A few weeks ago I became totally distraught when my kid protested against any smooth textured baby foods. I had just made an enormous batch of pureed butternut squash, sweet potato, broccoli, apple, and pear sauce. They were sitting in my freezer in their cute silicone ice cube molds, but Rory wouldn’t touch them.
I started giving him more foods cut up for his little baby teeth, but some foods were still too hard for him to chew. After a near choking incident, I decided to try cooking pears down like I did for the sauce. OMG. I am jealous of my son because these pears are incredible. They’re syrupy sweet without any added sugar, perfect for a grown-up dessert or snack, and great for a toddler.
Wash, peel, and cut pears into baby bite-sized chunks.
In a large sauce pan over medium heat, add pears, spices, lemon peel, and water. Using a spoon, mix thoroughly to coat pears in spices.
Bring to a boil, then place the lid on top and lower the heat to simmer for approximately 20 minutes. Check for doneness by piercing with a fork. Cook until tender.
Let cool and enjoy.
Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
This recipe is adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s First Applesauce. If you’re looking for a pear sauce recipe, you can follow these instructions (you can leave the pears in larger chunks), and toss the cooked mixture into the food processor for a few good pulses until it’s a smooth puree.
In case you’re wondering, I was able to use the already pureed veggies with ground turkey and tomato sauce for what I call baby bolognese. But that’s a recipe for another day…
I am a sucker for blog posts with enticing titles offering tips and trick to keep my house clean. I recently saw a post about twenty things people do on a daily basis to keep a tidy house, and I just about went bananas. TWENTY THINGS. Without clicking, I conjured up a list in my head and stopped at ten because twenty things seem impossible for the average person.
This year I reimagined what kind of home I want to keep, and it’s inspired new routines and the way I look at my space and interact with my things. My house is a reflection of how I see life–a work in progress. I’m not done organizing or decorating, and I’m totally okay with that. My house is far from what some would consider clean, but on most days, my house is clean enough for me.
Five tips for having a cleaner and happier home:
Some of the following include Amazon affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and make a purchase, I’ll receive a percentage of that sale at no cost to you. All thoughts and opinions are my own. For a full disclosure statement see my About page.
Your home should be a judgement free zone
Have you ever gone over to a friend’s and she profusely apologies for the state of her house? Do you insist that her house is fine, and that it’s not a mess at all. You say, “Oh please, you should see my place!” My guess is you’re very familiar with this type of exchange. If you don’t judge your friend for the state of her home, why are you judging yourself so harshly? Your home should be a judgement free zone.
Little messes exist wherever we dwell because that’s where we live. Let’s work on being proud of our homes, no matter the state they’re in at any given moment.
How you judge someone else’s home says nothing about them and everything about you
If you find yourself inwardly cringing at your friend’s house and thinking, “Ugh, get it together, sister. Your house is a dump,” I implore you to take a good look at yourself in the mirror. Judging someone else because their home is not to your standard is a reflection of your own internal struggle to feel good enough. Being critical is the result of insecurity, and while mocking and judging may create a sense of superiority, italso seriously undercuts any potential for true friendship.
It’s human nature to compare ourselves to others, but let’s minimize this kind of negative thinking and focus on positivity instead. An attitude adjustment can go a long way in making a home happier.
Figure out what works for you and don’t get fatalistic
I’m a messy person, but I’m trying to reform. I haven’t perfected a system for keeping my home truly neat, but I haven’t given up yet. One area I really struggle with is my son’s toy collection.
After Christmas my husband and I read the now infamous The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Marie Kondo helped us confront our issues with purging items that had been gifted to us. We were able to effectively sort this massive toy pile into bags we dropped off for donation and organized what we kept in our underutilized storage cubes and baskets.
Keep going until you figure out which method of cleaning and organizing works best for you, because dear reader, I don’t want your loved ones to have you removed from your home via crane when you’re old and senile and have forgotten the way to your front door.Was it over the tupperware collection and through the plastic bags or was it under the freebie water bottles and over the Time magazines?
It’s okay to take cleaning shortcuts
I run our robot vacuum every day. You heard me, I have a Roomba, and I love it. I was not always so on board with a robot vacuum (they’re not cheap!), but I’ve become so dependent on my Roomba over the past ten years that I’ll definitely shell out more money to replace it immediately when this one dies. My Roomba vacuums my house EVERY DAY, so I’m still way ahead of the game even if the Roomba doesn’t get corners so well and occasionally eats a sock.
Swiffer mops and dusters, Clorox wipes, and other convenience cleaning items can be worth a little extra expense. I don’t have access to laundry facilities or a a utility area directly in my condo, so it’s unrealistic for me to keep a hoard of wet, dirty cleaning rags or a dirty mop hanging around. I know I can save money by cutting out these convenient indulgences, but realistically I know I won’t clean regularly if it’s more difficult.
Decide what is clean enough for you
I would love to have a spotless kitchen, but I’ll settle for doing the dishes every night. I make the bed and run the Roomba every day without fail. My husband takes out the trash, cat litter, and diaper pail every night. Anything else we accomplish on top of that is gravy.
Maybe your list of what must get done on a daily basis is very long or maybe it’s very short like mine. Whatever you decide works for you is clean enough, and you should be so proud of yourself.
Are there any cleaning tips or tricks that really work for you? Have your perspectives on housekeeping changed over time?
I’ve been hooked on The Great British Bake Off ever since I found it on Netflix. It’s got me dreaming of cakes, pies, puddings, and breads. I decided to make banana bread after a whole bunch turned brown. I put them in the fridge for a few days until I had a free evening for baking.
When I Googled for a good banana bread recipe, one of the top hits was from one of my favorite food blogs, Simply Recipes. I’ve made Elise’s version of banana bread before, but I wanted something a little more exciting. I vaguely remembered pinning Deb’s Jacked-up Banana Bread from Smitten Kitchen, another favorite food blog. This recipe was exactly my speed–it calls for booze.
After reading through the recipe, I sent my husband to chase after our kid. It’s nearly impossible for me to work in the kitchen when he’s still awake. While pulling out ingredients, I decided to make a few modifications. I was running low on brown sugar, so I supplemented with white sugar. I also love walnuts.
I realized we were out of bourbon, but we had whiskey on hand. In true me fashion, I forgot to beat the egg before adding it in. Oops! I made sure to incorporate it thoroughly once I realized my mistake. I couldn’t tell if there was any difference.
I previously made Simply Recipes’ Chocolate Bourbon Cake, and for me it was a bit too much alcohol, but the tablespoon called for in Smitten Kitchen’s recipe didn’t seem to be enough either. I could hardly taste the whiskey, so if you want a boozier cake, I’d increase it to a quarter cup.
At the last second I decided to add in chocolate chips, because why not! The consistency was nice and thick but still manageable with a wooden spoon. I buttered a loaf pan and plopped the mixture right in. I took my loaf out of the oven right at 50 minutes because my testers were coming out clean, but next time I’ll leave it in a little longer. Toward the bottom middle it was a bit softer than I would have liked.
I could wait so I served two slices directly from the loaf pan before it was properly cooled and it was delicious! I loved the moist and chunky texture of this bread. The chocolate chips truly makes it more of a dessert or snack cake than a breakfast food. You can cover the loaf in plastic and it will keep for a few days on the counter (if you can manage not to eat it in a day), or in the fridge if you prefer.
How many times have I read that routine is good for me? How many articles have I read and then ignored about getting up extra early for deep breath sets, calendaring and to-do lists, and unloading the dishwasher first thing in the morning so my kitchen doesn’t look like a hot mess 24/7? Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m not always so great at starting and keeping up with new routines.
Even small changes to my life seem daunting, but big ones–like leaving the stability of one job for another (or like me, to be home with a small child), moving and commuting further, expanding your family, or adopting a healthier lifestyle–can feel overwhelming. So let’s acknowledge the new routines we’ve created in the face of a challenge, and celebrate the bad habits we’ve stopped and the good ones we’ve formed.
Five favorite tools that keep me inspired and motivated to maintain healthy habits:
Some of the following include Amazon affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and make a purchase, I’ll receive a percentage of that sale at no cost to you. All thoughts and opinions are my own. For a full disclosure statement see my About page.
This app helps me add structure to my day. I like the simplicity of my goals: make the bed, prepare lunches, walk 5k steps, log meals, take a picture. Every day that I complete my tasks feels like a pat on the back. On the days I don’t want to make lunches, I think about this little circle I won’t get to tap and the money I’m going to waste, and it’s just enough incentive to make the trek to the kitchen. It’s easily adaptable for whatever “streak” you want to keep going, whether it’s eating a healthy meal, reading a book, or getting to sleep at a decent time.
I’m not used to having my entire kitchen at my disposal all day long. By using this app I make deliberate decisions about what I eat, rather than snacking indiscriminately all day long. You can choose your level of interaction with the app and its community, and you can set up your profile for maintaining, losing, or gaining weight. It’s simply for calorie counting (in and out), and I appreciate that approach over other diets or plans. There’s a web interface, which is how I initially signed up years ago, but I find the app much easier to use on a daily basis. I use my FitBit One to track my steps in conjunction with logging my exercise on My Fitness Pal, but you can certainly use any activity tracker or an inexpensive pedometer.
The app and web interface are available for free and with premium monthly and yearly upgrades.
This built-in iOS app syncs across devices and can be shared with other users. I only recently started meal planning, and I think my success directly relates to communicating easily with my partner about what items we need from the grocery store! We also keep track of coupons and deals on a shared list to maximize our savings. I almost always have my iPhone or iPad nearby so I can remind myself to buy a birthday card, run an errand, and update my shopping list.
I recently got Evernote with the intention of using it to keep track of weekly spending. Eating out and coffee runs add up, but sharing a note with my partner will hopefully keep us both in check so we don’t go over budget.
This app is one I see so many bloggers talking about because of its versatility. You can incorporate your Feedly with Evernote to read and save posts, organize and brainstorm ideas, and even start notes right there in the app so they’re ready for when you sit down to write.
There are three tiers of service starting from free to 50 bucks a year, and it’s available for desktop and mobile devices.
A good old fashioned journal
Good for: Self-Care, Diet & Exercise, Household & Finance, Blogging, etc.
I love writing. It’s the only thing that keeps me sane. When I can’t get something done, there’s usually a reason why, and it’s almost always mental. So I write it out. It’s also really inspiring to look back in your journal and see how far you’ve come.
I have an entire journal dedicated to KonMari. It’s kept me going on my epic purge! I have a journal where I write about finances. When I get stressed about spending, it’s not really about the money, it’s about whatever I was feeling when I was shopping. Why did I spend $17 on cookies and crackers at Trader Joe’s when I only went in for cream and eggs? Why did I buy a lipstick for $24 when I rarely wear the ones I have?
I like to refer to notes in my journal when I’m working on a blog post. It’s inevitable when you’re journaling that something will pop up that you want to share. I have the above Rifle Paper journals and these Moleskine journals. I love that they are thin so I can have multiple in use for specific projects and topics, and they’re lightweight enough that I can toss a few in my bag when I leave the house.
What inspires and motives you to start and maintain a new routine? I’d love to hear about it!
May is a big month in my household. My partner and I have birthdays within ten days of each other and we’re both turning thirty-five! Holy crap! How did that happen? I used to have a lot more anxiety about age, but this year I’m too preoccupied with life transitions to worry about a number.
I don’t need a whole lot of stuff, so the best gift I could get is time. I miss adult interaction, I crave meaningful conversation with friends, I even look forward to bumping into acquaintances around town! I do understand, however, that time is more of a concept and can’t be wrapped up with a bow. Here are some of my favorite birthday presents that pair well with the gift of time:
Some of the following gift ideas contain Amazon affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and make a purchase, I’ll receive a percentage of that sale at no cost to you. All thoughts and opinions are my own. For a full disclosure statement see my About page.
I just got the Madewell Transport Tote and I love it. It’s roomy enough to throw in my necessities–laptop, several notebooks, my calendar, and a water bottle. It’s my go-to handbag for my once a week afternoon of errands and writing at a coffeeshop.
I use my favorite Rebecca Minkoff mini purse whenever I get a babysitter for the night. (So, like three times in the last year.) It can hold a surprising amount of stuff, but it’s still dainty and fun and decidedly not a diaper bag. Take this Mini Mac crossbody bag out for drinks, dinner, and a concert. Let loose for a night!
Why go out for drinks when you can stay in? It’s cozier and the conversation is way better! Get real copper mugs for Moscow Mules and spice them up with my new favorite ginger beer by Cock and Bull ($6.29 at BevMo for club members).
Body wash is my secret weapon to starting the day right. My daily shower may be the only time I get to unwind. Skip the generic bar soap, and go for one of the dozens of delicious Philosophy multi-use washes (shampoo, bubble bath, shower gel).
Save time and save money by creating a fun and easy way to pack lunches. How about the Bentgo All In One Stackable Lunchbox? I got this for my friend in her favorite shade of green.
Everyone’s schedules are jam packed. If you can’t pick a date to celebrate in person, send a card that’s also art so they can hang it on their wall and enjoy it for longer than just their birthday month.
What are some of your go-to gift ideas? Is there anything you’re coveting from afar?
On Friday morning I was perusing my Twitter feed and followed a link to an article about “wellness” and “clean eating.” I’ve often felt like I must be doing something wrong when people talk about their clean eating habits. (Am I eating “dirty food”?) What’s the big deal with wellness anyway? This trend isn’t really anything new, but this quote struck me like a bolt of lightning:
“But when we advocate, and even insist upon, a diet so restrictive, moralising and inflexible, and market that diet to young women, and then dress it up as self-care: just how responsible is that?”
(A big shout out to my friend Clio for reminding me that Ruby is none other than Great-British-Bake-Off-Ruby. Yes, that one!)
Self-care is a loaded term, but you get the gist of it–it’s whatever we do to maintain our physical, emotional, and mental health–and it seems easy enough to do in theory. But on closer look, maybe it’s not so easy–why else would there be thousands of how-to guides and a cult of diets preying on people desperate to achieve peak health and “wellness”? At best, self-care is acknowledging, naming, or labeling the things we do on a daily basis to get by, and at worst it’s the expectation that we manage our stress so it doesn’t affect others. For example, when I was having a rough day at work and let it show, I’d be chastised to take better care of myself. Now as a new mom, I’m reminded by nearly every blog I read that I can’t be the best mom or a successful person if I don’t take care of myself first. I even throw the word around with friends when we exchange sympathetic and well-meaning texts.
The idea of self-care is lovely, but the practice can be extremely taxing. So instead of preaching about what I think self-care is, I’m going to tell you what it isn’t.
What, when, or how you eat does not change your value as a person even if it changes your dress size.
Self-care isn’t taking on an eating plan that is so restrictive that it stresses me out because I have food on the brain 24/7. Self-care isn’t feeling guilty when I indulge in a scoop of ice cream or three.
I love food. It nourishes my body, mind, and spirit. I love a delicious chunk of cheese, but I also like it in American product, powder, and puff form. I have an evolving relationship with vegetables, one I’ve worked hard at, but I still love chocolate better. Sometimes I’m bigger, and sometimes I’m a bit smaller, but I’m literally always a baller.
What drives some people to accomplishment and success may not work for you, and that’s completely okay.
Self-care isn’t feeling like a failure because I don’t wake up at 5 AM to juice, meditate, and hike.
When I was in the depths of despair, my doctor told me that I could pop a pill to dull the edges and motivate myself to get up before everyone else in the house to go for a run. She told me that I needed a thicker skin and that I could accomplish this if I just took better care of myself. I internally rolled my eyes, quit my job soon thereafter, and never looked back. There are some situations you can’t self-care yourself out of, and that doesn’t make you a failure.
Your home and your life don’t have to be picture perfect.
Self-care isn’t keeping my house effortlessly clean by picking up clutter every time I walk through a room.
My house is messy. I’m doing the best I can. I have a one year old that thinks it’s fun to throw Cheerios, watermelon, broccoli, and his apple juice on the floor. When I walk through a room I’m usually chasing after my son or trying to get my cat to stop vomiting on the couch. My house is clean when it needs to be, and while I’d like it to be a more frequent occurrence, I’m not going to lose sleep over it.
Adulting and parenting are hard, and there’s no ‘right’ way to do either.
Self-care isn’t regretting that I don’t put on night creams during an elaborate bedtime ritual. Self-care isn’t turning off screens and closing social media an hour before I go to sleep.
I am still working on flossing every night. I’ll move on to night creams by forty, I’m sure. Yeah, I know it’ll be too late by then. Oh well. And to anyone who lays in bed with their little ones, whether it’s for co-sleeping or TV is just the easiest way to get them to sleep, you won’t get any judgement from me. The only time I can read or watch things uninterrupted is when my son is asleep.
Sometimes it’s just about survival.
I think it’s enough to eat Cheetos and watch Netflix on your phone in the dark and feel guilt-free about both. I think it’s enough to take a shower to the sound of your kid wailing in the next room over because they don’t have your attention for five minutes. (They’ll live.) Of course, when you can do better, you will. Maybe in this season of life your self-care is just about survival. There’s always future-you to look forward to, and she has it slightly more together. I hope you take comfort in that, because I sure do.
I love to cook and I’m excited to share what a typical experience in the kitchen looks like with me at the helm. I very rarely get to cook with total concentration. My sidekick is a real baby and usually demands attention at the worst possible moment. I’m far from being an amazing cook, but what I lack in talent I more than make up for in enthusiasm. I hope I can encourage anyone who has doubts about their cooking abilities!
On Thursday I decided to cook a new dish. I had a bunch of random ingredients I wanted to use up–previously purchased canned white beans and pickled jalapeños for a recipe I never ended up making, chicken thighs, and three leftover leaves of rainbow chard. I did a quick Google search, and came up with this White Chicken Chili. I love Pioneer Woman recipes, they’re unfussy and homey which is just my speed. I don’t follow recipes to the letter, and usually the results I get are pretty good even if the dish doesn’t resemble the original perfectly.
I put Rory in the Pack n Play and gathered all the ingredients on my kitchen counter.
I quickly read through the steps and decided that I could confidently make the following changes:
I pan cooked my chicken because it’s faster than boiling it.
I only had half an onion, but it was plenty.
I really like to add veggies into recipes when I can, and rainbow chard is a favorite of mine to incorporate into just about anything–try it in your taco meat, meatloaf, or spaghetti sauce. I chopped up three large leaves and added them in after I sautéed the onions and garlic.
I didn’t have any chicken broth on hand, so I used plain water and chicken bullion.
I skipped the green chiles and used a can of diced tomatoes and a pickled jalapeño. The heat was just right with one jalapeño, but it could certainly be adjusted by adding a half to start or leaving out the seeds entirely. It would also work to use a fresh jalapeño instead.
Here’s where things got really iffy:
I used canned beans rather than dried beans, which drastically cut down on the cooking time.
I realized after I’d already added six cups of liquid that I probably didn’t need to add so much since my beans were already cooked.
In my haste, I turned chili into soup. Once I realized I wasn’t going to get that thick chili consistency, I tasted the broth before adding anything else. I opted for only 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of cumin powder, and after several more spoonfuls, I decided the soup didn’t need any other seasoning. The bullion was plenty salty, and the pickled jalapeño gave it enough spice and acid.
I think the soup tasted great and so did my husband. The distinct flavors of this caldo reminded me so much of Albondigas soup or Mexican rice. It was the perfect spicy soup for a gray spring day.
Some bread or corn tortillas would have been a nice addition, but sometimes it’s just more important to get dinner on the table than worry about all the things you’re missing. We had leftover soup on Saturday and served it with ciabatta from our neighborhood bakery.
This recipe made a large pot, about 6-8 generous servings, and from start to finish took me less than an hour to make. I froze a couple portions for a future dinner (yay!), and there’s still some left in the fridge. This is a perfect family-sized weekday meal that could also be adapted for the slow cooker.
A spicy and tangy soup with white beans and chicken
Author: Christina at Invented Charm
Recipe type: Main
Serves: 6-8 servings
3 cups cooked chicken, shredded or cubed
1 tabelspoon olive oil
½ large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups chopped rainbow chard or other leafy green (about 3 large leaves plus stems)
1 can diced tomatoes plus juice
1 pickled jalapeño, diced OR fresh or pickled jalapeño to taste
2 cans Great Northern beans (white beans), drained
6 cups chicken broth or water/bullion (follow proportions on package)
1½ teaspoons ground cumin
salt and pepper to taste
Boil or pan cook chicken. Remove from bones. Shred or chop into bite sized pieces. Set aside.
In a large pot over medium-high heat, sauté onions and garlic in olive oil for 1 minute. Add chopped rainbow chard and mix to combine. Cook until chard is wilted, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes plus juice, diced jalapeño, beans, chicken and chicken broth or water and bullion. Season with cumin. Place lid on pot and bring to a slow boil.
Reduce heat to low. Taste soup and adjust seasoning. Add salt and pepper or add more jalapeño and cumin. If a less salty broth is desired, add more water.
Serve in bowls. Warm corn tortillas or crusty bread on the side are a nice addition.
2016 is already almost half over, and this first blog entry has been on my to-do list for way too long. I guess it’s about time for me to plunge back into blogging. Here goes nothing…
I recently became a stay at home mom. I’m still trying to wrap my head around that. I’m a SAHM, a homemaker, a full time mommy. What? How did that happen? I had a plan when I decided to finally start a family, and this was not in the plan.
My husband and I decided that we were going to be a dual income household. I was going to balance my work and home life. I was going to do the morning drop-offs and evening pick-ups from daycare. I was going to pump in my office so that I could maximize my work time and still provide my baby with breastmilk. I read all the guides on how to survive being a working mom. I made a dozen freezer meals, I toted my pump and parts in a carefully selected messenger bag, I set my alarm extra early. I had a plan. But that plan didn’t work out like I expected. Life went off the rails, and now I’m wandering without a map.
Like many women of my generation, I have always worked. I had “my own money,” and never felt guilty about spending it on myself (or saving it). But now I’m living in a new world order: I provide full-time childcare, and my husband goes off to work everyday to support us financially. This is the first time in my life I haven’t received feedback about my performance. Being a stay at home mom is rewarding, but it is also…how can I put this delicately? Thankless. There’s no paycheck at the end of the month, and it’s 24 hours a day/7 days a week. Taking care of my child without the added pressure of a career outside the home is also an enormous privilege, one that I try my hardest not to take for granted. I am so thankful that we are in the position to make this choice, even if it is temporary.
The truth is, and I don’t know how many people admit this openly, I’m often lonely and confused about what I’m doing. Being with a child all day and out of the workforce can feel isolating, but I don’t think it has to be. I want to use this blog to connect to other people who are transitioning into a new phase of life and marveling at the journey. I think I have a lot to learn from all the awesome bloggers out there, and anyone with a unique perspective to share.
I am excited to write about what I’ve learned as a rookie mom, a first time homeowner, and a novice DIYer. I hope to entertain you with stories about my crafting mishaps and happy accidents in the kitchen. I welcome you to take a glimpse at my life–it’s messy, real, and hopefully full of laughter and love. This is a lifestyle blog, but don’t let the title fool you, any charm I have is very much still a work in progress.