PREGNANCY (NO)GLOW

I have yet to find the glow that is typically associated with pregnancy. While it may exist for some women, I seem to have missed the memo that pregnancy is supposed to make you feel like the beautiful trapeze artist at the fair instead of the bearded lady. Yes, the daily glances in the carnival mirror make it hard to appreciate the so called beauty of pregnancy.

Is creating a tiny human from scratch a miracle and a blessing? Of course, and when that baby comes out believe that I’m going to love the crap out of it, but let’s drop the facade that getting there is always this beautiful and inspiring journey. Sometimes it just sucks. Sometimes it makes you feel like a failure before you’ve even really begun. Sometimes it makes you second guess yourself and sometimes it snuffs out your fire instead of igniting your glow.

With my first pregnancy I ended up with pretty awful anxiety–a side effect that is rarely spoken about as I learned after the fact. Near the end, it took everything I had to force myself out of the house for twenty minutes at a time in order to check one thing off the list. Could I count the number of times I cried in a parking lot trying to convince myself to get out of the car? Probably not as the panic attacks seemed endless, but yay! I made it to the end and holding my little love was the high that made the lows worth it. Did the anxiety go away overnight? No, but in breaking, I was able to build myself into a better and stronger version than before which is something I’m actually quite proud of.

So fast forward to this pregnancy and I had told myself things would be different. I had a vision of the person I wanted to be, and I had that match ready to light that glow. Well, despite my most optimistic intentions, that just has not been the case. There has been obstacle after obstacle, emergency room visits and daily pains in line, if not worse, than those felt after being induced at forty plus weeks. Though the anxiety has not been as bad as before, it has been present enough to leave me disengaged when it comes to social interactions. While I have to force myself out of the house for my kiddo, keeping up with friendships, social media or anything that will take me out of my homeward bubble has been a challenge that I have unfortunately been less amazing at overcoming.

I knew I wouldn’t be able to hide the fact that my glow was barely an ember. Despite the fact that I frequently share about my struggles, for some reason I felt like I needed to keep up appearances and fake it till I made it. So of course when that approach did not work–because who honestly ever feels better when they’re being inauthentic to themselves–I decided the best thing for my system was a reboot. To unplug and refocus.

Now, thanks to a little surge I received this weekend from an amazing mommy blogger I know, I am going to try waking up from this winter to enjoy the sunny days ahead.

Even if the fog hasn’t fully lifted, I think I can finally start to see the lighthouse ready to guide me home.

8 TIPS FOR PICKY EATERS

One of the most frustrating things for a parent to deal with is supper time with their kids. The curse of the picky eater. It’s easy to get fed up with, well, getting your kids fed up. Along the way it becomes easier to give in to their dinner demands by becoming a short order cook. Here are some tips and tricks I use to helping curb my picky eater’s food aversions and how I get my toddler excited about trying new things.

1- The language we use : We all do it. When your toddler reaches for the thing you are eating that may be a little too spicy or a little too pungent the sentence “I don’t think you’re going to like this” escapes your lips making their mind up for them. Instead of encouraging the trial and perhaps error of trying that stinky blue cheese or overly sirachaed chicken wing, their curiosity is stopped by the dismissive phrase. This is something I have caught myself doing on numerous occasions, and something I’ve had to curb others from saying to my kid as well. I’ve found that embracing her interest and curiosity by eagerly allowing her to take a bite of my food has had a positive result on her willingness to try new things. When out at a restaurant, my husband and I try to use positive language about what the other orders. We will say “that looks good” when the food arrives and ask “may I try a bite” to demonstrate that willingness to try new things. In the end, kids are always watching and listening to their parents. When we speak, it’s important to use that positive language so that they feel comfortable enough to try new things.

 

2- Listen to your kid : Kids like what they like. They make up their minds and stubbornly stick to their opinions no matter how irrational, so I’ve found ways to wield that stubbornness in my favor. Using flavors or foods that have already been established as tasty, I’ve been able to get my daughter to try a wider variety of foods. I have a basic list of staple items : cheese, ground meat, taco seasoning, guacamole (not avocado), salsa, sausages, eggs, breads. For the most part, if it appears in a taco it is a safe assumption that it will be well received. Now that I have these base items and flavors, I have been able to coax her into trying new things. The other day I was even able to get her to try jackfruit! I’ve also found that if I’m willing to listen when my daughter says she doesn’t like something, she is more willing to at least try it. Of course we have a small chat about what she doesn’t like about it (sometimes she can tell me, sometimes I get no more than a “yucky”), but knowing that I won’t push her if she honestly doesn’t like something definitely helps increase her desire to try.

3- Get them involved : The best technique I have found to get my child to at least try a new food is to get her involved in making it : putting on her little apron, showing the steps, cutting the veggies, using the machines, stirring & mixing, watching it bake and finally getting able to taste it. Including my kiddo gets her excited about the food we are eating. It is not always a hit, but nurturing that curiosity and positive relationship with food is always the main goal. Going back to the language we use, one day I was making egg muffins and my daughter reached out to taste some of the raw onion we had just chopped together. She was so excited to try what we were making that she reached out that little hand, scooped up some onion and tried it. I fought the urge to discourage her as raw onion is so pungent, and I am glad I did because, to my surprise, she actually liked it and that small taste made her even more excited to taste the final product. Furthermore, presenting them with options and allowing them to choose things like breakfast and snacks makes them feel more in control and secure when it comes to their palate.

4- Variety, variety, variety : Kids get bored easily. Their likes and dislikes are constantly evolving. Some days my kid will sit down and be my bottomless pit, other days, she’s happier to just graze which is why I find a variety is key. In the morning, together we fill an ice cube tray with snack options. I found one with a lid at the Dollar Store which has been a great addition to getting my kiddo’s diet in check. I keep a variety of healthy snacks for her to choose from. We will fill the small compartments with fruits, veggies and grains and she will be able to nosh throughout the day. I have found that having her feel responsible or in control of her eating limits the amount of daily battles around food stubbornness. I also make sure to have a few options on her dinner plate–especially when I am trying to coax her in to trying something new. Different flavors and options always lead to more meal time successes in the ArEsse household!

5- Dip it : I firmly believe that dips are a parent’s greatest ally when it comes to the success of meal times. Condiments, humus and guacamole have all helped in getting my daughter to eat. Again, you are using tastes that have already been established as okay in your kiddo’s eyes, and you are wielding them in your favor. Now, I have started actually using the dips as a way to sneak in new flavors as well. The other day, I made a beet humus. Because of it’s similar consistency to a chic pea humus there was less hesitation to try it and the beautiful pink color didn’t hurt either!

       

6- Family meal time : Aside from it being a great habit to get into, and that it is quality time to sit and actually have a conversation in this increasingly busy world, parents are the best example when it comes to building a positive relationship with food. It also teaches good habits and table manners which will help on those nights when you get out to a restaurant. Another advantage of sitting at the table for meals helps limit distractions so your kiddo might actually eat their meal, and research has shown that it also decreases overeating.

7- Sweet Tooth : Let’s face it, as delicious as they are, sweets are called treats for a reason. It is hard though. I don’t want to create a situation with sweets that they are some forbidden fruit, so I find that having some form of dessert in the evenings does help with her over all relationship with sweets. Obviously there are exceptions to this rule, but overall we try to keep the sweets to be true treats; otherwise, these treats can become meal replacements and kids will be less likely to eat the more nutritious food available. Of course as a parent, sometimes sweets can be our life line to sanity, but I’ve found with my kid that a little creativity and being prepared with a healthy alternative can go a long way. Some of our favorites are : avocado pudding, fruit and yogurt dips, banana ice cream. I also find that substituting something tart will work too.

8- Make it fun : At the end of the day, if it’s not fun, your kiddo will be less likely to be excited about it. Cookie cutters are a great trick to getting my kid to try new things, colors and presentation all help when it comes to a meal time success. Now don’t get me wrong, I am in no way one of those amazing bento box moms, but if I am introducing a new fruit or taste, a cookie cutter can go a long way for my mental health! I also find with my kid that something as simple as picking out her own cutlery (we recently picked up some cool new airplane spoons) or her own plate have an effect on meals.

PSA : PREGNANCY RAGE

Dear Imperfect Stranger,

With effort, I can usually hide my displeasure. I can bite my tongue despite the fact that my face is probably saying it all for me anyways, but hey, that’s a matter of perception right? On a good day, I can tolerate most things, I’ll suppress the annoyance with a simple shrug and move on–but these are not good days. Full disclosure, being pregnant, it does not take much for this crouching tiger to find her hidden dragon and breathe fire all up in your grill.

For the record, pregnancy rage is not due to a wild, irrational case of hormones, it’s due to a decreased threshold for bullshit, and honestly a little common sense, and common courtesy will go a long way to not having to deal with the Flame of Udun.

These days, I feel like an eighty year old who has lost her filter. It’s not that I don’t care, it’s that I literally don’t have the energy to suppress your ignorance at the moment. Growing a human being is exhausting and quite frankly painful. Things are pulling and pinching and you feel like a knit sweater slowly unraveling, so please stop pulling the fray.

This does not mean that pregnant women need to be treated as fragile bowls in china shops, and it’s not that we’re crazy, aggressive beasts that need to be tamed either, we’re people whose minds are currently being occupied with things more important than your bruised ego after finally calling out your lack of consideration. So how about instead of brushing off my anger with a demeaning call out to my hormones you actually take a second, listen to the words, and do better in the future.

I’ll admit, my personal fury has always been lurking below the surface like a shark ready to devour it’s prey, the irritability for things that have happened over and over again without resolution, and the overall annoyance of (to quote Michel from GG) people being particularly stupid that day. I can be sassy AF; however, now it’s different. Now I don’t want to just be the bag that takes the punches because that’s not the example I want to be for my kids. I don’t want to be the people pleaser who is always sweeping things under the rug because that’s not being an example of emotional intelligence to my kid, that’s being a door mat.

Maybe once the energy levels resume I’ll be able to find a more eloquent way of calling out your bullshit, but until then, my dear Imperfect Stranger, can you just make as much of an effort to not piss me off as I have made in the past not jumping down your throat? Can you just think about the consequences of your actions before making them and acknowledge the effort it takes to logistically, physically and, yes, emotionally get out the door to do you a favor? Or how about making stupid comments about my altered body, or birth plans? Even simpler, can you not invade my personal space by rubbing my belly like Aladdin’s lamp because I can pretty much guarantee you that the genie will not be coming out of the bottle, but Iago might just get a cracker shoved down his throat.

So about that freak out sorry, but not sorry because when it comes to pregnancy rage, it’s actually not us it’s you. It might stem from a deeper, unresolved issue, or it can also just be because you made some jerky move, which happens, but at least own it and try to do better instead of placing the blame on the tornado of emotions swirling below our surfaces.

…and if for whatever reason you don’t understand what caused the rager in the first place, chocolate and a foot rub can go a long way!

PREGNANCY-TAKE TWO

Pregnancy is hard. Not as hard as motherhood itself, but it is not the sunshine and roses too often portrayed. Between morning sickness and seeing your mummy tummy expand, that illusive pregnancy glow is more like a faint light from a flashlight running low on battery power.

The only thing I really love about pregnancy is the end result. That beautiful tiny human that comes from forty (ish) weeks of being put through the gauntlet–preparation for motherhood. The flutters are pretty cool, but the idea that there is currently a teeny tiny person floating around my insides is just weird.

The first time around, there is really nothing I enjoyed about the process. The changing body was not something I accepted with open arms. The constant nausea and the fire of  non stop acid reflux were unfortunate side effects. The crippling prenatal depression–yup didn’t know THAT was a thing–left me unable to find joy in any bit of pregnant life. There was no glow, I was no Fleur Delacour and even likening me to Hagrid would have been insulting to him. Pregnancy was supposed to be this amazing experience so say the books which made me feel like a dud, and if I was a lemon as a pregnant woman, what the hell kind of mom would I be?!

With my first pregnancy the small simple things that bring so many people joy left me numb. I was not really into any pictures, but tried to keep up with the Joneses. The selfies were well angled and taken twenty times prior to being posted. I did not want to document that body because of the crazy delusions I was telling myself.

The lies, the nerves, the fears were all very real the first time around. While I know now that many of those thoughts and feelings were falsehoods I created in the vortex of my depression, the residual effects of those lies had me nervous for the second time around. I knew I wanted a second child, but the thought of living through that darkness was not one that had me jumping to the bedroom.

Fast forward to take two, and I told myself that this time around would be different. Well, that’s an easier statement than execution. All pregnancies are different, but this one did not start off on the right foot. The aches started earlier, the pain started earlier and the stomach sure grew faster. At eleven weeks I was told there was a slight cause for concern and that I had to take it easy. At fifteen weeks I found myself in the fetal position daily thanks to the pains from cramping, sciatica and chronic back pain. At twenty three weeks, I feel as I did when I was thirty three weeks with my first.

For weeks it took everything I had to make it through the day–to fake it–with my kid because these are her last months being an only child. I want to make this time with her count, but holy hell is it tough when you feel like you are crumbling, and when the pain is at times blinding.

But these are her last months being my only baby and I don’t want to squander that. I don’t want to make it any less special than it deserves. So I’ve been taking a step back. I’ve prioritized. Knowing I need to allow myself to break and bleed, I have let myself off the hook. While she’s up, I’m up. I’m playing with her, loving her, and soaking in all those giggles; however, when she’s asleep, I let myself breathe. I let myself heal. As a result, my house is less tidy, the dishes might be stacked higher than Everest, I just might be working through one or two series on Netflix instead of blogging (sorry about the absence!), but my heart is happy.

It’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to not do it all. It’s a lesson I am glad to be learning because it’s a reminder of what really matters in being the best mom I can be. Presence.

With this pregnancy, I am trying to be more present. I am trying to enjoy every flutter and kick, something I couldn’t muster any enthusiasm for the first time around thanks to the darkness of PD. Even though I feel like a blimp, today I even made my husband photograph my bump, my bump, my lovely baby bump because the snow was too beautiful a backdrop not to.

This time around I am trying to be happy. Despite the pains, despite the tears, I am fighting to find the joy, and fuel that pregnancy glow, but in the end, I know now that not loving being pregnant is okay, and that there is absolutely zero correlation in your abilities to love that baby when they are finally out of your body and in your arms.

Working through the struggles and finding the balance is definitely what has been needed for me to enjoy pregnancy the second time around.

VANDUSEN GARDENS

If you’re looking to add a little wonder and magic to your holiday season VanDusen Gardens should be at the top of your Christmas list! With over 1 million lights decorating the botanical gardens, this is the perfect winter walk that would even make the Grinch’s heart grow two sizes. Beautiful, festive with activities for the whole family, this is a light display you won’t want to miss.

After hearing rave after rave of this spectacular light display last year, I decided to add it to our Christmas Advent and check it out for myself. Tickets are priced well for an evening with the family and we chose a weekday because I’ve pretty much decided to never do anything on the weekends if avoidable as they tend to be a tad more crowded–think Simba in a stampede of wildebeest. So a Thursday it was.

Pro to weekday excursions : less crowded. Cons : Traffic.

I’m going to be honest with you, arriving at VanDusen after driving for an hour and a half in weeknight traffic was not exactly the start to the evening I had envisioned. We arrived crabby, irritable, and with the sense of wanting to just turn back and leave. Needless to say we went from little expectations about our evening to extremely high expectations that that drive with a toddler had better of been worth it.

Though the festival opens at 4:30, parking was surprisingly easy. We arrived around 6:30 just as the early birds were beginning to leave. Walking up there were a few lights that were nice, but nothing special, and then we walked through the pavilion and entered the world of lights.

It. Was. Stunning.

Our bad moods melted away as our senses took in the sights. Lights for our eyes, music for our ears and fragrances for our nose. The air had a nice crisp chill to it which added to the winter evening and for the first time in a long time there was NO rain!

There are lots of displays to be seen from the Grinch to the dancing Christmas trees (the music is so fun) to the hidden tunnels and gazebos. One of my favorites were what looked like thousands of flowers, but upon closer inspection you can see that they are recycled water bottles.

We of course grabbed some delicious mini doughnuts at one of the trucks because for real what’s a festival without mini doughnuts? We rode the old carousel, played in the little houses scattered around the grounds, and were lucky enough to sit on Santa’s lap after only a five minute wait!

    

VanDusen does have a restaurant on site, though without a reservation you could be waiting a while. There are also a few food trucks, and for the adults mulled wine!

All in all this event was definitely worth the drive. It was dazzling and filled our hearts with a ton of Christmas joy. To me, an event is a success if I see the twinkle of wonder in my daughter’s eyes, the excitement of her pointing and running towards displays, and the hearty chuckle of pure delight. Needless to say, the VanDusen Festival of Lights will be sure to become a must do holiday tradition!

 

Open December 1st to January 7th starting at 4:30 nightly. Closed December 25th.

THE PERFECT HOLIDAY CHEESECAKE

Desserts are front and center at any holiday occasion. Cookies and tarts, fruits cakes and mousse, and of course my favorite–cheesecake!

I don’t make cheesecake often because for one thing it’s freaking expensive, and two it is SO decadent that I cannot keep it in the house, so I limit them to holidays. Mini egg cheesecake for Easter, pumpkin cheesecake for Thanksgiving and cranberry cheesecake for Christmas. This year though, I am whipping up a new one for you!

This rich and creamy dessert is sure to please even the pickiest eater. Perfect for potlucks, make them into bars for a cookie exchange, or as the perfect end to a holiday feast, this cheesecake will get you ALL the love this Christmas!

Ingredients

Crust

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs

1 cup crushed pecans

1/3 cup butter

3 tbsp brown sugar

Filling

3 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, softened

1 1/2 cups sugar

4 eggs, separated

Squeeze the juice of half a lemon

1 tsp vanilla

Topping

2 tbsp butter

1/3 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup heavy cream

1/3 cups crushed pecans

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium saucepan begin melting butter. Using a food processor, pulse together pecans and graham crackers and stir into melted butter.

Spread graham cracker crumbs evenly over the bottom of a prepped  9 inch springform pan. Press down firmly and bake in the oven for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Reduce oven heat to 300 degrees.

Using a stand mixer, whip egg whites with two tablespoons of sugar until stiff peaks are formed. Set aside.

Cream together cream cheese, sugar, egg yolks, lemon and vanilla. Next, gently fold egg whites into cream cheese mixture.

Before pouring filling over your crust, wrap the bottom of the pan in tin foil as it will bake in a water bath. Hold the pan an few inches off the counter and drop it two or three times to smooth the surface and remove air bubbles.

Place in a dish (I used a casserole dish) roughly filled with two inches of water. Bake in the oven. After 30-35 minutes, turn off the oven and open the front door to release some heat. Close door and allow cheesecake to set in the oven for another 30 minutes or until the edges begin to round.

Remove from oven and let cool completely before adding the pecan toffee topping.

For the topping:

In a medium saucepan, lightly toast pecans. Set aside and continue with your sauce by melting the butter into that now preheated pan. Be careful to cook on a low temperature as to not burn your butter. Once melted, add in brown sugar. Whisk until your sauce becomes silky and smooth. You are going to want to let this boil approximately two minutes while stirring on occasion. Add in your cream and whisk. Let simmer two minutes to allow sauce to become sticky. Remove from heat, fold in crushed pecans.

Add to the top of your cheesecake, serve, sit back, and enjoy all the oohs and yums that are sure to follow!

   

    

 

CHRISTMAS ADVENT

December has always been an exciting  time. The magic of the season, the community spirit and the extra special time shared together as a family are all reasons why I love this time of year. Now that I have a child, and one who is beginning to see the magic for herself, I am so excited to share traditions and experiences that I have known and loved.

To make the most of the season, I have made a list of all the things I cannot wait to do with my little family!

Photo by Ashley Bryce Photography

1- Write a Letter to Santa : I know some people do this in November, but I like to save this for December 1st. Our Elf, Sparkle, arrives with a special envelope for a letter and of course the story of why she’s here. While yes, Christmas should be about presence over presents, like it or not, presents are a part of it. We limit gifts throughout the year and much prefer to receive experiences (stay tuned for some of our favorite gifts of experiences), but the excitement of Santa is something I am excited to share with her, and I love that she can choose something she really wants. 🙂

2- Sponsor a Senior : I love this program sponsored by London Drugs, and is one of the many ways to teach community spirit as well as show the importance of giving not just receiving. Each London Drugs location partners with a local senior center. At the front of the store is a tree with many tags. Grab a tag that lists the senior you are sponsoring, go around and select the items on the list and fill a stocking!

3- Holiday Photos : In case you hadn’t noticed, I love themed photo shoots and every Christmas I set up a holiday shoot for my little love. It’s fun, it’s an adorable keepsake and I use the photos for holiday cards, gifts and calendars.

4- Decorate the Tree : Decorating the Christmas tree is always a blast in our house. Reminiscing about favorite ornaments, rocking around the Christmas tree to our favorite tunes and drinking our favorite holiday drinks, this tradition is full of fun and family tradition.

5- Make Holiday Cards : I know the internet is taking over the world, but I am one of those people that still loves to send out holiday cards. I make my own, write a special note and send them in (gasp) regular post! I still think there is something special about a hand written note and although the price of postage sucks, it’s the thought that counts, right?

6- Watch the Polar Express, drink hot chocolate and make sugar snowflakes (Recipe coming soon on the blog)

7- Ride the Polar Express : I love love love the Polar Express and am so excited about this experience. My daughter LOVES trains and each ride includes a cookie, music and hot chocolate!

8- Visit Santa : While not all kids are thrilled about sitting on Santa’s lap…and to be fair when you think about it we tell kids to be afraid of strangers, but then tell them to sit on a stranger’s lap…but it is a must in our family. Bonus when Santa plays along and mimics the child’s behavior in the photo! Last year my daughter cried so Santa cried whereas my friend’s daughter slept so Santa slept–too cute!

9- Read the Grinch Who Stole Christmas : We actually try and read a holiday themed book each night. Our elf brings us a basket of wrapped books as an advent calendar. Every day we unwrap a book, cuddle up on the couch and read a holiday classic!

10- Bake Cookies: Passing on family recipes is one of my favorite things to do with my kiddo. While some of our recipes are family secrets that I promised never to share, sugar cookies are another holiday hit! I love these because my daughter can cut the shapes out herself and really feels like she’s contributing.

11- Christmas Craft : We love getting crafty together and there is no better way than with a themed craft! Stay tuned to the blog to find out what this year’s craft is!

12- Cookie Decorating : Now that the cookies are baked, cooled and ready it is time to decorate! While I do a lot of the decorating myself as my kiddo cannot hold her attention long enough to work through the batch, this is a fun activity that she is proud to share.

13- Donate Used Toys & Clothes : Many places accept gently used clothes, books, and toys around the holidays that are passed on to families in need.

14- Walking in a Christmas Wonderland : A lot of communities have begun decorating parks, lakes and peers with beautiful light displays. This is an easy last minute or a plan ahead activity that gets you out in the crisp air, and enjoying the community spirit.

15- VanDusen Gardens : This outdoor light display is truly magical. I love Christmas lights, I think there is something so beautiful about them, and as lame as it sounds, I think they are pure magic. VanDusen Gardens is truly breathtaking, and perfectly captures the magic of the season!

16- Watch a Favorite Christmas Movie : Maybe The Grinch, Charlie Brown Christmas, Jingle all the Way, etc. Cozy up on the couch in your pajamas, pop some popcorn and enjoy a cup of apple cider together.

17- Make a Snow Angel : Okay, so living in Vancouver this one gets a little trickier, but if this year is anything like last year (which they are predicting it will be) there should be at least one or two occasions for it. If not, there are always snow covered locations like Grouse Mountain–or if you’re feeling courageous Whistler–that will give you the snow fix you’ve been waiting for all year!

18- Visit a Senior Center : With all the baking we’ve done this season we love to share the goodies. We take some goodies to a local senior center along with some cards to spread some holiday cheer.

19- Bright Lights at Stanley Park : So many beautiful lights and displays in the heart of Stanley Park. Admission is by donation and the train is an added fee but totally worth it!

20- Make an Ornament : A tradition is to get a new ornament each year, but I love the idea of having my Little Love make her own addition to the tree and give as presents to the Grandparents. It’s been a bit tricky to create ornaments that aren’t in your face kid made, but they are always cherished.

21- Holiday Drive : This is probably one of my favorite traditions. Piling in the car, picking up a holiday drink, blasting some Christmas tunes, drive around and see all the beautiful Christmas light displays that your wonderful neighbors have created.

22- Build a Gingerbread House : Let’s face it, these things rarely get eaten, but they are always the perfect addition to any holiday decor!

23- Have Yourself a Merry Friendly Christmas : Not just a time to connect with family, Christmas is also a time to share with friends. We love to invite friends over for games and tapas and celebrate the season.

24-Christmas Eve traditions! An easy night of games, tapas, family, setting out cookies for Santa, and ending the night with a reading of The Night Before Christmas.

25- Christmas Day! Oh I cannot wait for Christmas day!! Seeing her little face shine as she walks in the room to see that Santa has visited. The amazing food, the carols, the family togetherness, all of it!

What are some of your favorite holiday traditions? I would love to hear them – andrea.aresse@gmail.com

Tis the season to share holiday magic with the ones you love the most!

Roasted Veggie Bowl

I love veggies, and I love a meal that incorporates lots of them. I love prepping lunches for the week because with a busy schedule it becomes too easy to grab a less nutritious lunch…if you’re lucky to grab a lunch at all!

Roasted veggie bowls are an easy way to pack a lot of nutrients into a simple meal. I usually make this up on a Sunday and divide it into containers for the week. Of course you can choose to add a protein like chicken to this bowl, but I find it is delicious and filling enough as is.

Prep time : 15 minutes

Cook time : 40 minutes

Serving : Approximately 5 portions

Ingredients

1 large yam

1 large red onion

2 zucchini

1 yellow pepper

1 small red cabbage

2 cups of preferred grain (I chose brown rice for this one)

1 clove crushed garlic

2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

1 tsp pepper

Sauce

1/2 cup Greek yogurt

1 tsp dill

Directions

Preheat oven to 350.

Cut up all vegetables. I chose to cube most of the veggies except for the cabbage which I cut into strips. Toss all veggies in apple cider vinegar, garlic and pepper.

Lay out on a prepped cooking sheet. I use parchment paper to reduce sticking and help with clean up. Bake in oven for approximately 40 minutes or until vegetables are soft.

In the meantime cook your grains.

While this is tasty enough on its own, you can choose to add the optional sauce. Simple to make, all you need is to mix the dill with the Greek yogurt and voila!

Portion out into containers for the week, or serve and enjoy right away.

 

WHEN A MOM BREAKS

Two years ago, September pulled me into darkness. The floor broke beneath me and I free fell with an anchor tied to my ankles. It was terrifying, it was painful, but it also showed me the unbelievable strength that can be found in struggle.

Fast forward to last month, and you may have noticed that blogging was virtually non existent on my end. Well, October was another roller coaster month. Granted not nearly as horrific as 2015, but hard non the less. You know the picture of the Cat in the Hat balancing on a ball holding twelve thousand things in his hand? That was me. Between being busy creating products for this month’s launch, attending seminars to further my professional development, taking on a seasonal night shift, dealing with extreme mom guilt and attempting to keep an active toddler happy despite the nightly sobbed question of “why are you leaving me?” October was hard. Add to it a heart filled by some really great news only to be turned around and shattered by a heartbreaking diagnosis, and I was still okay because I had to be…and then I met Neil Patrick Harris and my life imploded.

One of the things I learned at one of the seminars I attended was that in a crisis you can either look for the danger or the opportunity, but what was left out was that you also need to process your feelings. You need to allow yourself to break before picking yourself back up and being that ultimate beacon of strength people are depending on you to be. Sweeping things under the rug only feeds into the eye of the storm of emotions swirling beneath the surface.

Meeting NPH was like that final rush of adrenaline before your body begins to process the trauma of the car crash. The surge of energy overwhelmed my already shaken carbonation and just like the can of pop you foolishly put in the freezer, I exploded. All the emotions, all the heart aches, all the pressures I had been putting on myself, everything I had kept bottled up came rushing out in a very public, very embarrassing way.

When a mom breaks there’s not only the emotions from the why, but a horrible bout of guilt for not being enough. That awful feeling of not attaining the ridiculous illusion of motherhood perfection that is expected of you. While of course those expectations are bullshit, it’s still something that aches through you.

For me, the way I process emotions and work through struggles is through writing which was something I did not allow myself to do last month. I wasn’t brave. I was honestly afraid of what would come out and what I would be forced to deal with. Writing keeps me sane. It keeps me self aware, it allows me to let go of the toxic negativity that can easily build beneath the surface if left untouched, and it really allows me to let go, move on, and focus on the positives.

I hate the feeling of becoming a geyser. It really doesn’t do any good for anyone–especially me. I love that I found something that works to keep myself in check, and that helps me through the struggles, but I need to actually do it. I need to fit time in my day to actually take care of myself so that I can actually properly and effectively take care of others.

Strength isn’t about never breaking. It’s about picking yourself up, and finding a way to move forward. Strength isn’t about burying emotions, it’s about making sense out of hardships, clearing your mind to be able to face a problem head on.

The fact that you break isn’t what makes you weak, the only weakness is when you use that break as an excuse to not get back up again.

October broke me, but believe it when I say that November is going to see me rise.

RAINBOW MACAWRONGS

Today marks the first birthday of my best friend Tibby’s rainbow baby! It is wild to think that a year has gone by so quickly, and it is definitely a different experience watching a friend’s child grow. As quickly as time has flown with my little one, not seeing P everyday definitely makes the developments go by in a blink. One minute she’s a newborn, the next she’s a wild child walking around like a boss!

I remember living this day a year ago. The anticipation, the worry, and the sweet excitement when that little Squish (stubborn like her mother with two days of labor) entered the world! Not only was a child born, but a best friend too. When we got the invite to the hospital (because you WAIT to be invited, you don’t invite yourself) we packed up our own Little Love. With a special outfit on and a gift in hand, we were ready to introduce this future generation on BFFs.

On the weekend we celebrated P’s birthday. Tibby decided on a rainbow theme for her rainbow baby. It was beautiful! She made a wonderful rainbow cake, and decorated in colors as vibrant as her. Tibby asked me to make some macarons for the party, and then informed me of a nut allergy. Well, that kind of eliminated the macarons since they are almond based, so I decided to make up some macaWRONGS!

I started with my absolute favorite sugar cookie recipe–honestly, with Halloween parties and Christmas parties on the horizon, you are going to want to save this one. It is easy, makes a ton of cookies, and is oh so tasty! Next, I added a filling and sprinkles to create the illusion of a macaron, and I am THRILLED with how they turned out!

Ingredients

1 1/2 cup softened butter

2 cups white sugar

4 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

5 cups all purpose flour

2 tsps baking powder

1 tsp salt

Filling

1/4 cup softened butter

2 cups icing sugar

1 tbsp vanilla

2 tbsp milk

Rainbow Sprinkles

Directions

In a large mixer with a paddle, cream together butter and sugar. Add in eggs one at a time and vanilla. Slowly add in dry ingredients until well mixed.

                     

Wrap all dough in plastic wrap and chill for a minimum of 2 hours. I usually chill over night as I like my kiddo to help with the steps, and it gets to be a bit much to do all in one day.

Once chilled, I separated out the dough and added coloring. Though I always prefer gel food coloring, I used liquid today as it was what I had available.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Pull apart into smaller balls and combine all dough.

This will give you that really beautiful jeweled swirl.

Coat counter in a layer of flour to prevent dough from sticking. Roll out dough to roughly 1/4 inch thick. Using a circular cutter (I found a shot glass was the perfect size for this) begin cutting out dough.

When placing it on a prepped baking sheet, your spacing can be pretty close as the cookies should not expand much; however, if your dough is beginning to feel too soft and warm, consider rechilling it to ensure the shapes are kept.

Bake for 6 – 8 minutes.

Use this opportunity to mix the filling. Begin by creaming the butter with the vanilla and milk. Slowly add in icing sugar and mix until smooth.

Once cooled, begin matching cookies. Add a dollop of icing to the center of one cookie and smoosh together. Roll the edges in sprinkles.

Serve and enjoy!