In fact, I might be enjoying a nice warm bowl as I type :)

It was a heavenly thing to behold Monday morning as I walked downstairs and was greeted with the sweet, warm fragrance of apples and cinnamon and my breakfast already prepared!

This is a perfect go-to breakfast as the weather turns cooler and a sure way to get a good, hearty breakfast, even if your morning is rushed (or as I said, your little one is a week bit impatient).

{Forgive the Instagram photo. I'll have to get back in a habit of using my real camera!}

Overnight Apple Pie Steelcut Oats

1 cup steelcut oats
1 cup almond milk
3 cups water
1  apple, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup raisins
2 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp real maple syrup (you could also substitute brown sugar if you like)

Add all ingredients into your crockpot and cook on low for 7-8 hours

Now that I know how simple this is, I plan to try other variations with different fruit and add-ins (I'm thinking the last of the summer peaches I just bought!)

I hope you try this out, make it your own and share your own versions with me!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Claire Elizabeth {18 Months}

Is it really possibly that my sweet, baby girl is halfway through her second year?! Hands down, this has been the fastest year and a half of my life. Slow down, time...slow down! Though I continue to be amazed at what complete and utter joy Claire has brought to us these past eighteen months!

As far as we're concerned Claire is definitely the funniest toddler ever! She's got personality oozing from every ounce of her and is generally a very happy, loving, independent, goofy and curious little girl. She loves kids and loves getting dirty! One particular change we have seen lately is how bashful she gets around strangers or people she doesn't see very often. She will eventually warm up, but initially, she burrows in to mommy or daddy and plays really coy with people (her Mama was the same way ;). She's got the best smile and flashes her big, cheesy grin when I say, "cheese!"- it's to die for!!

A few of Claire's favorite things right now include: Her Baby Signing Time videos (she is seriously obsessed!), orange juice, her "babies", balls of any kind, bath time, being outside, bubbles, water, swimming, water (you get the idea!), her blankie, all berries, Abby, gardening, being tickled and dance parties with Daddy (girl has got some moves!)

We have been really amazed at how much her vocabulary has exploded these past several weeks! Some of her most common words right now include: Mommy, Daddy, please, thank you, cracker, pool, Abby, baby, cheese, cookie (we're blaming Grandma for that one), juice, no, go, up, down, night night, bath, shoes, though she mimics everything and creates her own versions of words like "blanket", which she calls "kiki" and "water" as "wawa". It's been so fun for us that she can communicate what she wants and needs with us beyond signing (though signing is still a large part of her communication). But it's true what they say, just when you start wondering when kids will start talking - Bam! - they never stop!

At sixteen months we transitioned Claire to a toddler bed, after she scared us half to death with her crib-climbing skills. I was a little nervous it might be too early, but it turned out to be one of the best decisions we've made! The transition was incredibly smooth and for the first time in her life, Claire willingly goes down for naps and bedtime on her own. See, she's always been a great sleeper (once she's down), but it was the getting her to sleep that was so difficult for us. Apparently the freedom that the big girl bed gives her was just what she needed. We have also started potty training after she began expressing a lot of interest in going to the bathroom on the toilet. So we bought her a big girl potty and set it in the bathroom, just to let her become familiar with it. Though she's already had several successful attempts! And she now tells us "poo poo" when she has to go or after she's gone in her diaper, so we're hopeful that means she might be ready for more intentional potty training soon! Hooray!!

Of course, with a toddler comes the unavoidable and occasional tantrums...yeah, those are not so fun. One second she's happy as can be, but tell her "no" and in two seconds flat you might see that sweet little girl face-down on the floor, crying. We have got ourselves an opinionated little girl and it has certainly tested and grown my patience!

We still have an excellent eater and a great sleeper (8 to 6:30-7)! We are officially down to one nap (10 to 12:30-1), wearing 24 month clothes, size 6 shoes, and are still nursing a few times a day, (though they are very short sessions).

Claire Elizabeth, being your mama is the most fun, exhausting, amazing, challenging and yet the most rewarding thing I have ever done! I cannot imagine my life without you and will continue to savor each and every precious drop of each stage you are in, as I'm learning that it all passes too quickly. Happy half-birthday, darling girl! Mommy and Daddy love you so much!!

Official stats

Height: 35 inches (100th percentile)
Weight: 27.4 lbs (90th percentile)
Head circumference: 19.02 inches (91st percentile)

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

{Dinner Last Night: Thai Chicken Pizza}

Last night was pizza night at the Hansens. But not just your average slice of pie, I tried my hand at a Thai-inspired recipe I found in an old issue of Eating Well! Take that, Pinterest. It was quite a stretch from our typical pizza combos, but delicious nonetheless and certainly one we'll make again. A nice change up and definitely a hit with our little one, who licked the crust clean of its savory peanut sauce!

Thai Chicken Pizza
Recipe from Eating Well Magazine circa 2007

20 ounces prepared whole-wheat pizza dough, (or you could prepare from scratch)
1/4 cup smooth natural peanut butter
3 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon canola oil
8 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breast, trimmed and diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
4 scallions, thinly sliced
2/3 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

  1. Place oven rack in the lowest position; preheat to 450°F. Coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray.
  2. Roll out or stretch dough on a lightly floured surface into a rough 16-inch oval. Transfer to the baking sheet. Bake on the bottom rack until puffed and lightly crisped on the bottom, 8 to 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, whisk peanut butter, water, soy sauce, vinegar, ginger and garlic in a small bowl until well combined.
  4. Heat oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook, stirring, until cooked through, 2 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl. Add bell pepper, scallions and 1 tablespoon of the peanut sauce to the chicken; toss to combine.
  5. Remove the crust from the oven; spread evenly with the remaining peanut sauce. Top with the chicken mixture, then sprinkle with cheese. Return the pizza to the oven and bake on the bottom rack until the crust is crispy and golden and the cheese is melted, 11 to 13 minutes.
  6. I also added a touch of crushed red pepper and fresh cilantro just before serving. Enjoy!
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