Slow Cooker Butternut Squash Soup

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Fall is finally here! I’ve been waiting! Summer is great and all…but life is so much easier when you don’t have to apply sunblock to your children every single day and then bathe them every single day and clean up sand in shoes, sand in diapers, sand well, everywhere. Fall is beautiful in Minnesota. The trees are turning, the air is crisp, everything smells like apples and cinnamon and pumpkins, and the FOOD…it just gets better and better. Honestly I don’t really know why our slow cookers are kept in storage until the fall and winter…it’s one of my favorite ways to cook and you can literally cook ANYTHING in them, making your life so much easier. Especially if you have little ones running around who LOVE to turn off the oven, reach for the stove flames, etc. My 17 month old snapped off every single one of my stove knob covers. So much for baby proofing…

So I did a little experiment creating one of those fantastic, super quick videos that are plastered all over my Facebook feed. I figured hey, I have an iPhone, I’ll just place it in my cabinet above my counters and voila! Just one thing missing…the recipe 🙂 So here it is! Also, the entire video is below.

Ingredients

  • 2 large butternut squash (you can do this with any type of squash you like as well)
  • 2 large Honeycrisp apples, peeled, cored and sliced (You can also drop in a cup of unsweetened applesauce at the end and get the same effect)
  • 1 large yellow onion, cut into large chunks
  • 36-48 ounces of chicken broth (use 48 if you like a thinner consistency of your soup)
  • 3/4 cup Lite Coconut Milk (in the can, not the beverage. Hubby came home with unsweetened vanilla coconut milk thinking it was for my coffee 🙂
  • Nutmeg
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Parmesan Cheese and Chives for garnish

Directions

  • Wash the butternut squash (NO NEED TO PEEL!) and cut in half (or quarters depending on how large your slow cooker is) and remove the seeds
  • Place the squash, sliced apple and onions in the slow cooker and cover with chicken broth.
  • Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8.
  • Now go do something fun, because dinner is basically made.
  • Butternut squash is done once you can pierce it easily with a fork
  • Remove the squash from the slow cooker, and let it cool for awhile or you will absolutely burn your fingers like I almost did.
  • Scoop out the squash from the peel and place it back in the slow cooker with the apples, onion and broth.
  • Using an immersion blender, blend until smooth.
  • Add in the coconut milk, nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste. Blend again.
  • Garnish with lots of Parmesan, chives and a drizzle of coconut milk. It’s so good that way.
  • Tip for those with littles: Reusable pouches and sippy cups work great with this soup!

A Big Girl Room for Marielle

When I decorated Marielle’s nursery, the room was entirely decorated just for her. We knew we were having a girl, and we knew that we wanted to invest in great furniture that could be used from babyhood through her teenage years. We chose Natart furniture, which is high quality, solid wood furniture with great design. Her crib goes from a baby crib to a toddler bed, optional day bed, to a double bed. Her changing table is simply a dresser with a changing pad fastened to the top. This way, it can be a regular dresser when we no longer need the changing function. Her nursing chair can be converted to a regular wingback chair by removing the rockers and attaching the legs. Every single detail was well researched and planned (Who, me??) so that the room and furniture would grow with her.

I wanted her room to be a calm, sophisticated space with cozy touches and sweet details. Her Natart Bella furniture collection is a deep cocoa brown with beautiful curves and details. Her bedding is a soft, dusty rose color with polka dots and ruffles, and her walls an elegant beige. An etched oval mirror hangs by an ivory ribbon above her dresser, while a delicate crystal chandelier hangs from the ceiling. I loved it so much I made sure we took it with us when we moved houses. A small bookshelf displays a large metal “M” surrounded by all her favorite books held up by sweet, white birdcage bookends. Floor length ruffled curtain panels block out the light for sweet dreams and happy naps. Her room has always been my most favorite room in the entire house. It was my sanctuary as well.

As she gets older, her personality is really starting to shine through. She’s sweet but sassy, loves wearing a backwards hat, but also a tutu. She’s artistic and creative and loves to dance, but never passes up a game of tag or kicking around the soccer ball. But, she will do all of those things in her tap shoes. Bottom line, the girl has personality and she will need a room to go with it.

I remember when my mom and I redecorated my childhood room from a nursery to a little girl room. It was the late 80’s and wallpaper was in. I had wall to wall floral Laura Ashley wallpaper with a stripe bottom half and a floral border. Looking back it was like living in an English garden, but I loved it. My bedding matched the wallpaper…the wallpaper matched the curtains…the curtains matched the lampshade. Everything matched. Every. Single. Thing. But, there was no Pottery Barn Kids, RH Baby & Child, or even Target that carried fun room decor for kids. Years later the wallpaper came down and was painted a pale yellow, with all white bedding…just a little more subtle!

I purposefully made sure her room had enough neutrals in it that when it came time to redecorate for her, all I would need to do was change out or add a few accessories. I still love the dusty rose pink and beige combination and it only seems fitting that her new accents would be in gold. Gold and pink? What little girl wouldn’t love that? Gold accessories and accents are really popular right now and there are so many options…I had to hold myself back from cluttering up the design board. Her nursery is RH Baby & Child ad PB Kids, and her soon to be toddler/little girl room is a combination of Target’s new Pillowfort line, Pottery Barn Kids and RH Baby & Child and RH Teen.

I’ll dress up her toddler bed with a girly tulle canopy (for my little ballerina) add in some gold accents with flower hooks and cheerful pillows. A jewelry box to hold all her trinkets (sunglasses, bracelets, special keepsake items and important items such as her Peppa Pig keychain) A covered bulletin board to display her works of art, a new mirror above her dresser (maybe…I do still LOVE her current one. Maybe just replace the ivory ribbon with gold?)  with a shimmering gold chandelier table lamp to fill the space where her changing pad used to be. A cozy pouf to add in front of her chair so we can sit and share stories together. It doesn’t take much to update and glam up a room. A few accent pieces and pillows added to your current furniture collection make it seem like a new room! The best part about shopping online, is that you can pretty much always find a 20% coupon for these popular retail stores.

She’s not quite ready for her toddler bed/bedroom yet…but planning her big girl room is definitely fun!

Marielle Nursery

Marielle’s Current Nursery

Wingback Rocker: Pottery Barn Kids

Side Table: Pottery Barn

Beaded Lamp Shade & Base: Pottery Barn Kids

Ruffled Blackout Curtain Panels: Pottery Barn Kids

Double Dresser:  Natart Bella Collection

Crib: Natart Bella Collection, 5 in 1 crib

Monogram Letter: Pottery Barn Kids

Etched Oval Mirror: Pottery Barn Kids

Bedding: RH Baby & Child

Area Rug: Pottery Barn Kids

Marielle Toddler Room

Gold Mirror: RH Teen

Bed Canopy: Pottery Barn Kids

Gold Rose Hook: Pottery Barn Kids

Pillow: Pottery Barn Teen

Covered Bulletin Board: Pillowfort, Target

Jewelry Box: RH Baby & Child

Chandelier Table Lamp: RH Baby & Child

Pouf: RH Baby & Child

Mamacation: Why every mom needs a vacation at home, alone.

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This past weekend, my amazing husband packed up our two toddlers and a week’s worth of clothing and diapers, 2 pack and plays, 2 life jackets, 2 sleep sheeps, 10 pacifiers, SPF 70, 10 apple sauce pouches for the car ride and left me at behind at our house so that I could have 2 glorious days to myself.

You see, as a stay at home mama, I was starting to unravel a bit. 2.5 years of never sleeping in, not being able to shower when I want, never finishing a cup of coffee before it went cold, never getting to watch any morning television programming that wasn’t brought to you by a letter and a number, pretty much not having a whole lot of me time. Don’t get me wrong. I completely willingly and lovingly spend my day with my two children. I love being able to spend all day with them, watching them grow up before my eyes, I’m pretty lucky. But, I’m human, and I, like everyone else, have limits. It wasn’t just me who needed this, the kids did too. With summer activities on a break for the rest of the summer, my 2.5 year old was majorly acting up. Like, Oscar wining drama daily. I couldn’t entertain her enough while also trying to take care of our 1 year old. She needed some one on one time with dad, her aunt and uncle and her Gigi and Papa up at the cabin. 5 adults and 2 kids…she was going to have a blast. And she deserved it.

We have been in our new house for a little over a year and I have never woken up in our house naturally…it has always been by the sounds of two very awake babies through the monitor ready for mom and dad to come get them out of bed. The morning rush of getting two kids changed, fed and entertained, before the coffee even starts brewing…then you no longer pour that cup of coffee and someone needs your attention.

I just needed some time to regroup. Slow down. Rejuvenate. I wanted some time to enjoy the house I spend so much time cleaning, fixing and decorating. For the first time, I woke up, made my coffee, brought it outside and read a book with real pages in our tree swing while enjoying the sounds of birds and admiring the blooming Hydrangeas in front of me. I looked at the gardens I had worked so hard at planting. I watched the neighborhood walk by with their dogs and kiddos.

I took a shower longer than 3.5 minutes. I did a few projects around the house that have been taking me weeks due to constant interruptions, and finished them. I deep cleaned the kid’s bedrooms, which is otherwise difficult when someone is always sleeping.

Why on earth did I want to do chores on my vacation you ask? Because I’m one of those types who loves an organized home. I love checking things off my list, and I got to do that this weekend. Don’t worry, I had my fair share of relaxation, Bravo TV and wine. But it truly energizes me to get things done.

It brought me so much joy to Face Time the kids and see what a blast they were having. Swimming, boating, playing at the beach, eating Gigi’s homemade waffles…they were getting exactly what they needed too. Everyone was happy.

It was definitely a little strange to go to sleep alone in our house…and I of course flipped through iPhone photos of the kids before drifting off 🙂

And now as I await their arrival home any minute now, I can’t wait to see them. I can’t wait to kiss those cheeks, have a chaotic dinner with them, and be the one to put them to bed tonight. We will all wake up refreshed tomorrow morning, and ready to go.

If you can figure out how to have a weekend to yourself in your own home, do it. Parents, especially those who stay at home all day, need to find time for themselves. More than just a yoga class or dinner out with friends, you need a couple days to regroup…take it and do what you love to do. Go to Target by yourself and peruse the home decor aisles. Go for a run without the stroller. Weed the garden. Whatever you love to do, do it.

Thank you to my loving husband for giving me this time 🙂

The Last Baby

When you begin to enter the wonderful world of motherhood, you’ll start receive a lot of (usually unsolicited) warnings. Warnings about how great/awful pregnancy is, warnings about what afterbirth is REALLY like, warnings about how you will never sleep again, you’ll never get your same body back, warnings about toddlerhood…you think the terrible twos are bad? That’s nothing compared to an opinionated threenager. You file all these cautionary tales away in your head, because you’ve already heard about them, read about them, and started to experience them on your own time. But there is one thing about motherhood that no one tells you about. It’s not in the books, it’s not a topic in mommy and me class, but it can and will mess with your already spinning (and hormonal) mind.

What to Expect when you Realize your baby is your LAST baby.

I was not prepared for this. I wasn’t prepared for the emotions that would accompany the fact that our son was our last baby. Our daughter took her precious time coming into our lives, and the news that our son was on his way was the best surprise we could have asked for 8 months later. We found ourselves members of the two under two club, surrounded by a whirlwind of diapers, bottles, pacifiers, opposite nap schedules (aka, never leaving the house ever) and pretty much two years of little to no sleep or social life. I think I was still thinking we would have three children.

It just all happened so fast, and maybe that’s why I was so unprepared for the emotional rollercoaster that I was about to embark on. Maybe if our children were spaced apart a little further, we could have three. But I knew that two was our end point at this time. However, I wasn’t ready to not have babies anymore. My son lost interest in nursing around 9 months, and I just wasn’t ready to give up on him. It would bring me to tears every time he would turn his head away because he was too distracted by all of his new found skills (aka, crawling, standing, walking) and everything his sister was doing was much more interesting. But, he was so little. He was my baby. He could still curl up in my arms, rest his head on my shoulder and give me sloppy 9 month old kisses. I wanted him to stay a baby forever. I would read all the Scary Mommy articles about wanting another child, and all the reasons not to, but you really do forget the horrible pregnancies, morning sickness, no sleep, because all you remember are those newborn snuggles and sounds, the tiny diapers, the way their legs stay in the fetal position and their little bums stick out when you pick them up. I only remember that Marielle was a great sleeper. I don’t remember that Brendan would bounce her around until midnight when she finally fell asleep until he reminds me. I barely remember needing an extra hour each morning to get over morning sickness until 32 WEEKS. It’s natures trick to get you to have more babies. The heartache of miscarriage is always with you, but it eventually goes into a safe place in your memory. You forget all of the emotional and physical struggles of pregnancy and motherhood.

It’s all good! Let’s have another! Says Nature.

I know my limits. I know that two is right for me and for my husband, and I love the attention I’m able to give both of my children. I love that there is a one parent per child ratio when we go places and travel. Because traveling with children is a whole separate blog post… I’m excited for those mother/daughter father/son (and vice versa) days. I love that the kids are both in bed by 7. I love that I have time for me and my husband, but I miss having a tiny little warm body semi permanently affixed in my arms (although my one year old is EXTRA mommy needy these days). Yes, I know they still need me in other ways, but still, I’m completely overcome with emotion about not having anymore babies. Literally, my heart hurts.

The other day, I dug out Alexander’s newborn size clothing for a friend who recently had a new baby boy. Again, my heart ached as I folded the tiny onesies, pants and socks…OH THOSE TINY SOCKS! I have been selling and or giving away our baby equipment over the past few weeks which does make everything a little more final. Not easier, but therapeutic in a way. It’s right. I know it is. But it doesn’t change the emotions that go along with it.

I’m so grateful for all the new babies coming into my life that don’t belong to me 🙂 And while I don’t envy the sleepless nights and zombie like persona that is new motherhood, I will tell you it is absolutely worth every single sleepless night, every showerless day(s) and every meal consumed standing up with a baby in a front pack. Worth it. Every. Single. Day. And while you may not realize it as you sleep walk down the aisles of Target stocking up on nursing pads or formula, one day, you will. It took me over 8 months to finally update and publish this post (denial much?) but here I am. A happy, content, mother of two beautiful, silly little toddlers.

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Lessons in Toddlerhood #1

Toddlers love to open and shut things repeatedly. Doors, cabinets, etc. But especially doors. If you find yourself simply taking the dog outside, be sure to turn that tiny lock on the door knob so that it doesn’t automatically lock once shut by said toddler. Think about making a fashion statement by wearing a house key around your neck. I’m kidding. Kinda. Or, make sure you have lightening fast reflexes that allow you to run at warp speed towards the door as you see it swinging shut in slow motion yelling “nooooooo!” like a bad action flick. Your toddler thinks this is hilarious. I learned I have those reflexes today. Thank goodness. Also make sure your sister who lives 4 blocks away has your house key and carry your cell phone at all times.

Keeping it Simple: Losing the Baby Weight

Okay so here’s the deal. With my first babe, I barely gained any weight and I swear I ate everything on the planet. However, when she was born, I was wearing my regular clothes within about 8 weeks…and continued to lose weight and I wasn’t even trying. I weighed less than on my wedding day 4 years ago. This wasn’t necessarily a good thing as my milk supply wasn’t as abundant as I wanted. Clearly, I assumed it would be the same with my second pregnancy. I was hoping I was one of the “lucky” ones where the weight would just magically fall off on its own. I could NOT have been more wrong. At 32 weeks I had gained enough weight for my entire pregnancy and baby was certainly not done growing. It’s true…with a toddler at home, I was eating whatever was easy and whatever tasted good at the time and definitely more takeout than usual due to moving into a new house and caring for a toddler… and bam! I was at the above normal range for weight gain. That’s not exactly what I wanted to hear when I still had 8 weeks to go…! But, chasing around a toddler all day and growing a human is hard work and I was starving…so I didn’t change my diet much…my doc just told me to cut out the cookies. (Yeah, we’ll see)

But, here I am 3 months after Alex was born. I’ve lost 30 pounds since he was born, but I’ve got that stubborn 10 left and man are those 10 pounds mean…but they are what is keeping me from wearing 75% of my wardrobe. I thought about going back to Barre class, but my abs are still split in half and I can’t do any workouts with abdominals. Not sure just doing dainty plies at the barre will force those stubborn 10 away. I thought about joining groups where everyone motivated each other, but the diet was too restricting for a nursing mama. I’ve got a kid to feed. I have to do this on my own and make it work for a busy mom of two, while keeping my kids happy and my husband’s appetite satisfied.

Ha! I love how I’m writing this the day after I housed half of a Lake Harriet pizza.

I knew I had to do what every Italian fears most…cut out some carbs. I’m not willing to cut them all together, but I probably don’t need to eat them more than once/twice a week and my portion may be a bit out of control 🙂 I’m giving myself a realistic timeline to do this. Fall is coming, I had a fabulous stylist at Evereve in Edina outfit me with a new Fall wardrobe that works with my current body and can adjust and look great with whatever weight I end up at. I’m shooting for 6-8 weeks. We’ll see what happens! I’d like to point out I’m doing this for myself. And that Marc Jacobs dress that’s been sitting in the back of my closet 🙂

Now for some motivation…

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Mommy HQ Makeover: Sika Design Sofie Side Bistro Chair

I’m always looking for new ways to add style to our new home and chairs are one of the simple things that can really change the look and feel of a space. I love chairs. A fabulous chair can really change the whole ambiance of a room or area. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out which chairs I wanted for our new kitchen. We decided on the French Tolix chairs…I love the industrial modern look they have, and they are actually comfortable and extremely well made. I was using one at my kitchen desk for awhile (also known as Mommy HQ) until my husband brought this bistro chair home and I fell in love. It’s pretty, right? Not just pretty, it’s just lovely, and it completes “my” area. It’s comfortable, unique, extremely well made and stylish. It’s like a little piece of French Cafe right in my kitchen. I mean, I down about 3 lattes sitting here, so it makes sense. Oh how I long to go back to Paris…pain au chocolat, espresso, red wine…Sorry, side note.

Here is the story behind this chair. My husband is the US distributor for Sika Design. Not only is the furniture beautiful, but it’s handmade, sustainable and made of the highest quality materials. Originally, my husband brought home the chair for me to see, and photograph, with no intention of letting me keep it…but once I placed the chair in front of my desk, I knew I had to have it. I mean, if I’m taking the photo and showing the world how much I love it…shouldn’t I get SOMETHING out of it? I basically told him I was keeping the chair and he’d have to take me with if he was going to take it away from me.

This particular chair is the Sofie Side Bistro Chair in Grey with white dots. I’m sort of in love with the green with white dots and the purple is pretty amazing too…but our kitchen is grey and white and this one blended in perfectly with our current decor.

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