Giving Tuesday and No Kid Hungry

Giving-Tuesday-Social.jpgThanksgiving has passed. So has Black Friday, and Small Business Saturday. And today is Cyber Monday. But do you know what tomorrow is? 

Everyone knows about the "days of deals", but tomorrow is more important then all of those. Tomrrow is Giving Tuesday. Keeping the feel of Thanksgiving, the Tuesday after is a day dedicated to giving back.

In the spirit of #GivingTuesday, I wanted to tell you about No Kid Hungry. This wonderful organization strives to end childhood hunger, by helping in need children get the healthy food they need. This year, they’ve set a huge goal of raising $100,000 on Giving Tuesday, and I'm here to do my part to help spread the word! 

The best part? All donations on Giving Tuesday will be matched by Hickory Farms and Kettle Brand, up to $100k. That means we have the opportunity to raise $200,000 enough to help connect kids with up to 2 million meals - all from one day's work. With your help, together we can make sure that every kid gets the healthy food they need to succeed, this year and beyond.

Here’s what you can do to help make the biggest impact tomorrow:

  • Pledge your social media status here and join @NoKidHungry and our match partners @HickoryFarms and @KettleBrand on social media on 12/1 to talk about #NoKidHungry & #GivingTuesday
  • Write your own blog post about No Kid Hungry and Giving Tuesday! Encourage your readers to join the conversation online on Giving Tuesday, and help us reach our goal by donating on 12/1 at NoKidHungry.org/GivingTuesday


Looking for another way to get involved? This holiday season, No Kid Hungry is teaming up with Food Network to #BakeItForward. Just bake something delicious, share your creation online, and nominate a friend using #BakeItForward and for every share of the hashtag Food Network will donate $1 to No Kid Hungry.

Whether you support No Kid Hungry, or another charity of your choice, I hope you will give back on Giving Tuesday! 


Ups and Downs, and Holiday Triggers

I'm getting pretty settled in here. I have a general routine: Monday and Wednesday mornings I hit up yoga when Gwen's at kindergarten; Tuesday and Thursdays I use that time for cleaning, straightening, and errands; Fridays I touch up/brighten up my hair while watching something fun on Netflix. All of those days I also fit in reading for my doula certification requirements. The afternoons Gwen and I eat lunch, work on homework, play games, romp in the snow, and watch movies. I cook dinners, and sometimes she helps. We do bedtime routine, then Trav and I relax, watch some TV, read some. On Thursday nights I hit up a restorative yoga class.

Some days I don't get everything done that I hope too; some days I have extra time to relax. We have visitors, Trav goes to events through work, and I go out with new friends, friends passing through, or to apartment events. Most of the time its a really good balance here. Better, I think, then what we had in Philadelphia.

But there are times it's still hard. A week before Thanksgiving I had one of those times. I found out that my friend B, a transplant like myself, who we thought would be coming over with her family, would actually be heading to visit her best friend. I was happy for her trip... I was more then a little sad for myself. Pity party for one, right here.

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays; the golden three (Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas). Thanksgiving is gratefulness, and food, and family. Except that this year we celebrated without any family. I believe that was a first for me. A week out, looking a the holiday approaching with just the three of us, even the food couldn't get me excited. Gwen only eats 2 or 3 of the items we typically make for Thanksgiving, so it didn't seem to make sense to cook a huge meal that only two of us would eat. (Don't worry, we did anyway! Trav bought a 14lb turkey!) Thinking about the day without the food, without the family... well, suddenly Thanksgiving was just looking like any other day.

I am truly grateful for this life of ours. For my family (no matter how near or far), for my friends, for the roof over our heads, the clothes on our backs, and the food on our table. So many people don't have those things, and we are able to take them for granted. With all that has happened in the world lately, I am grateful beyond belief that we have all these things, and more. That I'm able to pursue my dream jobs, that I get to watch my husband thrive and my daughter learn new things everyday.

But I'm human, and a week ago, as on Thanksgiving day, it was hard not to feel sad.

This isn't my regular holiday post. For the first time in years, I didn't do the 30 days of thankfulness. I'm no less thankful then any other year, I just needed a break from that forced format. And here, I needed my honest space. 

The day ended up being nice, though very different, and yes, a little hard. My mom will be here next week. Perhaps we'll do another special meal then. In the meantime, I'll wrap my head around the fact that we still have many firsts to encounter here in Colorado, and that not all of them will be good.


Tastes of Autumn {Pumpkin Harvest Smoothie}

Autumn has some of my favorite flavors... rich beef bourguignon, hearty beef stew, roasted root veggies, and of course, pumpkin. Of course there is always Halloween candy. Its a great time to eat. Unfortunately its also an easy time to over indulge! Sometimes I want something that is sweet, but also healthy. I'm a big fan of smoothies, and this one tastes like the Autumn in a cup.

It is a bit of a treat, thanks to the natural sugars in the apple and yogurt, but is full of amazing vitamins too. One cup of pumpkin gives you 100% of your daily needs for vitamin A, 20% of the daily value for vitamin C, 10% or more for vitamin E, riboflavin, potassium, copper and manganese, and at least 5% for thiamin, B-6, folate, pantothenic acid, niacin, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus. Now that is a super veggie!

This is a simple, quick way to get tons of great vitamins and minerals, while still enjoying something that has some of the best flavors of the season!

Pumpkin Harvest Smoothie

1 small apple (chilled in the fridge/freezer, if possible)
1/2 mounded cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup vanilla yogurt  (or plain yogurt + 1 tsp pure vanilla extract)
1 tsp + pumpkin pie spice
milk as needed
ice cubes (optional)

  1. This smoothie is best cold, so if you have time to plan it out beforehand, cut, core, and freeze one apple. If not, no worries, use a room temp apple then add ice at the end.
  2. Add your apple, pumpkin puree, yogurt, and pumpkin pie spice to your blender. Pulse until apple is completely pureed and everything is mixed together smoothly.
  3. Taste and add more pumpkin spice as desired.
  4. Add enough milk to thin out to desired consistency, and ice (if using), blend until completely incorporated.
  5. Add a straw and enjoy! 

This smoothie is sweet, flavorful, and makes me feel good to drink. The yogurt adds a touch of protein, making it a great snack to get you over the mid-afternoon hump. Let me know what you think!


Apartment Tour

We've been here for almost 3 months, and I've been meaning to give you a tour for a while... but I just wasn't satisfied with how the place looked. Finally a few weeks ago there was a push, and things really got put away, straightened up, and more finalized. We got the picture I wanted for the living room, so we could hang everything in there, and finally I was ready to take some pictures.

Follow Gwen up to the second floor and we'll begin...  :-)

(sticking in a page break, since its so picture heavy)


adventures in staying at home...

Though the title is not permanent, I had a moment the other week when it actually dawned on me that I'm now a stay-at-home Mom/Wife. Gwen's Kindergarten is only half-day, so the other half of the day we are together. I'm doing 95% of the cooking, cleaning, washing, straightening. Its a role that is lovely and odd.

I've worked in some job or another since I was 17. Stable hand, babysitter, teacher in the baby room of a daycare, Home Health Aide, Mother's Helper, Librarian's assistant, Intern, Student Aide, Program Coordinator, and Director of Membership. Fifteen years of bringing in my own money, and having a regular role outside of the house. To say that this new role, with its new routines, is sometimes trying would be an understatement.

Its not to say I hadn't daydreamed about this exact role, but in those daydreams school was always full day, and I had many more hours to myself!

A contributing factor, I'm sure, is the fact that I'm such a night owl. I try to be good and go to bed at 10, but without next day's work hanging over me, well night after night I find myself staying up too late. Morning comes too quickly and I'm a tired girl, yet the next night I do it again. There's just something about the peaceful, quiet night that makes me remember every little thing I meant to do earlier. I want to read more, play more, just sit and be more.

This is not to say that I'm complaining about my current lot. I feel so blessed that we were able to make this leap, that I am able to be there for Gwen so much during such a  big transition, and that I get to pursue my dream jobs while Trav works one that he absolutely LOVES.

I'm just really not good at cleaning.... trade-offs.  :-)


My Girl

A recent day at the park ended up reminding me of everything I adore about this girl of mine.

It was a beautiful day and the park was busy. That deterred her not a bit, as she ran, played, enjoyed every bit of that park; smiling and laughing with the other kids.

Gah, just look at her!

Then she saw this climbing rock. It was huge, probably 10' tall. 

We told her she could go up, but only if she could do it herself. A boy at the top yelled down that if she got up there, he would help her over the ledge. 

We helped her find her first few foot holes, but she did the work herself. And she made it to the top, where he held out his hand and pulled her over the edge.

Her face says it all... 

Determination, bravery, trust, and beauty - inside and out.

This girl, my heartsong in physical form. There are moments when she drives me crazy, but I am so lucky, so blessed to have this girl as my daughter.


Good Things Happening in my Kitchen {Beef Bourguignon}

I found this recipe for Beef Bourguignon on Lag Liv, apparently 3 years ago, but never made it until now. I meant to a few times, but simply forgot for a while, and the few times I remembered I didn't have the time required.

Here's the thing, Trav and I hate mushroom... really hate them. But apparently she does too, so with her glowing recommendation, when I stumbled on the recipe again recently, I decided it was time to give it a try. Beef, wine, and butter; it just sounded too good.

Beef Bourguignon
(Lag Liv's recipe, with my adjustments)

1-1.5 lbs. beef stew meat, trimmed
1.5 Tbl. flour
4 carrots, peeled, cut into 1" pieces
1 onion, sliced or diced
1.5 c. red wine
1.5-2.5 c. beef broth
1/2 tsp. dried thyme (I was out! so I used about ~ 1/4 tsp of ground sage, since I love sage)
1/2 tsp. dried rosemary
1/4 tsp. dried cayenne pepper
1 bay leaf
1/2 lb. mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1/4 c. butter (4 Tbl)
1/4 c. red wine

1. Prep beef (trimming all visible fat), carrots, and onion. Place meat in mixing bowl, add flour and toss to coat/combine. Put carrots and onion aside.

2. Heat 1-2 Tbl. oil in dutch oven over high heat. Add meat in batches, cooking 4-5 min first side before turning to cook 2-4 min on the other. Remove meat to new bowl as it is cooked. Continue in batches until all meat is browned.

3. Heat 1 Tbl. oil in dutch oven, still over high heat. Add carrots and onion, thyme (or sage), rosemary, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring frequently, until onions are golden brown. Add browned meat back to pot.

4. Add 1.5 cup wine, stir, bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered 5 mins.

5. Add 1.5 cups beef broth, cayenne pepper, and bay leaf. Stir, bring to boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer, covered, for 2 hours. Stir frequently, making sure bourguignon isn't sticking. Add beef broth as needed throughout if pot gets dry.

6. After 1.5 hours, melt 1/4 c. butter in small saute pan. Add mushrooms, 1/4 c. wine, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir frequently, sauteing approximately 5-7 min, until mushrooms are soft and cooked. 

7. Add entire contents of mushroom pan (it should still be soupy) to bourguignon pot.

8. Stir and simmer together 20 mins more, until you can't stand smelling it anymore and not eating it. Serve over mashed potatoes and/or beside warm crusty bread.

It was amazing. Rich, filling, decadent. I still won't be searching out mushrooms, but I'll happily eat them in this dish, smothered in butter and wine. 

Trav and I both cleared our dishes, including mopping every drop of sauce with a piece of crusty bread. I will be making this again. 


just a normal day

Gwen has been back to school for almost three weeks after her first big break. I feel like we're finally back to a good schedule, finding that rhythm and routine. When she was on break, I felt like I could never quite get a handle on things. Like I was just constantly trying to keep her entertained, cramming errands and chores in wherever I could, and the day would suddenly be done with much left to do. You would think without school and homework to fit in, it would feel more relaxed; sometimes it did... but somehow, mostly, I spent a lot of time feeling more rushed.

Now with those few hours in the morning, I can get in some cleaning, some straightening, that is harder to do with her around. Better yet, I can get in some relaxing, some yoga or reading for doula training. When I really need a break, some episodes of X-files. I can shower and get dressed, check some email and plan out errands, without it needing to be a done with half attention, while I listen to a million, "Mom please" requests with one ear.

Even things like needing to get up in the morning at a certain time, doing the morning routine, and getting that 1/2 mile walk in when Gwen and I walk to school (then home for me); well I'm more awake and ready for the rest of my day. I'm bad about getting up by a certain time if I don't have to, and I found myself more tired by the end of the break then I was at the beginning.

By the time I head to pick Gwen up, I'm normally feeling good about getting something done, and I have more energy and patience for her for the rest of the day. We eat lunch, do homework, then play and relax together.

Normal days, doing normal things.
Exactly what I need to try to keep adjusting to this new normal.


Semi-Wordless Wednesday {Harry Potter Halloween}

The local YMCA had a Harry Potter Halloween party a few weeks ago. Gwen and I were quite excited about it!

It was cute. They did a nice job.  :-)



Back in our house in PA, Halloween was a big deal. Its the first of my three favorite holidays (Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas). We loved putting up tons of decorations, carving pumpkins, trick-or-treating in our neighborhood, and watching Rocky Horror Picture Show. 

This Halloween as a bit different then normal.

First we just don't have the room to decorate here like we did in our house. Then we quickly realized that not a lot of people were trick-or-treating here in the apartment complex. Then we had a guest over, which changed things as well.

Different, but still a super fun day. Trav hung out with our guest, but Gwen and I headed to a new friend's house who invited us over for trick-or-treating. They had a great neighborhood for it, and it was really nice to make a new friend!

First though, Gwen and Trav dressed up for fun, recreating last year's costume. Our guest wanted to go to the local Harley place, and they were having something for the kids there, so dressing up went over well. 

While they were out, I tortured the dog a little...  <3 br="">

I didn't do a costume this year, but I did dress up for the occasion.

When everyone got home, we relaxed for a bit, then it was time to get ready for Halloween night. Gwen looked amazing!

She had a great time playing with the friend's two kids, and got a huge candy haul! She was a tired girl by the time we got home, but I'm calling the day a win.

I'm definitely looking forward to being back in a house that we can decorate with wild abandon, and hopefully trick-or-treat in our own neighborhood... but it was so wonderful to have friends to fill in those holes in our celebrations.

Happy Halloween all! Let's start the countdown to Thanksgiving!
(Anyone want to come over for dinner?)