Tips and Tricks · Uncategorized

Monday Musings

OK fine, it’s Wednesday! But I wrote this on Monday, which is a holiday in Massachusetts. I think it has something to do with Redcoats running ~26.2 miles from Hopkinton to Boston in search of brunch on their day off.

In all seriousness, Marathon Monday is second only to Christmas in my world when it comes to excitement and anticipation. (I can even overlook that confounding apostrophe after the “s” in Patriots’ Day for long enough to enjoy myself). We’ve taken Georgia to watch the Marathon since she was in utero, but this year was the first time in her life that it wasn’t freezing out and when she could really enjoy it and cheer for the runners. She kept offering them her snacks — “runners, do you need some Pirate Booty?” — and skipping alongside them, asking for high-fives. And she got a few, too! It was an awesome day, the sun was shining, and Mark had the day off to boot. That’s all I need.

I’ve had a lot on my mind lately, including ways to stop having so much trouble digesting food so that I can cook and eat normally again, a.k.a. the basis of this blog. I want to thank you all for your kind words after my last post! It helps to know others struggle with mystery tummy ailments, too. I’ll be sharing a longer post about some of the ways I’m trying to get my stomach back on track, but in the meantime, here’s what I’m contemplating, doing and buying these days.

What I’m coveting

Every year when it gets warm, I start to want an everyday (non-road) bike again. I can’t wait to see the new Ikea City Bike which is only available in Europe so far, and I’m highly intrigued by the relaunch of Columbia Bicycles.

What I’m hoping to cook when I’m back in sorts

This Creamy Lemon Pasta from the New York Times.

What I’m listening to

The “Quiet” podcast about being — and parenting — an introvert (that would be me, obviously, not Georgia).

What I’m streaming

Kimmie Schmidt (meh so far) and Cooked (next on my list are these food documentary ideas).

How I’m relaxing

With this essential oil & this diffuser

How I’m moving

This after-work Zumba class and these 10-minute workouts at home (which are killer!)

What I’m gifting myself for my birthday

I’m turning 34 Saturday (eek!) and I have a tradition of treating myself. I always pick out one fun new makeup item and one new book, I always schedule a Stitch Fix to arrive the week of my birthday. And, I always get a mani or a pedi. Those are my favorite things to do for myself, and the older I get the more I’ve found that celebrating myself is the best way to feel special! Ever since we got married, Mark renews my New Yorker subscription for my birthday, since that’s what I read on the train every day. I made the mistake of mentioning that I’d love to seriously upgrade our on-its-last-legs blender soon, and as a result I’ve spent the last week reminding him that we can’t afford to spend over a week’s worth of daycare tuition on a Vitamix, much as I’d love to! Though I’m flattered he wants to spoil me :/. And I’ll probably repay him by dragging him for Mexican food on my birthday, too. Poor guy!!

Have a great week everyone and enjoy the wicked warm weather we’re supposed to get in Boston tomorrow 🙂 Summer is around the bend! xoxo

Recipes

Slow Cooker Chicken Curry

Ever on the hunt for easy, family-friendly recipes, I tried to make a simple chicken and vegetable curry with minimal spice (to please Mr. Boring Meat and Potatoes Palate) in the slow cooker last weekend. Can I just say…wow! This is a definite winner! It’s officially added to our regular rotation.

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I kept it bland, but you can amp up the spice if you like, and serve over the rice of your choosing (or plain).

The original recipe called for cauliflower, which I love but Mark hates, so I doubled up the other veggies, in particular the Brussels Sprouts since they’re a fave in our house. You can really customize this however you like, though, and make it vegetarian by leaving out the meat. If you keep the chicken, though, I think you’ll be pleased to find that it cooks down into flavorful, really moist shredded pieces in this recipe. Perfect for spooning onto a sub roll for lunch the next day!

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Freeze leftovers or take them for lunch all week long. I paired this with a salad for lunch one day, and this veggie dish another. (Belgian Salad? Brussels Sprouts? Do we have some kind of weird theme happening here?) Again, this has no heat to it whatsoever, so fear not, wimps! Mark can’t even tolerate a hint of spice, and it didn’t hurt this dish one bit.

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Slow Cooker Chicken Curry

INGREDIENTS

I bought all mine at Trader Joe’s but all are widely available.

  • 1 lb. boneless chicken breasts
  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cubed
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 cups Brussels sprouts
  • 1 medium white OR red onion, chopped
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained & rinsed
  • 15 oz. tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk, light
  • 2 TBSP curry powder
  • 2 TBSP lemon juice (about half one fresh lemon)
  • salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

Start by chopping all your dry ingredients: peel and cube the sweet potato, dice the red pepper, and chop the onion. Place all veggies in the slow cooker (including frozen Brussels sprouts) except the frozen peas and lemon juice. Pour in wet ingredients (coconut milk, tomato sauce, chicken broth) plus the beans, drained and rinsed, and curry powder. Stir, then place chicken breasts on top. I cut mine in half first, but that’s a matter of personal preference.

Set slow cooker for low and cook 8 hours, stirring occasionally if you are home. Or, cook on high for four hours. Just before serving, pour in the frozen peas and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper to your taste. Enjoy with rice on the side, or plain.

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If you are making this vegetarian, be sure to increase the amount of vegetables to compensate for the space the chicken would have taken up, and cook for less time (about 6 hours on low). If you decide to add the cauliflower back in, the original recipe calls for 1 cup chopped. If you’d like for this to be spicy, I’d recommend adding 1 tsp cayenne (or hot sauce to taste) at the beginning when you add the curry powder.

You really can’t go wrong with this one. I hope you like it! Great for having a crowd over, or just for stocking up for the work week and before all that cooking over the holidays.

My other go-to for weekend cooking, especially right before a week like Thanksgiving when your kitchen is focused on holiday prep, are these vegetarian stuffed shells. So easy, so yummy, so filling. So Italian (just like me! And Georgia, who is VERY interested in helping in the kitchen these days).

This year, I am making Balsamic Roasted Green Beans and Homemade Cranberry Sauce for Thanksgiving at my dad’s house (gotta climb into the Wayback Machine for that first recipe!) And Georgia can eat everything this year ~ how exciting! Here’s what she looked like last Thanksgiving at just three months old 😦 I would be sad, but I remember how poorly we were sleeping back then, and I’d much rather take the craziness of toddlerhood with everyone getting a full night’s sleep.

Chicken curry recipe adapted from SarahFit, who says each of the five 3-cup servings has about 300 calories. She also puts the total cost at less than $25, which sounds about right. Cheap, healthy and tasty ~ awesome!

Holidays

The worst candies for Halloween

I have to re-blog Sarah Fit again today ~ she has a helpful and funny guide to the top five candies you should avoid on Halloween, with great tips on how to scan labels for sneaky hidden ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup masquerading under a different name. And tragedy of all tragedies, Butterfinger is the worst one. My favorite!! 

Real Simple also has a fun side-by-side comparison to help you pick the ‘better’ candies. I was happy to read in here that Snickers — my other favorite — edged out Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and that Peanut M&Ms won out over Skittles. Read the whole article to compare your favorites!

Looking for more Halloween alternatives to giving out (and eating) tons of candy loaded with crap ingredients? Check out Mama Natural’s complete guide to Halloween, including information on her “80/20 rule” for eating the trick-or-treat haul, and some cool information on helping kids with allergies to enjoy Halloween. I’ll be busy decorating the house and my office for trick-or-treaters! We always put up these ghost lights to line our walkway, and how pretty is this Halloween-themed wreath from Etsy?

Etsy, $65, RedRobynLane shop.

In case you are wondering, Georgia is going to be a lady bug this year. Pictures, of course, are forthcoming!

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Tips and Tricks

Shaving Time

Happy Friday everyone! And Happy Belated World Vegetarian Day, which was this week (October 1). I found this handy HuffPo article with 22 new vegetarian recipe ideas to share, and I’m definitely going to try the pumpkin mac n’ cheese and the sweet potato pizza this weekend, which is the only time I can really plan ahead and pre-cook things for the week to save time after work. We’ve been doing a great job at eating out less, and encouraged by our success I am now trying to tackle a few other areas where I waste time and money. Though we’ve saved a lot through inertia of not having to buy formula and being able to serve Georgia table food, I feel there’s always more I can do to save my sanity.

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Not going to lie: I sometimes multi-task bathtime by giving her a bottle in the tub and cleaning down surfaces with baby wipes while she plays.

What do you do to streamline life? I’ve always been a lover of efficiency, but nothing has made me more organized and adept at shaving time off of things that used to eat up my entire day than having Georgia. To think that I used to shower and blow dry my hair every single day before work, and spend 15 or 20 minutes putting on makeup! To be honest, the post-partum body changes from having Georgia were another tool for me to simplify my life, too, because I was forced to eliminate anything that didn’t work for me and to reduce my wardrobe to the key essentials. In turn, it has allowed me to feel OK about buying things that really do work for us, even if they are a little more expensive (case in point: the convertible car seat we just bought, which was more expensive than other models but is so simple to install that I don’t know how it took someone this long to invent it. Anyone who’s wrestled one of these things into a cab or rental car will feel me on this). So how else do I, a not-so-new-but-still-frazzled mom, shave time in my daily life?

Prep the night before

I make Georgia’s food and bottles and lay out her clothes every night before bed. This means chopping fruit, bagging up crackers, cheese and yogurt, slicing meatballs or shredding rotisserie chicken and packing it all in her lunch bag. Even just taking 5 minutes to pour whole milk into her bottles and sippy cups saves you from a hectic morning. That way, when we are running out the door, I just grab leftovers or an Amy’s Frozen Organic Meal for my lunch, take her day care bag out of the fridge, and then buy a breakfast sandwich & coffee or myself on the way to the train after school drop-off. This is the one meal I routinely eat out; everybody has one. If I do make my own breakfast, it’s either a smoothie, a slice of casserole, egg muffins or an overnight yogurt and oatmeal fruit parfait.

Hungry Girl’s Overnight Oatmeal Parfait

Develop some go-to second day hairstyles

Shop online

This is a biggie for me. From getting our diapers and wipes every six weeks from The Honest Company, to ordering gifts, toiletries, toys and craft supplies from our Amazon Prime membership (free 2-day shipping! Instant streaming for those nights in with a sleeping toddler!), we try to minimize our trips to any store because we have one car and zero shared days off per week. We also recently joined Costco, so that we can really stock up and not have to make extra trips to Target or the grocery store for another 12-pack of toilet paper or seltzer, and I’ve recently been considering checking out other subscription product membership services such as Fabletics, PopbasicStitch Fix and Dollar Shave Club (which I am dying to try; I feel like we spend so much money on razors). I even order stamps from the postal service by mail now, and I long ago switched almost entirely to shopping online for clothes (both ours and Georgia’s), especially via consignment sites like ThredUp, Kidizen and my favorite place for well-priced trendy baby duds, Old Navy and Gap. (And if you try any of the services above, I’d be tickled if you use my referral links!)

Get off social media

Seriously. If you need more convincing, read on. You can’t spend more time with your family, your hobbies and your home improvement projects until you minimize screen time. And this is coming from a blogger who manages websites and social media platforms for a living!

Minimize your beauty routine

This happened out of necessity both while I was pregnant (read: exhausted) and after Georgia came along. Of course in those first few weeks you don’t wear any makeup, good clothes or basically anything clean or flattering; about a month in, though, you start to want to venture out, and realize this can only happen if you drastically lower your standards for your appearance and/or consolidate a few aspects of your morning routine. I did this in a few key ways: eliminating steps, and buying products that do double duty.

As I already said, I started showering every other day, taking advantage of simple buns, dry shampoo and (let’s be honest) hats, and by picking up multi-tasking products like this Benefit blush that doubles as eye shadow, or this blush that doubles as a lip stain. This concealor can cover up under-eye circles and blemishes, and then I just swipe some mascara and I’m good to go. At night, I reach for a do-it-all makeup remover and cleanser that can handle tough mascara, like these Kat Von D wipes (amazing). I take my skin care routine seriously, so whenever possible, I wash with Cetaphil (can double as baby wash in a pinch!), tone with witch hazel wipes (good for you-know-what after childbirth, plus bug bites, cuts & scrapes) and moisturize with Olay Regenerist. In the shower, I share my Honest shampoo and body wash with Georgia, and we also both use the Honest conditioning detangler now that she’s got some wavy, crazy hair. Finally, if I need to polish my nails in a hurry, I’m a huge fan of this Sally Hansen insta-dri fast color (like literally dry in 30 seconds, and has a huge color selection).

A couple other quick tips: diaper rash cream can also be used to dry up a breakout; Rosebud salve can tint your lips, tamp down flyaways and frizz, and soothe your cuticles, dry elbows and paper cuts; and things like dryel and febreeze fabric freshener can really cut down on the time and expense of all those trips to the dry-cleaners.

Work out in short bursts

I wouldn’t get any exercise at all if I tried to make it to an actual yoga class twice (or being real here, even once) every week. I also suck at getting up early enough to exercise before my unpredictable child decides to start her day, which can happen any time between 6 and 7:30 a.m., so that’s out. What’s a girl to do? Well, I’ve come up with a couple creative solutions, and they all revolve around cramming shorter workouts into more days per week.

I try to grab a snack when G is eating dinner around 5:45, then it’s digested by the time she goes to bed between 6:30 and 7, and this fuels me for a quick workout after her bedtime and before my own dinner. We do a long walk every weekend together, then twice a week, we walk home one mile from her daycare. Once a week my office hosts a short yoga class in one of our conference rooms, which I don’t always make it to, but which is great to have. See if your company is willing to do the same!

Cook in bulk

This goes for big things like making stuffed shells, chili or a huge batch of risotto so there’s plenty of leftovers throughout the week, all the way down to slicing and mixing Georgia’s daycare meals on Sundays so I can grab and go in the mornings. We bought (and labelled) a ton of food containers that we can stock up on weekends and just plop into her daycare bag every other day when she goes. I also like to pick up a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store one night, then make the leftovers into chicken salad for Mark to have for sandwiches throughout the week. Since we often eat dinner separately, he either buys his on break from work, or I make a huge pan of shepherd’s pie or spaghetti carbonara for him to take every day (and I pretend like he’s having a side salad with it, but probably it’s more like a side soda).

This week, to get Georgia more veggies in her diet, I bought a pre-cut butternut squash at Costco and then roasted and mashed it with a touch of pumpkin butter. She devoured it, and the whole thing lasted us an entire week!

Last but not least, keep baby wipes in every single corner of your house — preferably fragrance free and eco-friendly — and use them to do everything. I’ve washed my walls and baseboards, wiped down kitchen counters and the high chair, dusted the car interior, freshened up the sink and toilet, and even cleaned all my vinyl siding before Georgia’s birthday party this summer, using just baby wipes. They are also amazing post-workout when you don’t have time to shower, and I’ve grabbed them in a panic when the cat has gotten sick or walked through something gross and tracked it into the house. I honestly don’t know how I ever survived without them.

So what did I miss? I know there are some great life hacks out there waiting to be discovered and shared. I’d love to hear about them.

Special thanks to Dollar Shave Club for reaching out to us to create this post!

Tips and Tricks

Do you Shop at Aldi?

I follow the fabulous health & fitness blogger Sarah Fit, who just posted a review of the grocery store Aldi. They opened a couple years ago near me, but I’ve been skeptical of the quality because it’s in a plaza with low-end stores. Sarah’s vlog review just might make me change my mind and check it out this weekend, though. Cheap organic produce? Worth investigating.

What about you — do you shop there? What’s your opinion? Most of the time, we split our groceries between Target and Trader Joe’s, with occasional forays into Whole Foods and the farmer’s market, in season. With Georgia eating more and more “real” food every day, I’m feeling the stress of cooking well for a growing family, on a budget, with limited time and what feels like a repetitive recipe repertoire! I need help!