Monday, April 23, 2018

April Reads

April was a busy month on the book front and I read some excellent ones! I did have to return some to the library before I got a chance to read them, but I'm back on the wait lists and had plenty to keep me reading. AJ got me a subscription to Book of the Month Club for my birthday (more on that later, it's pretty fun) and I haven't read one of those yet so needless to say, my "to read" list is growing and growing....just how I like it. Let's dive in!

1. Achtung Baby by Sara Zaske:  This was a fun parenting read. I read Bringing Up Bebe (French parenting) a while ago and last year I read Beyond Happy (Amish parenting) and The Year of Living Danishly. This is such a fascinating sub-genre of literature and this particular book was all about the German art of parenting written by an American mom who moves to Germany. I don't subscribe to any one form of parenting (you do you, mama) but this one featured great tips for encouraging independent play and self reliance. I learned how important "open ended" play is and why it's so wise to teach problem solving. These practices also impact my teaching career too. Any other "international" parenting books I should check out?

2. The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen: YOU GUYS, this book blew my mind! I went into this one knowing there was a "twist" and the book jacket even said "assume nothing" but this one got me! This story is very similar to Behind Closed Doors, The Couple Next Door, and The Last Mrs. Parrish. It's thrilling, suspenseful, and even if you think it won't "trick" you, it just might! I couldn't put this one down.

3. Bachelor Nation by Amy Kaufman: Did you really think there would be a new tell-all about the Bachelor that I wouldn't read?! This one was super fascinating. It read much like the author's "thesis" that while yes, the show is trash and it's totally manipulated, scripted and outlandish, it's still worth watching. This book does not sugar coat the behind the scenes drama and masterful editing that goes into each season (I know, I know, about a dozen people have told me I need to watch Unreal. I promise it's on my "to watch" list), but it doesn't make us viewers feel bad for eating it up. We believe in love, damnit! And watching it unfold for over a decade on Monday nights is just fine...Even if you're a feminist.

4. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng: Ok, I'm calling it now: This one might just be in my top 3 for 2018. If you have a book club, this one would be the perfect selection. This novel follows two families in a wealthy suburb--the landlords and their tenants. This book dives into cultural issues, adoption, class and gender issues, teenagers, mental health, motherhood, and more. It was just jam packed with thought provoking content and unfolded like a well-written drama. This one is more literary than what I usually pick up but it was refreshing change of pace. You will not want to put this one down, there's a reason the wait list for this book was over 200 people. The characters are some of the most richly developed ones I've read in any book lately.

5. The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine: THIS BOOK IS CRAZY! In a good way. Once I finished reading this I wished I was still in school so I could spend my days writing a research paper about how modern men are portrayed in contemporary fiction (A blog post about this is stewing in my head because there's just a lot there to discuss! I'm thinking I need to carve out some Starbucks writing time in the next few weeks because I really want to dive into this!). Basically if you're a fan of psychological thrillers, you will like this one. It is definitely rated R but it's also deep and thoughtful. I'm glad I didn't read this one right after The Wife Between Us because they are very similar.

6. Mindless Eating by Brad Wansink: After some intense/heavy reads, I decided I needed some more non-fiction this month. This book was recommended by another blogger and I really liked it. It is full of wonderful facts and information but in a very enjoyable, easy to read fashion. After reading this, I immediately moved the caramel candies I keep inside my desk to a cabinet on the other side of the room and I am starting to use our smaller "dessert" plates for dinner instead of the monster dinner sized plates we have. I am also starting to ask myself more often, "Am I hungry or am I eating at this time out of habit?" This one is definitely not a "weight loss" book (and it doesn't claim to be), but it brings up really fascinating points relating to food psychology (and why we can demolish a popcorn mega tub in one sitting....guilty as charged).

I also began Melanie Shankle's new 100 day devotional this month, Everyday Holy. I am really enjoying it. I found that I am more likely to do my devotional time if I leave it at the dining table downstairs and I can read while I sip my coffee in the mornings.

And my read aloud for spring in my classroom is always Charlotte's Web. My mother in law (a former elementary teacher) bought me the special read aloud edition and it is so good. My kids love gathering around the big book with pictures they can see. And my voice always breaks when I get to this line......Oh Charlotte, you slay me every time.

April was one of my favorite book months to date! Happy Reading!

Savor Your Sparkle,

Friday, April 20, 2018

Two Delish Things

Hi Guys! Happy Friday! I have two delicious things to share with you today. One is a dinner recipe and the other is a "healthy" version of a blondie.

I have mentioned before how I've really gotten into sheet pan dinners. I love them because they are easy peasy and once you pop them in the oven that's really it. I have made a few different versions but thought I'd share with you the one we had the other night. The awesome thing about these suppers is the versatility. I personally like red pepper, mushroom, and broccoli but do you think I had any of these ingredients on hand this week and do you think I wanted to go to the grocery store at 7:00? That would be a no on both counts. But whatevs, this dinner is your creation, mix it up as you see fit! This really isn't a recipe so much as a "dinner idea" for you.

Sausage and Veggie Sheet Pan Dinner

The Cast of Characters:
-1 beef smoked sausage (I like Hillshire Farms but Aidell's are awesome too)
-1 bag petite multi colored potatoes
-1/2 onion
-green beans (just like a bunch...see? Not really a recipe)
-1 green pepper
-generous shakes of salt and pepper
-1/2 cup olive oil
-1 tsp. minced garlic
-1 tsp. oregano
-1 tsp. dried basil
-Sprinkle of parmesan

1. Rinse and trim your beans, preheat oven to 375.
2. Chop onion, sausage, potatoes and pepper into big chunks
3. Throw it all on a sheet pan (I use 2 pans so as not to overcrowd)
4. Mix olive oil and seasonings. Pour over veggies and toss to coat
5. Bake for about 40 minutes. Sprinkle on some parmesan and serve.

Sometimes we'll eat this as is and sometimes we'll add a grain. Tonight was frozen TJ's brown rice (love!). This has become a staple at our house.

Now.....are you ready for this?? I came across this recipe on Pinterest which, as well know, can be the source of many a recipe fail. But these FLOUR AND SUGAR FREE Blondies were amazing. I will admit the smell while making them kind of grossed me out, but once they baked up and I had a slice with a big ol' glass of milk, I was sold. See, I was skeptical, though, because while chocolate chip blondies sound like a good idea I got sort of freaked out when I came across the mystery ingredient......are you ready?


It comes from a can.

It is good on salads......

The main ingredient in hummus.......
you really want to know????........

CHICKPEAS! Yes, that's right, chickpeas are the base of this treat and it sounds weird and it IS weird, but give these guys a chance. Trust me. I didn't get a pic but they ended up looking like the picture on the recipe (hardly ever happens). 
 Photo From Ambitious Kitchen 
Here's the recipe for Flourless Chickpea Blondies from Ambitious Kitchen. Here are my modifications: I used almond butter, pure maple syrup, regular semi-sweet chips, and I also added an egg. I made it in the blender. Next time I'd use dark chocolate chunks. Two delish things for your Friday. Have a great weekend.

Savor Your Sparkle,

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

4 Months

I can hardly believe my little man is 4 months old! I thought I'd do a little recap of "Hank Life" here on the blog because while this little corner of the internet is for random recipes I've made up, book recaps, and a whole load of our "life lately" it's also basically my son's baby book. No fancy scrapbook up in here, just a url. This might be boring for ya'll, but I wanted to document a picture of our life with our fun and adorable 4 month old. Here it goes...

Hank is a delight. People ask me all the time if he's a "good baby" and he really truly is. He's very chill (unless he's hungry or super tired, then watch out) and he goes with the flow well. This month we really got in a good schedule "groove" but hey, I'm a teacher, I know these things can change and if need be, we can switch things up. Right now he wakes up around 7:00 (eliminating the 5 am feed and pumping session has been heavenly) and I usually change him and get him dressed in his jammies....he wears just a diaper and the Woombie swaddle to bed so jammies are just for evening and morning lounging. He can usually hold off his first bottle of the day until my mom arrives and I leave for work. Sometimes he's still sound asleep when I leave the house but that bums me out because I love our morning snuggles. Between 6-7 I usually rush around eating breakfast/getting ready and pray he stays asleep until I finish blow drying my hair or making the bed so I can get out the door on time.

He sleeps in his crib (we started this officially on Easter) and usually goes to bed between 9 and 10:30. He sometimes goes straight to bed in his crib awake and nods off. Other times he's so beat that he's basically zonked out during his final diaper change and other times he is not digging the crib and he lays between us in our bed while we read and then we move him to his crib once he's fallen asleep (it usually doesn't take long). All the lights are out in his room and we turn on his lullaby sound machine and set it for an hour.

Hank loves to be part of the action. For a while he'd cry and cry while we ate dinner (we had him in the Mama Roo or on his playmat) and we then discovered he just wanted to be by us. He now "eats dinner" with us at the table with his bouncy seat on the table. I often put him in there on the kitchen counter while I make dinner too. He is happiest when all eyes are on him!

As far as naps are concerned, he's really mainly a cat napper. Very rarely does he sleep more than 90 minutes or so (his longest nap is in the morning, right after his first bottle). I figure since he sleeps through the night, I can't press my luck with naps. I want him nice and tired out by the time the evening comes around. We can always tell when it's bedtime or he's in need of sleep, that's usually when he gets fussy. The other day he was awake from 2 ish in the afternoon until 10. Yeah, he was mad. I can barely stay awake until 10 without a nap so I can only imagine how exhausted our little man must be!

His eating has really picked up this month. He usually takes 6-8 oz a feeding and is on all formula now. I began the breastmilk pumping weaning process in early March and by the end of March I was no longer pumping at all. He doesn't eat as frantically as he did when he was a newborn (I think he's finally got the clue that yes, you will be fed whenever you're hungry. Chill dude). He does major burps after his feeds and it makes me laugh when he does a big formula belch in my face. He's always much more content after his burps!

This month we busted out of the house (we were trying to keep him inside during his newborn days and flu season) and he went to church for the first time, to a wedding, Costco, coffee and lunch out, and tons of walks. It's quite the production taking him out (5 diapers, 2 outfit changes, 2 bottles, toys, pacifiers, wipes, bibs, boogie wipes, etc) but it's been nice going places as a family of 3 now.

We bathe Hank every other night. We still use our plastic tub with the "sling" on the kitchen counter and probably won't put it in the actual bathtub until he's sitting up. He likes to chill out in his diaper for a bit after bath. Sometimes he wears his hooded towels or his sweet baby robe too. We no longer make the rookie mistake of going fully nude!

He loves: kicking on his piano mat, his Moose toy, MAM brand pacifiers, his cat car toy, looking at the fan, grabbing my hair, looking at lights, being fascinated by looking up at the ceiling when going up and down stairs, walks and sits outside, reading books in his rocking chair or bouncy seat, and going in his Baby Einstein "ball pit" play gym. He is an absolute joy and AJ and I both give thanks every single day that we get to be Hank Grayson's mom and dad. Happy 4 months, Hankster! We love love love love you! (one love for every month).

Friday, April 13, 2018

Life Lately & Hamilton

Hi There,
    Guys. It's Friday. Amen and Hallelujah. This week was a fun one notably because AJ and I went on a little date night and saw Hamilton! I first listened to the music last year and really liked it (And hello, major history nerd here. AJ and I were both history majors in college and US History is my absolute favorite). I always wanted to see the show but once I heard about the intense process and how many people couldn't get tickets, I was resigned to the fact that we probably wouldn't see it.

But then last week after our spring break cleaning AJ found some old golf clubs he didn't want anymore so I was posting them on KSL classifieds and took a little browse at the events section and came across Hamilton tickets. I spent the next 2 days texting and negotiating with various sellers and finally a seller and I agreed on an amount (honestly, it wasn't too outrageous and not very much more than the face value on the ticket) and we met up Saturday (with AJ and at a public place, I'm not crazy!) and we had the tickets in hand. It was so good. I had super high expectations and it surpassed them all. Lin Manuel Miranda is a genius. I've been listening to the music "NON-STOP" lately (also, my fave song in the show for the record).
Love these lyrics on a onesie! How could I resist buying this??

I discovered this Hilshire Farms snacking thingies (I call them "adult lunchables") and I love them! I snapped a pic of my lunch the other day because it's the easiest thing ever and so yummy to put together: Adult Lunchable (there's a few varieties), La Croix (so millenial, I know. I'm also obsessed with avocado toast too), Skinny Pop 100 cal bag, hummus or guac cup, snap peas, and lemoncello white chocolate almonds (from Costco. Have you guys tried these? YUM!).
 I put a pic of these Tazo Teas on my InstaStory the other day. Anything with the tagline "Dessert Delights" is something I can really get behind.

On the TV front, I've decided unless I reallllly like the show, it's series recording spot in my DVR is peacin' out. I guess it took raising an infant to get to this very important life step (Although this new policy has not raised the overall caliber of the shows I consume. I still watch mostly garbage). I gave up on Rise, 600 Pound Life, The Voice, Dr. Phil, and Will & Grace might get the ax too. I've been watching Married At First Sight, Little People Big World, Roseanne, American Housewife, Superstore, Teen Mom, and Southern Charm.

In other news, we are 34 school days until summer break. In years past, I've started my countdown way earlier ( ahem, at 75 days with my 2015-2016 darlings), but I am really enjoying this group this year. BUT no matter how great the class/teammates etc. there is nothing like summer living! Bring it on!

And I'm leaving this post with a Hank picture because I adore this little chunky monkey. Have a great weekend, everyone!

Savor Your Sparkle,

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Strawberry Banana Overnight Oats

I got on a major overnight oatmeal kick last spring. The thing is, oatmeal is super easy to make and takes 2 minutes in the microwave, but there's just something extra delicious about oatmeal that hangs out overnight in all sorts of yummy ingredients. I've done some experimenting in the kitchen and I've come up with this version that I am loving. So put together breakfast the night before. By the time the sun rises, you'll be glad you did!

Strawberry Banana Overnight Oats

Cast of Characters:

-1 over ripe banana (I freeze mine once they get brown-ish and just thaw when I'm ready to use)
-1 cup oats
-3/4 cup milk
-1/2 cup plain or vanilla Greek yogurt
-1 tsp. vanilla
-1/2 tsp. cinnamom
-2 tsp. honey OR pure maple syrup (I've tried both)
-about 5 whole strawberries sliced
-1/4 cup chopped walnuts
Note: you can double the amount of milk and eliminate the yogurt if you prefer

Mix all ingredients well, cover and refrigerate overnight. That's it! In the morning I stir it up and heat for about 2 minutes. This makes a big batch (although I have no problem devouring it all!) so you could double or triple it and make enough for a few mornings at a time. Enjoy!

Friday, April 6, 2018

Life Lately/Photo Drop

Hi Guys,
   This post is a random assortment of all the stuff and pictures I didn't blog in the few weeks before spring break. We had a wonderful March.....we did dinners with friends, had visits from AJ's mom and dad, Hank got to meet Uncle Matt, my classroom got "spring-ified" and we're in full on "get ready for 2nd grade" mode, Hank turned 3 months old and is smiling, loving lights and the ceiling fan (we are contemplating a trip to Home Depot's lighting department to blow his little mind!), I joined Boot Camp again, and we've been enjoying bonus time chilling at home (Yay for spring break!).

This is one of my all time fave pictures of Hank!! 

We enjoyed a trip to the Mall....I hadn't been to the mall in SO long! 

Saturday night we had my family over for pizza and it was nice to all be together. Here's AJ and Matt looking at Hank's photo album. 

One day last week, we heard a knock on the door and it was AJ's dad, he arrived in Utah a day early to surprise us! Hank loved having time with his Grandpa Steele! AJ's dad always enjoys having projects so he painted our backyard adirondack chairs (which he made us a few years ago) a pretty light green color. I can't wait to read out there this summer. I packed away Hank's newborn and 0-3 month clothes (space saver bags are my new obession....ask AJ, I can't stop finding things I want to space bag!) and I am absolutely floored that the "newborn" phase is over. Oh, and we officially transitioned to the crib this week. Hank did better than I did....I miss my little pal in our room but he does well in the crib (we'd been putting him in there for his morning nap to test the waters and he seemed to enjoy it). Babies do not keep!

Newborn, 0-3 month clothes, swaddles, jammies etc. all in this bin. Yay for Space Saver bags! 

And speaking of wanting to read outside......remember that one time all my library holds came in at once??? And there's 4 waiting for me today. Sheesh. Cutting this post off now because clearly I have some reading to do. This month's reads are GOOD! Have a great weekend! 

Savor Your Sparkle,

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

When I Miss Her

Grief is weird. It is a part of you, intertwined with your very spirit. But sometimes it catches you off guard too. How can something that is in the fiber of my being just pop up and surprise me sometimes? How can I be going through a normal day and suddenly I am stopped in my tracks by the thought: Did that really happen to us? Did I really hold my newborn daughter and feel her tiny heart slow, then in the worst moment of my life, stop? See, grief is tricky. While it's calm and settles into your bones, it's also wild and frolicking. It makes you laugh over memories, cry, and strive and strive and strive to make meaning. I've said before and I so believe it to be true: Grief and I are permanent roommates, so we need to learn to coexist and play nice with each other.

  Since Hank has been born I can say that what others assured me of is without a doubt true... that the pain does lessen. It does! Praise hands! It never goes away fully (and it shouldn't) but it becomes gentler, quieter, and blends into the background instead of standing right in the middle of the room. I've discovered that in parenting Hank I am honoring and serving Hadley at the same time. I'm loving my children. Both of them. And isn't that the supreme task of a mother?

I've compiled this list of things I do when I miss her. I've only been partnering with grief for about two years but these things have truly helped me along the way. Maybe they'll bring some healing to you too?

-Go for a walk: Some of you might think of running in this category of "get out and move" but for those of us, ahem, less athletically inclined, there's nothing quite like a good stroll. I love bundling up Hank and putting some miles on the stroller. Time in nature plus exercise is really so good for the soul.

-Music as healing: I love listening to music....especially in the car. I have Pandora going almost all the time in my classroom before and after school and there's nothing quite like the perfect T Swift song to get the day going. And I'm still listening to The Greatest Showman soundtrack and Brandi Carlile like it's my job.

-Treat yourself: When it comes to this one I immediately think of the soul refreshing that occurs with a mani, pedi,  or massage, or splurging on a Starbucks latte, or Sweet Tooth Fairy cupcake. This one does not have to equate to cash or calories, though. Sometimes some "mama needs a bubble bath and early bedtime tonight" is all it takes. The point is, life's short, treat yourself, girl. You deserve it.

-Talk about it: I love picking up the phone and calling or texting a friend. And sometimes AJ and I just need a heart to heart about Hadley. Sometimes it makes me laugh and sometimes it makes me cry, but I need to express myself and talk about it...often and still.

-Remember: When I'm really missing Hadley, sometimes it's helpful to just dive in and read old blog posts, look at her photo book, pick up her hand and feet molds, flip through pregnancy journal pages and just keep her memory alive for myself. She was here, she mattered, and I want to let the memories wash over me. It seems counter intuitive but it actually really helps. 

-Practice Gratitude: This one is something I try and work on daily. Gratitude has the power to completely transform your life. I am thankful for the time I had with Hadley. I am grateful to my body for helping me have a healthy pregnancy with Hank (where I was once bitter and angry at my body), I am grateful for a strong marriage and my partner in life. I am thankful for family and friends who have showed their true colors and held us up in times of sadness and times of joy. There's always something to be thankful for.

-Pray: Sometimes it's necessary to pause in the quiet and talk to God. You can call this one praying, meditating, reflecting, whatever, but there is power in silence and mindfulness. You don't even need to speak, sometimes you can just offer up your heart and thoughts, God knows what's there. In the silence I often get clarity.

-Visit Her: It was so important to me to have a place where we could visit Hadley and have a special spot to reflect and remember. I felt some guilt about not going as often in the winter and now that it's spring and summer is coming up, I plan to try and go more often. I can't wait to bring Hank and enjoy some time under the peaceful shade of Hadley's tree.

-Focus on Others: I remember the summer after Hadley was born I was so thankful to go back to work and get into the groove of leading my classroom again. While teaching is not always a walk in the park, overall, my students and teammates have brought me joy over the years. Pouring my energies into my classroom and my students is more than a distraction, obviously, but it's hard to be sad or feel down when you spend your day with some pretty cool and cute kids Throwing the Baby Bow Bash was so healing for my soul AND it helped include our friends and family in serving the community and amazing NICU families. And as an addition to this tip, Hank brings me so. much. joy. and focusing on him brings me so much peace. I give thanks for him every minute of every day.

 I adore my precious daughter and give thanks for her role in our family. There are hard days and great days and every variation in between. I'll never not miss her so it's been valuable to find ways to cope when I do. We love you Princess Baby!