Parenting: Year 1

It’s hard for me to comprehend how this year is already coming to a close. It feels like just yesterday I was bouncing on a ball, walking and squatting in hopes that she would just freaking fall out of me already. I blinked and my sweet little newborn baby is now a bright, beautiful growing girl that’s getting into everything and is about to turn one year old. Twelve months ago as I was only just preparing to embark on this journey, I felt so many different emotions, had so many questions and so much fear of the uknown. I wish I could have told myself to calm the hell down, everything is going to be just fine.

It’s difficult to imagine what life will be like once you’re handed that tiny human for the very first time. The thing is, you can’t really imagine it. There is no one way to feel and there are no words to describe it. Labor and delivery is wild. The most un-natural natural thing I’ve ever been through. But being handed that baby was the most breath taking moment of my life. Love came over my body like a tidal wave and everything I had just endured, all the pain and all the fear, just went away. At that moment, I became her mama and it was the most gratifying job I’ve ever been given.

That’s not to say there weren’t challenging moments. There was a lot of crying, both the baby and myself. There was a lot of feeling lost and trying to find our way. There was a lot of arguments, because being a new parent and a loving spouse are two roles hard to balance. There were a lot of blow-out diapers that always seemed to happen at the worst times. But there was also a lot of laughs. A lot of snuggles and joy and moments I wish didn’t pass so quickly.

Since June 24th of last year, a lot has changed. Emma is a rough and tough little girl that loves being outside and going in her pool. She loves to eat…all the time (strawberries, bananas, avocado, macaroni and cheese, and cheesy eggs are a few of her favorites.) She loves our dog, Doug, and giving him kisses and patting him on the back. Wherever Emma goes, Doug is never far behind. The girl won’t nap, but she’ll sleep through the night (hallelujah!) She’ll say things like mama and dada and “ut-oooohhh” and bananananana. She crawls faster than I can blink, but is terrified to take steps. She loves going really high in her swing and cruising down the slide. She makes me so proud to be her mama every single day.

Emma, I hope that you never lose that big bright smile and belly laugh. That you always know your worth and never settle. I hope that you love yourself and are forever unapologetically you. But I hope you love others too. I hope you have the ability to be empathetic, to treat others with the same kindness and respect that you deserve too. Follow your heart and dream big. Travel the world and find the beauty in it. You will make mistakes and that’s okay; Learn from them. Come to me always, no matter how hard it may be. I will always be on your team.

A few things I’ve learned this past year…

  1. Everyone and their mother is going to give you advice. Advice on the best way to feed your baby, burp your baby, wipe your baby, dress your baby, teach your baby, the list goes on. Take it with a grain a salt. Before having Emma and right after, I would get so frustrated and overwhelmed with everyone’s advice and opinions. I now understand that they (most, anyway) are truly just trying to help. They are trying to lessen the burden and to provide comfort. They want you to know that you are not alone. Accept their advise and move on with your day.

    However, if you are someone at the other end of this situation…I urge you to be kind. The next time you’re at the grocery store and you see a mom with a kid in PJ’s in the shopping cart and another one throwing a temper tantrum on the floor, I hope that you can find it inside of you to walk by her and let her know that she’s doing a pretty damn amazing job.
  2. There is no right or wrong way to be a parent (besides the obvious.) At the end of the day, only you know what is best for your family. Maybe you instantly fell in love with breastfeeding, but maybe the thought of it overwhelmed you from day one. Perhaps you decide to make all your baby’s food from scratch, but maybe you just don’t have the time. Maybe you’ve decided you’re only going to use all natural and organic baby products, but perhaps that’s just not feasible for your family. Some may refuse to have the TV on and some may rely on an episode of Sesame Street just so they can pee in peace. Maybe you decided Pampers work better than Huggies or maybe you use cloth diapers. Heck, maybe you even use a butt spatula to apply diaper cream, and that’s okay! There is no right or wrong way to be a mom or dad. Feed and change your baby however the hell you please, but just make sure you love and nurture the crap out of that little blessing.

    3. Stop with the comparison. “Well Karen’s baby is 10 months old and walking, but my baby only scoots…is there something wrong with my baby? Is there something wrong with what I’m doing?” or “Karen doesn’t even look like she had a baby, I wonder what diet she’s on…” Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we scroll through Instagram and Pinterest and compare ourselves to a perfectly staged snapshot of someones life? Why do we constantly forget that there is a life behind these snapshots and that life is not always as perfect as it may seem. We need to stop putting so much pressure on ourselves to be perfect in all our different roles. Every single baby, mother, father, step parent, etc. is different, as is their situation. Be kind to yourself and your child. Be patient.

    4. We’re all just winging it. If you think that there is a book that you can read or a class that you can take to mold you into a perfect parent you are sadly mistaken. There is no big secret. I remember priding myself in my years of experience as a babysitter and daycare provider. I remember telling myself, whenever I felt doubted, “I’ve taken care of 100’s of babies – I got this.” L-O-f*cking-L. Yes, everything was okay and I did get the hang of it eventually, but being a parent is not easy. It is not something you can train for. Nothing can prepare you for the love your heart is about to feel and the immense amount of fear and anxiety that goes along with that. Nothing can prepare you for the sleepless nights and the loneliness you may feel during that 2 am feeding. There’s nothing that compares to being out to breakfast with your husband and baby and looking over only to see poop pouring out of your baby’s diaper like a volcano all over the high chair, dripping onto the floor. Not one single thing prepares you for that. All of us parents are walking/running through the day, just praying we can get through it without a trip to the E.R.

    5. Everything is going to be okay. We all get overwhelmed. We all get tired. We all have questions that don’t have answers. We all fear the unknown. I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve found myself crying on the couch because of a day that was so long and trying that I didn’t think it would ever end. I also can’t count how many times I’ve found myself crying happy tears, full of pure joy and gratefulness. There will be hard times, but there will be a million more amazing ones. Have faith in every day. I don’t mean faith in God, but faith in yourself. Faith in your ability to do the best you can.

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Buttercream Icing

Buttercream Icing

This recipe is a perfect amount for icing a batch of cookies, however I would double or triple it when using for cupcakes, cakes, or other desserts.
Course: Dessert
Keyword: Icing

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups confectioners sugar
  • 3 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tbsp whole milk

Instructions

  • Using a mixing attachment, whip together ingredients until smooth and fluffy. 
  • Use immediately or keep in refrigerator for up to 3 days. 

Iced Sugar Cookies

Jump to Recipe

Now I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, I’m not much of a baker. Breaking out measuring cups and tablespoons and teaspoons is so extra and I’m really more of a “little bit of this, little bit of that” kinda girl. However, in the spirit of holidays/special occasions I always push myself to be the cake boss that I am not and produce some sort of treats for family, friends, and coworkers.

Over the past few years and many Pinterest recipe fails, I’ve finally compiled my favorite soft sugar cookie recipe and it’s so easy even I can handle it. My secret to these cookies actually happened by accident. A few years ago I was following a recipe I found that called for half n’ half. It was a spur of the moment cookie day and all I had on hand was my french vanilla coffee creamer (International Delight, to be exact.) I used this in replacement of the regular half n’ half and cut my vanilla extract in half. WOW, let me tell ya. The most perfect creamy, vanilla-y flavor you could ask for in a cookie. This particular day I also couldn’t find my rolling pin, so I used a wine bottle. Ah, the memories…

This homemade buttercream icing is even easier than the cookies. I found this to be the perfect amount for icing cookies, but would most definitely double, if not triple it, when icing a cake.

Aren’t they beautiful!? There’s something so cute and cozy to me about Valentine’s Day and all the pinks we’re surrounded by. I can’t wait to be able to share these moments in the kitchen with Emma and secretly go behind her and fix the icing on every single cookie #OCD #HelicopterMom

Soft Sugar Cookies

The most perfectly vanilla flavored soft sugar cookie, just waiting to be iced or sprinkled.  
Course: Dessert
Servings: 24 cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 tbsp french vanilla creamer such as International Delight or Coffee Mate
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda

Instructions

  • Using either a stand or hand mixer, cream together your butter and sugar. Slowly mix in your eggs, french vanilla creamer, and vanilla extract.
  • Carefully mix in your dry ingredients: flour, baking powder and baking soda, just until incorporated.
  • Cover and refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight. 
  • Preheat oven to 350. On a lightly floured surface, roll out your dough to 1/4″ thickness and cut into desired shapes using cookie cutters.
  • On a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, place your cookies 1-2″ inches apart (about 6 cookies per sheet.) Bake for 5-7 minutes and transfer directly from oven to cooling rack. Allow cookies to cool completely before icing.

I hope these cookies are the perfect addition to your Valentine’s Day and spread a little love wherever or whomever you decide to share them with. I would love to see your twist on them and how your little ones decorate them for all their special occasions, so be sure to tag me @jaclyndrift on Instagram.

Love to you all,


GALentine’s Day

Don’t get me wrong, I love my husband and I enjoy getting spoiled on Valentines Day just as much as the next person (seriously I’m not going to say no to fresh flowers and chocolate.) I may even be that girl that says she doesn’t need flowers and secretly hates when he doesn’t get me flowers (like, do you even know me?!) We even cook a nice dinner together and might even light a candle or two while we enjoy it. What I’m getting at here is that I’m not anti-valentines day by any means. I’m just pro give me an excuse for a party and champagne and my ladies!

I think GALentines is brilliant (how the hell didn’t I think of that!?) There’s not enough days out there to celebrate the beauty of a great gal-pal. Listen, I’m even pro MALEntines Day. Please, go, celebrate your cute little bromance and I’ll stay home with Ben & Jerry and full charge of the TV remote. It’s so healthy for a relationship to spend time apart and with your friends. It’s what keeps us as separate human beings and not just some weird merge of two people (i.e. Brangelina, and look what happened to them…)

Last night I had some of my closest girlfriends over to celebrate and celebrate we did. To be able to catch up with them while drinking fun champagne cocktails, surrounded by pink decorations and snacking on dessert inspired “charcuterie” was magical. It truly felt like we were being celebrated and that can sometimes be exactly what we all need. It was a night off from our ordinary lives, spent laughing and cheers-ing over stories and I can’t wait to do it with them all again.

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It’s not too late to start planning your GALentine’s Day party for Friday night! I have a few tips that will help you flawlessly throw the perfect ladies night and it will be so easy that your hardest task will be figuring out how to get your man out of the house. Put your lipstick on, pour that glass of champagne, and grab your bitches!

  1. Cute, Flirty Decor: I always love any excuse to break out my letter board. You can put a movie quote, a song lyric, something pun-y…I decided to go with “Happy GALentines Day, Babes,” but even a simple “XOXO” would do the trick. Use your food and drink as decor, too! It’s easy to put your snacks on a cute cheeseboard or colored dishes and to display liquor bottles on a cake plate and buy flavored seltzers that coordinate to the theme. I put our dessert “charcuterie” on a wooden cheeseboard and the chocolate & vanilla frosting in little pink bowls from Anthropologie. I displayed my wine & Champagne bottles in a boho fringe basket (Target) and purchased strawberry seltzers (pink & red can, duh…) I also purchased cute pink fruit baskets off Amazon for $3 to put some odds & ends in and found heart and GALentine’s cocktail napkins at Target. I finished it off with candles and a strand of fairy lights because they’re just so dang sparkly.
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  3. Fun Food: The first rule of fun food is that is should be low maintenance. Sweating your ass off in the kitchen and being left with a mountain of dishes doesn’t sound very fun! And don’t forget that take-out is 110% acceptable for evenings like this. I decided on pizza for my group of jersey girls, but another cute idea would be a tray of Chick-Fil-A for all your chicks…I mean YOU GET IT, RIGHT? I also did super easy cheeseboard of just triple creme brie, prosciutto and apricot jam. The star of the show was a dessert themed “charcuterie” that consisted of pineapple & strawberries, churro flavored rice crispies, pretzel crisps, teddy grahams, waffle cookies, and some fancy marshmallows (brand is smash mallow.) We dipped all the goodies in some melted chocolate and some funfetti icing (adult Dunkaroos, anyone!?) You could easily set up an ice cream bar or put out some store-bought baked goods, too.
  4. Festive Cocktails: There’s no cocktail girlier than some bubbly champagne. Put some strawberries or maraschino cherries out to accompany it and let people DIY (some colorful sprinkles would be super cute too and I am really wishing I thought of that sooner DAMNIT). Wine is always a good idea, but there’s not really a wrong answer for your bar top either. Just remember not everyone likes to indulge in the libations, so it’s always a good idea to provide some sparkling waters or mocktails as well.
  5. Good Music: Women love to sing and dance. It’s a thing. A fun throwback playlist is perfect for this occasion.
  6. Chick-Flick: If your girl gang is done with the dance party or you’re more of a meek and mild group, you can never go wrong with a good Rom-Com. Netflix & chill with “How to Lose A Guy in 10 Days” or “Pretty Woman,” just to name a few.
  7. Happy Valentine’s, GALentine’s, MALEntines, whatever day it may be, I hope you celebrate love not only on this day, but everyday of the year. Cheers, babes!

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Fondue Party

A gathering of your favorite people, revolving around vessels of {typically} cheese or chocolate, accompanied by perfectly paired foods and libations.  The reason to why fondue parties went out of style will forever be a mystery to me. 2019 is the year we are taking back fondue. Foodies, rejoice!

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There are few foods that I love more than cheese. Cheese makes everything better. A close second? Chocolate. But that doesn’t mean cheese and chocolate are the only types of fondue-to-do. For your starter you can easily sub out the cheese with a marinara or Alfredo sauce and go Italian themed. Have breaded chicken/veal cutlets, some spicy or sweet Italian sausage, ravioli, garlic knots, mozzarella sticks,  shrimp & scallops for dipping. Make it southern and have some homemade sausage gravy in your fondue pot with fried chicken fingers, biscuits, hush puppies, potatoes and corn fritters as your dippers. Not one single person has ever said fondue was healthy. For dessert, swap out the chocolate for melted peanut butter and joyfully dunk just about anything in your reach. Caramel or a bubbling strawberry compote are great options too, but I’ll list a ton of great combinations and fondue options below.

You do not need a fondue set to execute the perfect fondue party. You can simply heat up or melt your ingredients on the stove and pour them into a bowl for serving. Keeping it heated is not overly important, as I promise that someone will be licking that bowl clean before it’s even cooled down. I would, however, ensure you have some sort of poker stick/kebobs for dipping purposes. You can find wooden ones at just about any grocery store. Don’t forget to put out some refreshments on your bar cart or counter, some good IPA’s or wine being some of my favorites! However, some bubbly cocktails or fruity mocktails would be just as enjoyable.

Just like there are no rules to cooking, there are no rules to fondue. Have fun with it, try new things! The best part about fondue is how casual it is. It’s not your typical sit-down dinner party. It’s a social gathering, an “experience” if you will. Put on a good playlist, serve it at an area where people can gather around informally while they eat and communicate, laugh, sing, dance. I love serving on a kitchen island or even on a coffee table, just throw a few pillows down for some floor seating and even put on a movie for a more intimate feel. I hope you enjoy all the recipes and pairings I’ve curated below and that your next fondue party is both tasty and lighthearted.

Recipes

Beer Cheese

  • 2 tablespoons salted butter
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • salt/pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 cup favorite beer
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar, shredded
  • 1 cup mild cheddar, shredded
  • 1/2 cup swiss, shredded
  1. In your fondue pot or in a saucepan, melt your butter.
  2. Sprinkle in your cornstarch and seasonings, whisk until combined.
  3. Pour in your beer and bring to a simmer. Continuously stirring, begin to add your cheese a little at a time. As it melts, continue to add more until desired consistency.

 

Mexican Style Cheese Fondue

  • 2 tablespoons salted butter
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • salt/pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup cerveza (Corona, Pacifico, Modelo)
  • 1 1/2 cups mild cheddar, shredded
  • 1 cup monterey jack, shredded
  • 2 tablespoons pickled jalapenos, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup Rotel, drained
  1. In your fondue pot or in a saucepan, melt your butter.
  2. Sprinkle in your cornstarch and seasonings, whisk until combined.
  3. Pour in your beer and bring to a simmer. Continuously stirring, begin to add your cheese a little at a time. As it melts, continue to add more until desired consistency.
  4. Stir in your pickled jalapenos and Rotel before serving.

 

Sausage Gravy

  • 16 oz. Jimmy Dean pork breakfast sausage
  • 4 tablespoons salted butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • ground black pepper
  • salt to taste
  1. In a large skillet, use your spatula to crumble the sausage and cook over medium heat. Add in your butter and sprinkle flour over entire mixture. Stir until combined.
  2. While whisking, slowly pour in your milk. Continue whisking until gravy begins to thicken. Season with ground black pepper and salt to taste.

Fondue 2

Chocolate Fondue
*I actually prefer to prepare my dessert fondues on the stove, using a double boiler, and than transferring to a fondue pot/serving vessel. Ingredients high in sugar tend to burn faster/easier and fondue pots tend to be difficult to control heat.

  • 12 ounces milk chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • dash of pure vanilla extract
    *optional: 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
  1. Using a double boiler, pour in your heavy cream & vanilla, followed by your chocolate chips. Continuously stir until smooth & creamy. Immediately remove from heat and transfer to preferred serving vessel.

 

Peanut Butter Fondue
*I actually prefer to prepare my dessert fondues on the stove, using a double boiler, and than transferring to a fondue pot/serving vessel. Ingredients high in sugar tend to burn faster/easier and fondue pots tend to be difficult to control heat.

  • 2 cups creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
  • 3 tbsp. heavy cream
  1. Using a double boiler, pour in your heavy cream and peanut butter and stir constantly. As peanut butter begins to melt, stir in the confectioners sugar. Once mixture is completely smooth and melted, remove from heat and transfer to preferred serving vessel.

 

Salted Caramel Fondue
*I actually prefer to prepare my dessert fondues on the stove, using a double boiler, and than transferring to a fondue pot/serving vessel. Ingredients high in sugar tend to burn faster/easier and fondue pots tend to be difficult to control heat. 

  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup salted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream, room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon – 1 teaspoon of sea salt
  1. In a medium sauce pan over medium heat, begin to heat your sugars. Whisking every minute for about 7 minutes until they begin to melt.
  2. Immediately reduce heat to low and add butter. Using a wooden spoon, stir until butter is melted, combined, and beginning to bubble (just a few minutes).
  3. Slowly stir in your heavy cream and let it come to a boil, then immediately remove from heat. Add salt and transfer to preferred serving vessel.

 

Homemade Corn Tortilla Chips

  • 1 package small corn tortillas
  • frying oil, enough to cover 1″ depth in your frying pan
    • canola, vegetable, and coconut oil are my preference
  • chili powder
  • garlic powder
  • fine sea salt

*Please always be careful while using hot oil. You can test if your oil is ready (hot enough) by running your fingers under water and flicking a TINY amount of the water into the oil. If the oil begins to bubble where the water has touched, it is hot enough to begin frying.

  1. Heat your oil over medium for about 5 minutes or until hot enough to fry.
  2. Cut your tortillas in half vertically and horizontally, creating 4 triangles.
  3. Carefully drop 8-12 tortillas (depending on the size of your frying pan) into your oil at a time. Let fry for just a few minutes, until light golden brown.
  4. Remove from oil and transfer to a dish covered with a paper towel. Immediately dust with chili & garlic powder and sea salt.

 

Pairings

*dippers listed are just options, it is not required that you serve alllll of them LOL

Traditional

Fondue: Beer Cheese

Dippers:

  • ham
  • sausage/kielbasa
  • meatballs
  • steak
  • bacon
  • chicken fingers
  • cocktail hotdogs
  • shrimp/coconut shrimp
  • scallops
  • french baquette
  • pretzels/soft pretzels
  • broccoli/cauliflower
  • apple/pear slices
  • potatoes
  • bell pepper slices

Italian

Fondue: Marinara or Alfredo Sauce

Dippers:

  • meatballs
  • spicy or sweet italian sausage
  • chicken/veal cutlets
  • shrimp
  • scallops
  • garlic knots/garlic bread
  • fried eggplant
  • ravioli
  • mozzarella sticks
  • zucchini
  • potatoes

Southern

Fondue: Sausage Gravy

Dippers:

  • buttermilk fried chicken fingers
  • chicken fried steak
  • biscuits
  • hush puppies
  • corn fritters
  • potatoes
  • sweet potatoes
  • brussel sprouts
  • cauliflower
  • green beans

 

Cinco De Mayo 

Fondue: Mexican Style Cheese

Dippers:

  • chorizo
  • empanadas
  • taquitos
  • taco style meatballs
  • sliced flank steak
  • homemade tortilla chips
  • corn bread bites
  • sliced bell peppers
  • mexican street corn

 

Dessert

Fondue: Chocolate, Peanut Butter, Salted Caramel, Fruit Compote, Peppermint Bark for the Holidays

Dippers:

  • fruit: strawberries, pineapple, banana, blueberries, apples & pears
  • marshmallows (“SmashMallow” has great flavored ones!)
  • graham crackers (teddy grahams would be great for little ones!)
  • wafer & waffle cookies
  • sugar cookies (fun to use cookie cutters and coordinate with holidays)
  • pound cake, cubed
  • cheesecake bites
  • bacon
  • gingerbread cookies
  • homemade donuts
  • pretzels/soft pretzels

*I also love serving a small side of vanilla or funfetti frosting on the side with a spreading knife. Who doesn’t love the funfettis!?

I would love to see all of your fondue creations, so be sure to tag me @jaclyndrift on instagram!

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February Funk

Hey, Strangers! Although I suppose I’m the one whose been a stranger to my own blog. Does anyone else find themselves in a “February funk” year after year? I am so guilty of this. By this time every year, I find myself not wanting to do anything productive at all. Whether it’s caused by the cold weather here in New Jersey, frustration towards those couple of Holiday pounds that found a happy home on my ass, or the loneliness/quietness that I’m not used to after the craziness of November – January.  All these triggers are things that then, in turn, make me feel sorry for myself. Scrolling through social media and falling into a deep hole of comparison and self-pity. Why the hell do we do this to ourselves?

Well, on this random Wednesday morning I decided after a sleepless night (caused by anxiety of all the things listed above + the list goes on), that I am so done feeling that way. I am always a huge advocate for “creating your own happiness” and “there’s never a rainbow without any rain” and I somehow continue to press these things on everyone around me while blatantly forgetting about myself. And that’s just illogical.

Today I have decided that I’m going to stop feeling sorry for myself and to again, find that fire that pushes me to succeed. Your only limit is your mind. I’m going to freaking stop scrolling Instagram and comparing my life to platforms that are staged to be perfect. Comparison is the thief of joy. I’m going to remind myself of all my blessings and thank god for them over and over again. And guess what? I want you all to do the same damn thing. We are all going through something at some point. Next time you’re going through that “something,” remember that you are not alone and that you are the only person who can pull yourself out of it. Start doing the things that bring you joy and I promise joy will find it’s way back to you.

Self Love Routine:
*a few things that help build myself back up

  1. “Me” Time: Rent a movie, your favorite one. Or run yourself a bath. Put on a face mask. Pour yourself that large glass of wine and light some candles. Prepare yourself a chocolate chip skillet cookie and only take out one damn fork. I find that if i’m even able to find just one hour (one stinking hour!!!) a week where I can just focus on myself or shut off my brain, it is a glorious thing that does glorious things for my soul.
  2. Surround Yourself: I know, this seems contradictory to what I just said. As important as alone time is, you don’t want to find yourself in such a deep hole that you are literally closing off from the people you love/love you most. The other day, my husband and I both had off work at the same time, on the same day AND didn’t have a list of 100 things to accomplish (this literally never happens.) We packed up Emma and went out to lunch, went for a walk, did a little shopping. We came home and tidied up the house together and cooked dinner together. I even got him to watch The Bachelor with me (ugh, what a guy.) It was the perfect day and it was exactly what I needed.
  3. Dinner Parties: We all know I love these. Make it easy and fun. Try something new or give it a theme: fondue (post coming soon), make your own pizza, game night, GALentine’s Day party (post coming soon), potluck, the list goes on.
  4. Set a goal and crush it: It can be something so small, but make it a goal that is for yourself and will benefit you. Once you crush it, you’ll feel like you can conquer the world. Then set another one.
  5. De-clutter: Living in an unorganized mess can be crippling. Get rid of the things that provide nothing but clutter. Clean the pantry that makes you want to throw a temper tantrum every time you have to figure out how to fit just one more thing in there. Donate the clothes you haven’t even looked at in over a year. Reward yourself by going out and purchasing something new. Enjoy the fresh start.
  6. Exercise: This has proven to be so hard for me as a working mom. It’s so easy for people to say “make the time,” when they don’t understand there is already barely enough time for you to sleep. So, I decided to take baby steps. I began by doing quick 30 minute circuits at home. Usually while Emma was still sleeping in the morning or in the evening when she was self-entertaining for a few minutes. Even these quick workouts that you fit into your schedule a few times a week, help tremendously. “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people don’t shoot their husbands, they just don’t.”
  7. Remind Yourself: Of all the good. There is so much good in the world and there are so many things to be thankful for. Write them down if you have to, but recognize them somehow. “Joy is a decision, a really brave one, about how you are going to respond to life.”

I look forward to continue finding & sharing my joy with all of you.

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Crockpot “Anything” Chicken

This was meant to be added to my Meal Prep Monday series, however I think I have proven Meal Prep Mondays will be a struggle for me (I’m 0/2). This will, without doubt, be the most simple recipe I have ever, will ever post. That’s because it honestly does not have a ton of flavor and very few components. It’s not supposed to! This is our go to way to meal prep our chicken for the week; Our “anything” chicken that goes with literally anything.

A few posts back, I had mentioned that I would share what we do on nights preparing a dinner isn’t feasible or the nights I just don’t freaking feel like cooking. Now believe me, we definitely aren’t afraid to order a pizza or some lo-mein. However, for the love of pant buttons, we can’t do that all the time. That’s where “anything” chicken steps up to the plate.

I know sharing this easy recipe may be silly, but it has truly been a lifesaver in our household. By spending 3 minutes putting a few ingredients in a crockpot, I will have the main ingredient for tons of different lunch and dinners throughout the week. To name a few go-to’s that I’ll be sharing: Almond & Grape Chicken Salad (SO good for lunch or dinner), Chicken Tacos, Chicken & Dumpling Soup, Buffalo Chicken Spaghetti Squash and for the reaaaaaallly lazy days? Just throw that shit on some lettuce and you have a salad.

Breakout that crockpot from the top shelf in your pantry. Hunny, that baby is about to give you some meals.

What You’ll Need:

  • 8 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 cups of low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • fresh parsley, chopped
  • salt & pepper
  • smoke paprika

anything chicken 2]

Literally, just dump it all into a crockpot and cook it on high for 6 hours. The chicken should literally fall apart, essentially being shredded or “pulled” chicken. You want it to be “plain”, this way you can use it for any recipe you want without compromising flavors. Stay tuned for quick & easy recipes showcasing this recipe.

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Brown Butter & Almond Pear Crisp

Happy Friday, Everyone! Congratulations on conquering another week of working, cooking, running errands, cleaning, helping your kids with their homework, and everything in between. I’ve been posting mostly healthy recipes as of recent on both here and my Instagram and I figured, it’s time to treat yo’self. It’s been a long, busy week (the first full week back after the holidays) and there’s no better reward than diving into a dish of this crisp on a Friday night. And it just so happens to “pear” (see what I did there?) perfect with a glass of wine. Or spiked cider. Or bourbon…It’s been a rough one, guys 😅

When I made this recipe on Instagram Live, a lot of people were asking what the heck brown butter was. Basically you just melt the butter over medium-low heat, letting it cook and stirring or swirling it around occasionally. Once the butter turns brown, remove from heat. If foam formed on top, remove it with a spoon. Immediately pour into a bowl so the cooking process stops. By doing this to your butter, you achieve a warmer toasted/nutty flavor. It’s so, so good on more than just baked goods, but savory dishes too.

What You’ll Need:
yields 8 servings

Pear Filling:

  • 6 pears, cored and sliced lengthwise (I like a mixture of Bosc and Bartlett)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (I used light brown)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon almond flour*
  • 1 teaspoon thickening agent, I use arrowroot powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon allspice

Crisp Topping:

  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), plus 3 tablespoons cold butter
  • 1 cup almond flour*
  • 1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • about 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • pinch of salt

*all-purpose flour works the same, however I prefer the flavor of almond flour for this particular dish.

  1. Preheat your oven to 375º. In a cast iron skillet, begin browning 1/2 cup of butter. Once the butter has turned brown, immediately remove from heat and pour into a mixing bowl. Set aside.
  2. Using a mixing bowl, toss the sliced pears with lemon juice and vanilla. In a separate mixing bowl, combine the remaining dry ingredients. Using the same cast iron skillet, melt 1 tablespoon butter and add the pears. Cook over medium-low heat until the pears begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle the dry ingredients over the pears and then gently stir using a rubber spatula. Set aside.
  3. In the mixing bowl containing your brown butter, add the oats, almond flour, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cold butter. Mix with a fork, fluffing the mixture as you go, until it’s crumbly. Pour mixture into an even layer over the pears. Sprinkle sliced almonds evenly over the top.
  4. Bake crisp for 35 minutes or until golden brown on top. Let cool before serving.

My Favorite Toppings

  • Talenti Salted Caramel Gelato
  • French Vanilla or Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
  • Cool Whip or Homemade Whipped Cream
  • Caramel Sauce

I hope you all enjoy this sweet treat and have the most amazing weekend 😘

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Favorite Baby Products: 6 Month Old

Anyone who has recently had a baby can tell you that there’s an ocean of products out there. There’s quite literally something for everything (did you know there’s even a butt spatula to apply your babies butt paste? What the actual hell.) It can be really hard to navigate the hundreds of different guides found on pinterest, most likely curated by people who are sponsored to tell you that you “can’t live without this product.”  Well I am here to tell you that I am not sponsored by squat (however I DO have affiliate links that I create for products I want to share with you) and these are truly products that, 6 months into the mommy game, I use every single day. There’s always going to be less expensive or more expensive options for each product, however these are the exact things I’ve tried and loved (and I’ll add a few I don’t love too!)

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  1. Infantino Squeeze Station: The baby food pouches are seriously the easiest way to take your baby’s food on the go. Emma can’t squeeze the food into her mouth yet, but to squeeze it onto a spoon is way easier than bringing Tupperware containers, etc.
  2. Beaba Babycook: I know I’ve mentioned this baby a million times. That’s because it is hands down my favorite and most used baby product. Listen, with this cooker it takes me hardly any prep or time to make a bunch of servings of food. I am able to consistently have a stock pile of food in our freezer, without compromising precious time. When you make your own baby food, you have piece of mind knowing exactly what you’re feeding little one and you save a boat load of money. What’s better than that? Not to mention it makes some pretty perfect (and effortless) steamed veggies for my husband and I, too 🙂
  3. Tubby Todd All Over Ointment: This brand is amazing. This ointment is a game changer. I’m about to go on a rant. Just about everyone in my family suffers from dry and sensitive skin, especially this time of year, so I wasn’t shocked when I began noticing dryness on Emma. This ointment can be used for just about anything on your skin, including a replacement for butt paste. When I tell you this stuff works miracles, I mean it. Within 2 days of using it on Emma, her skin was clear of any baby acne and so incredibly soft. Even my husband noticed and we all know husbands aren’t great noticers (I know that’s not a word, grammar police.) I developed a dry patch under my wedding rings (it was freaking awful) from an increased amount of hand washing and water getting caught. I tried everything. I literally went to the doctor for it! This ointment cleared it up in 3 days….
  4. Tubby Todd Hair & Body Wash: See above statement. This brand is KEY if your family suffers from dry & sensitive skin.
  5. The Honest Company Multi-Surface Cleaner: I swear I have never noticed how dirty/dusty surfaces get before having a baby who has decided everything on the face of the earth is a chew toy (she’s basically a dog.) I find comfort in knowing that I can use this product to disinfect/clean anything in our house and she won’t be harmed after putting it in her mouth. Another plus, it doesn’t leave your surfaces greasy/slippery like some natural cleaning products.
  6. EZPZ Placemat: Why do babies love to throw everything? Emma plays this really fun game where when she’s sitting in her high chair, anything you put in front of her she knocks on the floor and waits for you to pick it back up, just so she can knock it back on the floor. She’s so darn cute! (pulling my hair out) This mat will stay stuck to her high chair tray so she can’t move it, making you feel like a devious queen.
  7. Baby Walker w/ Front Play Station: Now this isn’t the exact one that we have, but it’s the closest I could find. My daughter doesn’t use this to walk quite yet, but she loves the activity station on the front! I can sit her on the floor with this in front of her and it will entertain her for at least 20 minutes (20 minutes of uninterrupted play feels like hours in the parenting world.)
  8.  BOOKS: I cannot stress this enough. The art of reading is really dying out and being taken over by iPads. Reading to your baby at a young age will do amazing things for them developmentally. I love cuddling up on the couch with Emma and reading her a few books. Even though she has no idea what you’re saying, she still touches and feels all the pages and loves looking at all the colorful illustrations. The more your baby hears you say words, rather than “goo-goo-ga-ga,” the better!
  9. Beaba Glass Containers: Any glass storage containers will do, but these happen to be the ones I use/love. I prefer the glass for dishwasher & labeling purposes. I’ve noticed that even my “dishwasher safe” plastic containers are starting to get foggy and odd-shaped. Also, I label all of her food containers so I know what the heck is in there and they just seem to come off the glass better.
  10. Wood Grain Foam Floor Mats: Emma has recently started trying to crawl, however our entire house has hardwood floors throughout (making it too slippery for her to actually go anywhere.) Laying down floor mats can give your little one that extra grip they need to start getting around. I loved these mats for two main reasons: 1. they match our hard wood floors and 2. THE PRICE!
  11. Bella Tunno Silicone Bibs: This style bib is so, so convenient. The pouch attached at the bottom catches all of the food baby rejects and the silicone makes it really easy to wash off in the sink. I know there are cheaper options for these, but I’m a sucker for a catchy, cute phrase 🙂
  12. Chewbeads: I couldn’t find many teething accessories that Emma liked. For the longest time she just preferred her hand, foot, my hand, or her pacifier. She finally took to these chewbeads, which was great because I can attach it to her car seat so she can’t THROW IT overboard.
  13. Harper Kate & Co Hair Bows & Clips: By far the best quality & cutest designs for bows I have found so far! The price point is fabulous and so is the shop owner, Rachael!
  14. Happy Baby Organic Teethers: We just started giving these to Emma a few weeks ago and they are Gods gift to teething babies (and their parents!) She will hold on to one and nibble it with her gums and it totally relieves some of her pain, gives her a snack, teaches her hand-mouth coordination, and entertains her. They become extremely soft and essentially dissolve on their own as they get wet, however I definitely wouldn’t leave a little one unattended while chomping!
  15. Skip Hop Activity Center: This one is amazing. We had a cheaper one previous to it, however it didn’t really keep her entertained (didn’t light up, play music, etc.) I can honestly say she enjoys playing with each of the little trinkets attached to this one.  The bottom part is removable as they grow and the whole thing can even be turned into a table for when they’re a little bit older.

 

Thing’s People Told Me I Needed, But I Definitely Didn’t

Now believe me, I completely understand that everyone, every household, and every baby is different. I personally try to be as minimalistic as possible and only buy/keep things we need/use daily. I’m mostly forced to be this way because I live in a literal shoebox and If I try to fit one more thingamajig in my closet the entire foundation of my house will combust. With that being said, I just don’t have room for the unnecessary items. If I’m posting about something that you used, loved and swore by; GIRL, DO YOU! Why do you think there’s such thing as a butt spatula? Because someone out there is spackling their babies butt with it right now, that’s why.

  1. Wipe Warmer: I’m not setting my child up for failure. The first time a cold compress hits that little hiney, I don’t want to be the one to witness the mega freak out. Sometimes things are warm, sometimes they’re utterly freezing. It keeps life interesting; Jump in fear and squeal like the rest of us.
  2. This “Superseat” that I insisted on buying: I understand that my baby is a little chunky (she’s perfect), however Emma grew out of this within 2 seconds and that’s when I purchased the Skip Hop Activity Center and basically threw $30 in the trashcan.
  3. Formula Keurig: Can we please just go back to the era when people mixed their own bottles? Like, 2016?
  4. Bottle Sterilizer: I’m sure there will be people reading this right now thinking, “ew, she doesn’t sterilize her bottles?!” But, I do. I just don’t need ANOTHER thing to do it for me. I boil them and it requires one pot and water.
  5. Bottle Warmer: I mean, in my opinion, this just goes in hand with the wipe warmer. We’ve been giving Emma room temperature bottles since day one and she has yet once to suffer from hypothermia. And also, isn’t that what microwaves are for?
  6. Messy Mat: This is a mat that you place under your baby’s high chair to “catch” all the food that they constantly throw all over the floor (see above rant.) However, this SERIOUSLY confuses me. Don’t you still have to clean it up?!?!?!?! Or is this like the floors in the movie Smart House where it just sucks up the mess? Am I truly missing something here? I mean, maybe if you have carpet in your kitchen, but at that point – who designed your house?
  7. Baby Bath Robe: Ok, I totally have one and I purchased it because it was the cutest freaking thing ever,’ but holy hell it was satan in the form of terrycloth. The one time I actually tried to put this robe on Emma, she sat there cold, wet, and crying (screaming) as I tried maneuvering her slippery arms into the sleeves. By the time I finally got the thing on (and obviously took a picture), she peed. Save the robe for Hugh Hefner (RIP).
  8. An unnecessary amount of baby toysIt is a wonderful thing to be able to give your child everything they’ll ever want/need. However, I think it’s very important to teach them the big difference between wanting and needing. Also, clutter. Also, my house is a shoebox.

If you’ve stuck through to the end of my rants, I commend you and insist on you having a glass of wine tonight. I want to remind everyone that these thoughts/opinions are purely based on my own, individual experiences, and they should be taken with a grain of salt. We’re all out here winging it, doing the best damn job we can. I hope that this guide can give you some insight on products you were maybe on the fence about already. And if you find that your heart craves a butt spatula, you buy that butt spatula and enjoy every minute of it.  In fact, I’ll even link it for you: Butt Spatula.

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DISCLAIMER: This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

 


Cashew Crusted Citrus Cod

I found your next dinner party entree! This cod takes 20 minutes from start to finish and is an absolute stunner when plated. Not to mention, it’s extremely light and healthy; Perfect for that first dinner party of the new year when everyone’s still on their diet kick. Just keep in mind that not everyone loves fish (my husband hates it), so know your guests (or don’t be afraid to ask) before picking it as the star of your show.

When buying fish, I prefer to always buy wild-caught. I once watched a documentary on farm-raised fish and just cannot, will not ever go back. Also, your fresh fish should never actually smell fishy (if it does, it’s not fresh), but more so smell like the ocean. Scales should be shiny, gills red, and eyes clear of cloudiness. The typical serving of fish per person is 8 ounces (1/2 pound), however I always buy extra. Since fish is so light, people tend to go back for seconds.

*I prepared an 8 oz. piece of fish for myself (remember, my husband hates fish), but will double the recipe below for a typical serving of 2.

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 lb. wild caught cod
  • 1/2 cup salted cashews, crushed into crumbs
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • 1 blood orange, halved
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 1/2 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • pink himalayan sea salt & ground black pepper, to taste
  • garlic powder
  • paprika
  1. Preheat your oven to 400º and line a baking dish with parchment paper.
  2. Lay your fish scale side down (I had the skin removed from my filet, however you can still tell which side is the “skin” side.)
  3. Drizzle the melted butter over the filet. Juice half of the lemon and half of the blood orange, pour juice over fish. Season with salt, pepper, garlic, and paprika. Gently press the cashew crumbs onto the entire exterior of the fish filet. Place 3 thinly slices rounds of lemon and 3 slices of blood orange on top of the filet. Finish by sprinkling the fresh parsley on top.

cashew citrus cod 1

  1. Place in the oven and bake for 15 minutes.

cashew citrus cod 2

 

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