our new rainbow


Around June of last year, I started to feel ready again.  Whenever the decision is made to open up your heart again to great love, and potentially great loss, it brings about the cautious optimism that often accompanies “We’re trying again.”  My heart was ready in June, and our newest rainbow baby was ready in November.

3 days after Thanksgiving, I got the “yes.”  After that, I got a case of “Now what?!”


We told our families early, but kept it a secret in general for as long as my body would cooperate.  Because it’s my third pregnancy, I started gently showing around 6 weeks.  By 10 weeks, I was running out of big sweaters.  

Starting to show at 11 weeks! Feels like so long ago, about 4 times as bumpy now.

By 14 weeks, I was ready to tell everyone.  

During my pregnancy with Gracie, I wanted to wait until after we got the “all-clear from any signs of CDH/Fryns” at our anatomy scan.  This time, I just felt ready sooner.  

I think I realized early on with this pregnancy that nothing in pregnancy is ever for sure…that I’m not in charge, so why not celebrate this life with everyone?  It’s still a life, no matter what happens.  At 18 weeks, we were blessed with an ultrasound free of any signs of CDH.  I’ve been so busy with Gracie, it hit me at once: this new one, she’s coming.


At 22 weeks, this little one is starting to dance.  I’m getting my typical cravings for cheese and meats and buffalo sauce, and all the sweets I see.  I’m remembering to work in carrots and avocados, and the occasional green juice.  I’m tapering my running, and I plan to stop completely at 24 weeks.  Walking fast and uphill feels so nice.  I am nesting like crazy, and I don’t mind at all.  I’m completely in awe of and thankful for this next new life that I am growing inside my belly.

This morning, I woke up earlier than normal and just felt her dance in my belly like a butterfly.  She’s already a happy one.  She’s so loved and so wanted.  No matter what, children are always a blessing.  She’s my next rainbow, our newest little girl, and August can’t come soon enough.  

cut-outs from a beginner

Growing up, we always made cut-out cookies for Christmas.  Frosting and decorating them was a tradition. However, ever since venturing out on my own, I have bought many cute cookie cutters than have remained unused.  With so many pictures posted of perfectly portioned cut-out cookies with flooded icing…I have to admit, I felt intimidated and inadequate.  Thus is the curse of a Pinterest addict.

This year, I decided NO MORE!  This would be the year when I dusted off my lonely cookie cutters and got to work.

I must say, I am pretty proud of how my moose and star cut-outs came out!

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Granted, my moose cookies may resemble triceratops, depending who you asking.

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But hey, any fan of Friends will agree that they are kind of like the Holiday Armadillo!

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If you are looking for a last-minute recipe, maybe a batch to decorate on Christmas Eve, I highly recommend the recipe below.  I cannot take credit for it, it’s a Taste of Home creation, but I can fully endorse it!

Christmas Sugar Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground mace
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • White candy coating
  • Green paste food coloring

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg. Beat in the sour cream, honey and vanilla. Combine the dry ingredients; gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well. Cover and chill for 2 hours or until easy to handle.
  2. 2. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to 1/8-in. thickness. Cut with a floured 3-in. cookie cutters. Place 1 in. apart on ungreased baking sheets.
  3. 3. Bake at 325° for 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove to wire racks to cool.
  4. 4. In a microwave-safe bowl, melt white coating; stir until smooth. Stir in food coloring; drizzle over cookies.

The recipe says it yields 8 dozen, I got about 4 dozen…my cutters are big.

Now comes the great cookie debate: to flood or to frost?!  Any suggestions?  I’d love flooding advice, as that’s how I am leaning.

4 days to go!  Merry Christmas!

beautiful little smudges

I like a clean-ish house.  Maybe that’s why my toddler loves her broom set, even if she doesn’t really use it correctly.


I was rushing around my kitchen this past week, trying to get a good cleaning in between work emails.  I had about 30 minutes before I needed to leave and get Gracie from daycare.  Counters: check, dishes: check, floor: check…and then I stopped.


I saw the smudges on the patio door, and I just couldn’t bring myself to wipe them.  Sure, they are messy…but in them, I saw tiny hands.  Tiny hands with little fingerprints unique to a toddler that was so excited to go outside, or straining to show me the birds just past the glass, she just couldn’t help but leave marks.  These little marks were left as an innocent byproduct of pure joy.

I started to take stock of the other marks in my life that didn’t use to be there.

  • The living room rug smells like clementines because unless you squeeze each piece and step on it, how will you know what happens?
  • The upstairs bathtub needs to be wiped more often, thanks to rowdy nightly splash sessions.
  • The Jeep kind of still smells like vinegar from the last bought with car sickness.
  • I learned very quickly that washable crayons actually work…even when you chew them up and spit them all over the rug.
  • I learned very quickly that washable crayons actually work…even when you color all over your comfiest chair.
  • I discovered that I CAN make finger paint from flour, water, and food coloring.  However, I CAN’T wash out said food coloring.
  • I almost always have another human’s snot on my sleeve.
  • My hairbrushes turn-up missing because they are actually meant to be shoved into the top of the hamper.  Duh.
  • We run out of apples really, really quickly.

Every extra mess that I have to clean, or thing of mine that is lost or changed, exists because the little person that lives with me is learning about the world through trial and error.  Perhaps each mess or mishap isn’t completely random, but instead, is carefully crafted by a brain that is hungry and excited to learn.


It’s hard for me to fully change who I am and how I like things.  I consider myself reasonably neat, and let’s face it, some messes are gross and can’t be ignored.  And yet, things like smudges on our patio doors can probably wait to be wiped…at least for a while.

Maybe next time I see her pressing her little nose and fingers against the glass, I should pause my super important adult stuff and go sit next to her.  Maybe I should let her show me what all the excitement is about.  I’m not sure who said it, but this quote is in the notes section of phone, meant as a warning.  I read it often.  It makes me feel appreciative and terrified all at once.


“Think of the mess as fairy dust.  One day it will go away, and take all the magic with it.”

crispy kale chips

After a weekend of cheat days and indulging, I wanted to share this savory recipe for crispy kale chips.  I love this recipe because it utilizes a superfood (kale), and it works with literally any seasoning, making it easy to customize!  I’ve made these chips a few times now, using a new spice blend each time, and they always come out awesome.

crispy kale chips

ingredients

  • 1 bunch or large bag of kale
  • olive oil (or olive oil cooking spray)
  • salt & pepper, or any blend of spices
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Wash and dry the kale.  It’s really important to get the kale as dry as possible: let it sit in a colander for an hour, and blot with paper towel, if need be.  The drier the kale, the crispier the chips.IMG_3470
  3. If you are using a bunch of kale, chop it into manageable pieces.
  4. In a large bowl, drizzle the kale with olive oil (don’t overdo it!).  Toss the kale in the olive oil.  For a more even coating, using olive oil cooking spray or a Misto oil mister.IMG_3473
  5. On 1-2 baking sheets lined with aluminum foil, spread your kale and sprinkle with salt and pepper, or your spice blend.  I have used Lawry’s, as well as a Chicago Steak Seasoning, and they were both awesome!
  6. Bake 15-20 minutes, depending on how crispy you want your chips.  If you used two pans, stir and rotate halfway thorough.  I like my chips close to burnt, so I sometimes baked them slightly over 20 minutes.
  7. Remove, let cool, and enjoy!IMG_3480

 

The only downside (if you can call it a downside): you’ll eat way more kale than you may be used to.  These never last long at my house, and writing this makes me want more…even though it’s super early.

I linked up this post for Foodie Friday!

  

five things in 2016

For my first “5 on Friday” post of 2016, I thought it would be refreshing to look forward.  There was so much about 2015 that was amazing: we welcomed Gracie Kate and moved into our first home.

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At first glance, 2 huge milestones in one year might make it seem like 2015 will be hard to beat. While we aren’t looking to top it, I do think 2016 has some awesome adventures in store!  In face, it was fairly easy for me to come up with a quick list of 5 things I am looking forward to.

1. Gracie Kate turns 1

I can hardly believe it’s only 4 months until our little big girl turns 1 year old!   Ever since about 12 weeks old, the time has been flying.  While I loved snuggling her as a tiny newborn, it’s been so exciting to watch Gracie grow, change, and see her personality develop.  I can’t wait to watch our baby monster smash a cake!

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2. Mommy turns 30

So, apparently I am leaving my 20s behind in May.  Gracie and I have birthdays 9 days apart, and in my newborn-baby haze, I barely remember turning 29.  When I’ve needed to report my age this year, it’s always surprised me.  Despite it sneaking up on me, I’m excited to start a new decade in my life!  My twenties began in college, a time of unrest and pending possibilities.  My thirties will begin in a more stable place, happy and content with this beautiful life we are building.

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3.  We love Beech-nut!

Gracie and I are so excited to announce that we will be joining Beech-nut as Boston-based brand ambassadors in 2016!  We started Gracie on solids foods around 4 months, and after reading labels on other brands, I was drawn to Beech-nut for the simplicity and quality of their product.  I don’t have much time to make baby food, and their product allows me to give her like-homemade food, but it’s more convenient and offers tons of variety.  I’m so excited to share our love of Beech-nut with the Boston area!

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One of our favorites!  Photo from beechnuts.com.

4.  Our Midwest Adventure 

This March, we are taking Gracie to visit her extended family in both Minnesota and Michigan.  It’ll be a 2 week trip, she has lots of people to meet!  Although I am slightly nervous to travel with a baby for our first time (tips are appreciated), it’ll be so fulfilling to see our little baby connect with family and friends that stood by us and supported us through these past few years.  Prepare for takeoff, little baby!

5. Our little family

Finally, I’m so excited to be starting this first full year as a little family.  Every day, we learn and grow and become closer.  We have so many new things to experience: first steps, first words, first plane rides…I’m just so excited to do it all together!

 

Happy 2016!

This Friday, I linked up with:

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five on friday: 5 months, football, and fall

Because it was such an eventual weekend/week for us, I wanted to do a good, solid Five on Friday post this week to recap all the amazing newness.

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1. Michigan Football

After (what seems like) many long years, it is finally possible to watch our beloved Michigan Wolverines play on Saturdays and not feel anxious!  Granted, the season is young and they aren’t ranked consistently (yet). However, it’s just nice to enjoy games again!  It makes me nostalgic for my college days.

On another note, Jon is already singing the fight song with our little Wolverine.  Personally, Mommy is hoping she picks a school in New England…but that’s a ways out.  She’s still mastering how to roll over.

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GK watching with Daddy.

2. Fall Fun

A classic fall tradition, Gracie and I took a trip with friends to Russell Orchard (our favorite on the North Shore) this weekend!  Apparently we weren’t the only ones who had this idea, because it was packed.  Like, a “45 minute wait for donuts” packed.  Not looking to wait, we scooped up some cider, bought some Honeycrisp, and picked a bushel of Gala.  I am not used to picking with a hungry baby attached to my front, and I kept finding the apple I was munching on in her mouth.  Sweet baby is just starting on solids, and loves puréed apples!  It seems that the real things are good for gumming.

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We left exhausted, dirt-kissed, and full of apples.

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3. First Cold

On Tuesday, I noticed my sweet baby was sniffling.  Jon and I had both had a cold early in the week, and although we tried not to pass it on, it looks like Gracie picked it up anyway.  However, I think her cold is bothering me more than its bothering her.  I’m all worried, taking her temp daily and googling remedies, new-mom style.  Our tough little bud is working to fight it off quickly!  A nasal aspirator, extra naps, feeding on demand, and extra snuggles have been our remedies of choice.

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Don’t let the pic fool you though!  Despite a few extra tears, our girl is her smily self…with a running nose, and a few additional night wakings.

4. Life with a 5 Month Old

Besides coming down with her first running nose, Gracie Kate also turned 5 months old on Tuesday!  Seriously?  Where is the time going?

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She is working so hard to master rolling over, and she has also started trying to sit up.  She has gotten to be a tummy-time pro, although she will not sleep on her tummy.  That wakes her up crying.  She loves to show off how awesome she is at grabbing stuff, and this has been an adjustment for mommy.  It is not as easy to sit with her at the dinner table, everything needs to be out of reach.

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We love our silly, smiling “little big girl” so much!

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5. Eggs & Quinoa 

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This week, I decided to start actually training for a race again.  In search of a warm, hearty lunch to support my increased effort, I decided to revisit my old protien-packed friend: the runny egg.  I modified an old favorite that turned out so delicious, it has to be shared.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup quinoa
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • 1 cup water
  • salt and pepper, to taste

What I did:

  1. I prepared the Quinoa as instructed: in boiling water, 1 cup water to 1/4 cup quinoa.
  2. I fried up the 2 eggs with salt and pepper, cooking them just long enough to keep to yolks runny.
  3. After the quinoa was cooked and the eggs were done, I mixed the coconut oil in with the quinoa and topped with the 2 runny eggs.

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Simple and filling!

I am so excited for this upcoming week because it marks the beginning of the Topsfield Fair, our little town’s claim to fame!  It will be our first year attending as residents, and of course, with Gracie Kate.

Have a wonderful weekend!

This Friday, I linked up with:

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five on friday: 5 fast dinners

Between closing on our house today (eek!), unpacking from the baby shower, and an overall case of third-trimester exhaustion, my latest focus for weekly meal planning has centered around being fast and healthy.  No Bolognese this week.  I am not running anymore in this pregnancy, as I promised myself I’d stop at 30 weeks.  Although I am still getting in some speed walking/light jogging and lots of cross-training, I don’t need as many calories as I once did.  However, baby girl still needs to eat…and she needs to eat well!

This Friday, I decided to share 5 of my favorite healthy, go-to dinners.  Some are old favorites, and some I tried for the first time this week.  Every one of them have been battle-tested by me, with minimal ingredients and maximum flavor.

[ONE]

Creamy Avocado Pasta 

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This has been a staple in our weekly meal plan for years.  I love Creamy Avocado Pasta because it is full of good flavor and good fats.  The creaminess comes from the Avocado, and I like that I don’t need to add any heavy cream or butter.  I always add chicken or chicken sausage to this dish to make it a full meal.  To make things faster during the week, try cooking the chicken ahead of time!

[TWO]

Bell Pepper and Potato Frittata

Bell Peppers

I tried this recipe from SkinnyTaste (link) for the first time last night, and it was fantastic!  “Breakfast for Dinner” is always a good way to break up weekly dinner monotony, and I love this recipe because it is light.  I added chicken sausage and onion to make it a little more filling…and between 2 adults, we couldn’t finish it.  This recipe is definitely something I plan to repeat, and I am excited to create my own variations!  I see a southwest version in our near future.

[THREE]

Chicken in a Sack

Chicken in a Sack

 

I originally saw this recipe on Rachel Ray last year, and it’s been another staple in our weekly meal plan ever since.  I started out following the recipe exactly, but as time has passed, I’ve done things like substitute asparagus for haricot vert, large tomatoes for cherry tomatoes, and fresh lemon juice for white wine.  I don’t usually use wine and/or butter to keep things extra light and fresh.  This dish is great served over egg noodles, or with a side of brown rice or quinoa.

 [FOUR]

Asian Noodle Salad

Asian Noodle Salad

This is a recipe that Jon and I came to love while marathon training last year.  I purchased the Runner’s World cookbook (link) in January, and by the time May came, I bet we’d had this meal 20+ times.  It’s simple and fresh, and another recipe to which I always add chicken.  Again, I am sure to cook the chicken ahead of time.  Sometimes, I double the recipe of dressing for this dish…it’s so good, and the noodles really soak it up!

[FIVE]

Dr. Pepper Pulled Pork

Pulled Pork

I know I mentioned this 2 weeks ago, but this Dr. Pepper Pulled Pork is one of my new fast-dinner staples!  It’s amazing how much faster the slow cooker makes dinner.  I start this in the morning, before work, and I come home to a completed meal…what’s better than that?  I wanted to share this again because, besides being an easy/fast meal, it easily makes 2 dinners for 2 adults (at least, it does for us).  I have been serving this pork on buns/wraps on the first night, and reheated over a baked potato later in the week.

With baby on the way, I plan to keep searching for quick and healthy dinner ideas that require as little effort as possible; I hear that babies make you tired.  In the near future, I’m excited to use this meal plan for a week of healthy crockpot meals in order to make even better use of our slow cooker.  I may even give it a shot this week, since we will be so busy with packing.

Let’s share more dinner ideas on Pinterest!  Find me @mywesternnest.

On our way to close on the house as we speak!  Have a great weekend.

 This Friday, I linked up with:

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