Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Fit Fab Fun


It's hump day, and although you might be getting over the "hump of the week" it might also feel like the SLUMP of the week. My Wednesday is going better than expected, and it's in part due to some special mail. I love getting packages, and my Fit Fab Fun box just arrived!


This seasonal box is full of fun fall goodies like a beautiful plaid blanket scarf, body oil, brow gel, an eyeshadow palette, a fun coloring book and colored pencils, night serum, toe sox for my barre classes... there are so many great things! The timing couldn't be more perfect because it is a BEAUTIFUL fall day in Austin. I'm going to fill my new mug with a big cup of tea and cozy up with a good book. If you're a little jealous, get in on the action and order a box for yourself (with $10 off!) by clicking here


Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Celebrating Year One

We celebrated our 1 year wedding anniversary yesterday, and it' fun to look back and reflect on the past 365 days.



Our wedding was definitely the best day of 2015- we had so much fun celebrating with friends and family, and we made some very special memories.



On New Year's Eve, we found out that we were expecting a baby, paving the way for an exciting new year.  My New Year's Resolution was to learn something new, but I had no idea I'd be learning how to be a mom!



I really enjoyed being pregnant- Henry took it easy on me and I was able to maintain a regular exercise routine and eat pretty healthfully. I craved apples and HATED chicken, but growing a tiny human was a breeze. Our family and friends showered Baby C with all kinds of sweetness in June, and we couldn't have been more appreciative. He was loved early on!


We squeezed as much fun into the summer as we could- a long weekend trip to Seattle, lots of date nights with friends, and a fun birthday celebration.


And Henry made his debut a bit early in August. It was a game-changing weekend for us and we couldn't be happier to be parents!

Our anniversary celebration included our first date night out sans-baby and i'm happy to say that we resisted the urge to talk about him the whole time or check in every 15 minutes.  It was nice to spend time together and think about all the adventures that year 2 will bring!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Pumpkin Spice


I might be the only person in America who hates Pumpkin Spice Lattes. I prefer my coffee black, not orange,  but pumpkin is a flavor that I DO love in desserts and it is officially pumpkin season. I'm looking forward to trying some of these pumpkin recipes this fall:

Pumpkin Churro Waffles, from Damn Delicious
Pumpkin Pecan Cobbler, from Lauren's Latest
Pumpkin Pound Cake, from Something Swanky
I love trying new things, but you can bet that I'll also make this Pumpkin Cheesecake again. We're hosting Thanksgiving in Austin this year, and it will be the PERFECT dessert to cap off the meal.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Friday Favorites: What I'm Reading

I love to read, and I'll give almost any book a fair chance. Here's what's on currently on my Kindle:


Fiction
  • Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld: I recently finished this modern take on Pride and Prejudice. It was a fun, easy read that I'd highly recommend. The characters were interesting and the storyline mirrored the original plot in a really contemporary way. 
  • Exhume by Danielle Girard: I'm looking forward to grabbing a big glass of wine and digging into this thriller about a medical examiner unravelling a particularly dangerous case. If the reviews are any indication, this one will be a page turner. 
  • First Comes Love by Emily Giffin: I'm a big fan of Giffin's earlier novels, Something Borrowed and Something Blue, so I'm excited that this book is in my queue.  Written about two sisters who find themselves at a crossroads in life, I expect this book to be emotionally engaging from start to finish. 

Non-Fiction
  • The Cyber Effect by Mary Aiken: This book came recommended to me since I have a new little one in the house, and the overall point of the book is pretty compelling.  Human behavior changes online and in the virtual world, and the full impact of technology on new generations is yet to be seen. I'm about halfway through, and although it's not the most exciting read, it has given me some food for thought. 
  • The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg: I've been recommending this book to friends and colleagues alike.  Our lives are formed by a series of habits, whether we realize it or not, and understanding how habits are created and changed is really interesting! There are so many relevant applications in life and business, but the best part is that the author's writing style keeps things exciting (which is not always the case in non-fiction). If you haven't read it yet,  this is one to add to your list!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Best Burgers in Austin


I love a good cheeseburger.  Standard toppings like cheddar, pickles, and onions are definitely acceptable in my book, but when a restaurant pulls out all the stops and gets creative with their sandwich, I'm hooked.

Neal and I recently popped into Jeffrey's for happy hour, and their burger, topped with mustard frisee, cambozola, and caramelized onion, did not disappoint. I raved about it to a friend who told me about this article in The Statesman, which ranks the "best" burgers in Austin.  It's my mission to try them all! Working through the best burgers list is a great excuse to get out around town and try some new places, in addition to sampling some delicious eats.

The list was published in 2015 and Austin has grown by leaps and bounds in the last year, so I'm sure there are some notable restaurants missing from the list. Central Standard, located on South Congress, has an excellent burger (pictured above) that may top Jeffrey's, plus the restaurant has much more casual vibe and great outdoor space.

Next time you're in Austin and you get tired of tacos, give the burgers a try!
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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Organizing Idle Time

Before Henry was born, I was nervous about how I'd spend my time during maternity leave. I knew that taking care of an infant would keep me somewhat busy, but what would I do while he slept?!

My Emily Ley Simplified Planner
Fast forward six weeks: I've managed to get out of the house each day, bond with my baby, run errands, AND stay sane. For me, the trick to making it all work is being extremely organized about how I spend my time.  I'm using the Simplified Planner  and have scheduled in 1-2 main activities per day, like:

  • Doctor's Appointments. Last week, it felt like we were seeing a different doctor every day! It was a little bit exhausting and definitely not as fun as some of the other activities on this list. 
  • Workouts. I've been trying out Class Pass, so in addition to my Postnatal Yoga classes with Henry on Mondays, I try to schedule in a little bit of "me" time sans baby. 
  • Lunch with Friends. Most of my friends work, so we've been bringing lunch to their office or meeting up at restaurants nearby. It's fun for us AND fun for them! 
  • Mommy Meetups. I've managed to make a few new-mom friends, so it's fun to get the babies together while we sip coffee or just hang out and catch up. 
  • Baby-friendly Activities Around Town.  Newborns are pretty portable, so anything that can accommodate a stroller is pretty baby-friendly in my book. We're going to the grand opening of a new Nordstrom next week (hooray!), have walked to a local flower shop to buy some fresh blooms, and have scoped out some free outdoor live music events. 
Henry helped to celebrate my friend Anna's birthday with a birthday lunch!

The rest of  our days get filled in with errands and normal activities of daily living. I try to group the errands by geographic location so that I can maximize the time I have in between feedings. We're pretty fortunate because Henry is on a great sleep schedule and it's easy to know when he's going to need the most of my attention (thanks, Babywise!), but some days are better than others and I can't always complete my full list. Being OK with that fact is half the battle.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Fall Centerpieces

I stopped into Hobby Lobby this weekend and although it doesn't quite feel like fall in Texas, all of their fall decor really got me in the autumn spirit! I'm starting to break out some of my Halloween decorations around the house, and this week I'm going to work on a centerpiece for our dining room table. Here's some of my inspiration:

Image from Pinterest

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What's your favorite look? I'm leaning towards the style that incorporate fresh apples- beautiful AND delicious!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Weekend In Review

I try to cram a lot into my weekends, and this past weekend was the perfect mix of productive and re-energizing.


Friday
We cracked open a bottle of wine that we've been saving for a special occasion (the beginning of a weekend felt special enough) and Neal grilled some steaks for dinner. It was a pretty low-key night that ended early since Henry, the new "boss" of our household, dictates our bedtime.

Images from Jester King Brewery
Saturday
I woke up early and went to grab breakfast tacos and coffee from Fresa's Chicken Al Carbon. It's one of our favorite spots in Austin, and they added some new tacos to the menu that were SO yummy. After breakfast, I ran a few errands, gathering the supplies for a few weekend projects. We headed out to Jester King Brewery in the afternoon, meeting some friends for beer tasting and lunch outside. Henry was a trooper, but a few hours was about all he could handle, so we headed home to cool off. Neal and I spent the early evening "auditing" our closet- making piles of clothes to donate, consign, keep, etc. Not the most glamorous activity, but now I'm ready to do some shopping! We cooked dinner at home, watched the Notre Dame game, and snacked on the most delicious grain-free chocolate chip cookies from the Against All Grain cookbook. They give the original Toll House cookies a run for their money...


Sunday
Henry let us sleep in a bit, so our morning got off to a pretty lazy start, but by 8am I was starving! Saturday's breakfast tacos were so good that I begged Neal to go get them again on Sunday and as a special treat I tried a Black and White- cold brew coffee mixed with horchata. It blew my mind and I think I'm going to make it a Sunday morning tradition. After breakfast, we walked the dog and I made a run to Target and the grocery store, getting ready for the week ahead. We spent the afternoon working on some projects around the house: hanging shelves in the nursery, potting some silk plants to replace the live plants that died, polishing off those remaining chocolate chip cookies (yep, that made the list!), etc. Dinner was some shrimp fried "rice" adapted from this Against All Grain recipe while we binge-watched Suits on Amazon (I love that show, even though my lawyer friends assure me that it's not at all realistic).  I ended the day with a heated power yoga class at Core Power Yoga (I've been trying out Class Pass and I love all of the class options). Getting sweaty was a great way to cap off the weekend!


Friday, September 16, 2016

Friday Favorites: New Mom Edition

My days are running together a bit, but I'm excited for the weekend just like everyone else! Henry and I have had a productive week, but it takes a lot more energy to stick to a routine and get stuff done when you have a baby in tow. This week I've rounded up some of my new mom favorites- these are things that keep me sane!

Freshly.com
1.  Freshly: I love to cook, but sometimes I don't have more than 5 minutes to throw together lunch before my "boss" Henry beckons. Freshly is a meal delivery service that delivers fresh, healthy prepared meals. The options are delicious and it takes about 2 minutes to heat up each dish. Click here to try a few meals for free.

Henry's practicing his best savasana at The Little Yoga House!

2. Mom and Baby Yoga: Henry and I started taking classes at The Little Yoga House, and it's an hour that I look forward to every week. The class sizes are small and the babies just lounge on the mats while the moms get a full workout. It's an opportunity to focus on me for a bit while still bonding with the little guy. I highly recommend finding a mom-and-baby activity like this!
Image from Pinterest

3. Little Giraffe Blankets: My sister gifted Henry a Luxe Baby Blanket from Little Giraffe and it is the softest thing ever. Blankets are a popular baby gift ( we received about 100 of them), but the green Luxe blanket is Henry's favorite for snuggling. Wrapping him up in it leads to an almost instantaneous calm- that's a beautiful thing!

Tinybeans.com

4. Tiny Beans: We live in a world of social media, but I'm conscious of the fact that not everyone wants to be overloaded with baby pictures. Plus, we don't really know the impact of having your whole life documented on the internet, so I'm trying to limit what I post my little one. Tiny Beans is an app that allows you to share a photo each day in a virtual journal- it's not public, but you can invite select people (like the grandparents) to have access. I've been having fun documenting Henry's adventures for our family members, and I know they enjoy seeing him grow since they don't live nearby.
Image from Pinterest
5. WubbaNub: These little guys are THE BEST! We have a few of them, and they're our go-to solution for a fussy baby. Each WubbaNub's plush toy keeps the pacifier nearby, even when baby spits it out. Plus, since Henry doesn't really "play" with toys quite yet, I think it's incredibly cute to see him grasp onto his little elephant Wub.

My Pick: Diaper Bags



Diaper bags come in many shapes, colors, and sizes, but I had a hard time choosing mine. I wanted something simple and stylish that didn't necessarily LOOK like a diaper bag. Petunia Pickle Bottom is a popular brand that gets rave reviews, but the patterns all felt a little bit feminine, which means that Neal might be less inclined to tote the bag around town with Henry.

Enter: Fawn Design.  These easy-to-clean faux leather bags are buttery soft and can be worn as a backpack or a messenger bag. The chic design is something I might carry even if I didn't have a baby in tow, and the inside has ample room for keeping baby gear organized. I have the black one, but the plum and olive colors were just released and are perfect for fall!

Fawn Design Plum, Image from FawnDesign.com
These bags definitely have a cult following, and they sell out quickly. Another great option? Purchase a small changing station "clutch" and carry it in an existing tote bag with your other baby accessories (or just carry it on it's own!). 


I have the Skip Hop Pronto Signature Changing Station, which I frequently tuck into my Goyard tote when we're bopping around town, but I love the Petunia Pickle Bottom Crossover Clutch. So cute!




Wednesday, September 14, 2016

New Routines

Having a bit of time off of work to bond with Henry has been such a treat.  We're creating new routines and I've been using my (limited) spare time to work on some fun projects that I had been putting off.

I read a great article on The Everygirl this morning on 20 Things You Can Do to Improve Your Life, and many of the items overlap with my list of maternity leave to-dos:

Make the bed. Image from Pinterest
  • Make the bed every morning. This seems like a silly item to include, but when you wake up to a crying baby and a dog that wants to go on a walk while your husband is rushing out of the house to get to work, it's no easy feat! This simple task is something that I did every morning pre-baby and it helps me to feel like our house is in order and tidy, even when it's really not!
  • Catch up with friends.  I've been carving out time for quick phone calls to catch up, FaceTime sessions so that friends can meet the baby, and even getting out during the day to meet local friends for a lunch break during their work day. These quick visits and phone calls have gone a long way towards staying connected, even during this time when my social life isn't super glamorous. 
Declutter and organize. Image from Pinterest
  • Declutter and organize the house. Nesting before baby arrives is definitely a thing, but I'm still working to declutter and organize. This weekend we're auditing our closet and I'm packing up my maternity clothes, but there are other projects on the list. It gives me something to fill downtime at home, plus it feels so good to know that we don't have a bunch of stuff taking up space in our closets/attic/etc. 
  • Try a new activity. I love to cook, so I guess this isn't really a NEW activity for me, but while I'm hanging out with Henry at home I've been cooking my way through a new cookbook. We also started taking a mom & baby yoga class, which is quickly becoming one of the highlights of my week. Experiencing new things leads to a renewed energy and increased productivity and creativity- everyone needs a little boost like that once in a while!
Break a sweat. SoulCycle image from Pinterest
  • Break a sweat every day. Exercise during pregnancy made me feel like I was on top of the world, and I'm trying to continue breaking a sweat each day, even if it's just for 30 minutes. In the words of Elle Woods, "Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy." This week I started a new Class Pass subscription, allowing me to venture out beyond Bar Method and morning runs. If you haven't tried it out, it's worth looking into. Click here. 
  • Be present. I'm a multitasked through and through, but sometimes you need to focus on the task at hand. Especially now that I'm trying to set an example for a little one, I'm limiting how I engaged with devices (iPhone, tablets, TV, etc), particularly during family time. We eat dinner together at the table with no interruptions, I feed Henry and spend the time looking into his eyes and talking to him, etc. It's nice to disconnect from the cyber world for short periods and reconnect with the real world!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Delicates

I love statement necklaces, but recently I've been drawn to more delicate pieces of jewelry.  Here are a few that I can't wait to add to my collection:

Covet For All Time Necklace with Pave Initial Necklace, Stella & Dot,  $248-$298
Trillion Diamond Necklace, Vrai and Oro, $490
Covet Pave Intention Necklace, Stella & Dot, $298

I also love this post by Emily at Cupcakes & Cashmere. If you're feeling crafty, you can make your OWN delicate necklace! If nothing else, you'll guarantee that nobody else has a necklace quite like yours.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Visiting a New Baby


New babies are adorable and just begged to be held, but if you're planning to stop by and visit new parents, don't forget your manners. Below are a few tips for making sure that your visit is welcome and that you get invited back!

  • DO bring food or offer to help with something specific. In our case, having someone offer to walk the dog and get Brady out of the house for 15 min or so was a huge help. He needs love too!
  • DO visit at a time that's convenient for the new parents, not at a time that's convenient for you. Adjusting to a new baby's schedule and developing a routine as new parents takes time, and there are lots of naps involved, so don't just show up and ring the doorbell. Call ahead. 
  • DON'T wear out your welcome. If you live in town, plan to visit for 15-30 min unless the new parents specifically ask you to stay longer. Having a revolving door of visitors can get exhausting, so they'll appreciate that you just "stopped by" and didn't stick around for hours.
  • DO give the new parents some space. This particularly applies to out of town guests. If you're visiting a new baby, make your first visit a short one and consider staying in a hotel. Or, if you are staying with the new parents, plan an activity to get out of the house each day and give mom/dad/baby some alone time. 
  • DON'T come if you're feeling sick. Even if you're going to wash your hands before holding the little one, no parent wants their itty bitty baby exposed to your germs (and they don't want your germs either!). 
We have loved hosting friends for dinner, game nights, and short visits since Henry has been home, but it took us a couple of weeks to get into a good routine and feel confident in our parenting abilities.  The most helpful friends and family have pitched in by bringing us dinner,  walking the dog, and helping to clean the house- none of these are glamorous tasks but they really go a long way and we have been SO appreciative. 

Since we live far away from many of our family members, we've also had some out of town guests. I have to admit that this stressed me out a bit- I always feel the need to entertain visitors, and although everyone offers to "help", that can mean different things to different people. My advice: be prescriptive. Nobody should fault new parents for asking for what they really need help with. If someone offers, tell them that you need the living room vacuumed or a load of laundry folded.  I went so far as to make a list of 10 ways that visitors could help us. The list includes things like making sure the kitchen/dishes were clean after a meal, cleaning the guest bathroom before you depart, etc. but it also had a line item for snuggling Henry after a feeding. Visitors are coming to see the baby, so make sure you give them SOME opportunity to do that, even if you're putting them to work!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Take-Out In

I love Chinese takeout- there's something about the mix of sauces and flavors that I don't feel that I can recreate at home (maybe it's all the MSG!). While Neal and I were recently completing the Whole 30, we searched for fun recipes to try at home, recreating some of the meals that we had been missing. This Orange Mango Chicken was one of our favorites, and after sharing it with friends and family, they agree!

Original Recipe and Image from Food Faith Fitness, Click Here
What You'll Need:
 4 Tbsp Coconut oil
1 1/2 tsp fresh ginger, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
1/2 Tbsp Coconut aminos (or soy sauce if you choose)
3 Tbsp + 1 tsp Tapioca Flour
8 oz Boneless, skinless chicken breast, patted dry and cut into small cubes
3 cups cauliflower, riced (or buy the riced cauliflower bags from Trader Joe's)
2 Tbsp unsweetened coconut flakes
1/2 Mango, diced
Sesame seeds for garnish

Directions:
  1. Make the sauce first. In a small pot over medium heat, melt 1 1/2 tsp coconut oil and add the ginger and garlic, cooking until fragrant (don't burn it!). 
  2. Add the orange juice and coconut aminos and bring it to a boil. 
  3. Place 1 tsp tapioca flour in a small bowl and add 2 tsp of the orange juice mixture to it. Stir to combine, then add it back into the pot of boiling liquid, whisking until incorporated. 
  4. Reduce the heat to medium and continue to simmer for about 7-8 minutes, or until the sauce reduces a bit. Then transfer to a large bowl and let it cool while you cook the chicken. 
  5. Place the remaining tapioca flour in a large ziplock bag. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and add it to the bag, shaking to coat it in the flour. 
  6. In a medium pan, heat 1 Tbsp of the coconut oil over medium heat and pan fry about half of the chicken. Transfer the chicken to a paper towel-lined plate and repeat with the remaining chicken until it's all cooked. 
  7. While the chicken is cooking, heat 1 1/2 tsp coconut oil in a large pan over medium heat and add the coconut flakes. Toast slightly before adding the cauliflower, cooking for about 2-3 minutes. 
  8. Cover the cauliflower and continue to cook for about 4 more minutes, until the cauliflower is tender but not mushy. 
  9. Transfer the chicken and mango cubes into the bowl with the sauce and toss to coat. 
  10. Divide the cauliflower between two plates and top with the chicken and mango mixture. Garnish with sesame seeds (or the garnish of your choice) and enjoy!
I've also been cooking my way through Against All Grain and the cookbook includes an alternative recipe for Orange Chicken, made in a crockpot. I tried it over cauliflower rice, similar to this recipe, and although it was very simple, the flavors weren't quite the same. This one is the clear winner!