motherhood // meal planning in my favorite corner

i've mentioned it a small handful of times on instagram, but i haven't really talked about the ins and outs of one of my favorite sunday pastimes: meal planning.  the former teacher in me loves a sturdy plan to help set the tone for our week.  taking a little chunk out of the day to pour over recipes and inspiring words about food helps me in more ways than one to keep things organized around here.  given that structure, rhythm, and eating are all dear to my heart, meal planning for the week comes second nature to me.  it is something i thoroughly enjoy doing, as i find to it be very soothing in addition to good prep for the week ahead as a stay at home mom.  it gives me a proper chance to look at our days and sort them, figuring out what our week is going to look like before it starts.  and when my brain is in mom fog and in need of ideas, there's my plan already mapped out on paper, making the process of cooking supper that much easier when looking after little ones.  i quite like that.

my process for meal planning is roughly the same each week.  i'll grab three or four cookbooks off the shelves, each week changing things up, and lay them out on the table in our kitchen.  i always gravitate towards our eat in nook because i love sitting near the big window that overlooks our backyard.  it's such a cozy corner and i think my favorite in our home.  there, usually with a second cup of coffee in hand, i'll open up my cookbooks, look at the pictures, thumb through for inspiration, scribble notes on my notepad, and the like.  sometimes, i'll bring over my computer and browse pinterest for some ideas.  but almost always before starting, i'll do an inventory of what needs to be used up that is already in our fridge or freezer.  i'll write that down and try to find recipes that accommodate.  not only does this helps us not waste food, but also gives me a starting place with an ingredient.  oh, there's frozen pork shoulder in the freezer?  how about crock pot verde tacos?  bacon that needs using this week?  let's make carbonara.  something like that.

carving out time to plan our meals not only helps me organize my week, it also makes things much easier when at the grocery store.  in accordance with my meal plan, i'll write out the week's worth of groceries i need, making it easier to budget and not overspend at the store.  i feel like every time i go to the store without my list i end up getting frivolous items like gooey cheese or random sweets.  i am one of those people that benefit from writing things down.

here is the typical layout i stick to when meal planning.   in a seven day week, i'll plan to cook three to four wholesome suppers.  i will usually do this every other day but not always, by choose the days in our calendar that work best for slow meals.  usually those are evenings andrew will be home early and in time to enjoy them with us before we start bedtime routines with the kids.  aside from the three to four meals i'll be preparing, i'll add one crock pot meal and cook it on a day when we are most busy.  this usually falls on days i clean or have errands to run.  that makes four to five meals for a seven day week.  the other days i am not cooking are open for leftovers or for going out.  we typically do not eat out during the week and prefer to save that as our weekend treat.  here's an example of what a typical meal plan for one week might look like:

- grilled chicken and asparagus with miso soy glaze (it's all good cookbook pg. ---)
- arugula salad on the side with strawberry dressing (use up those berries tonight)

- crock pot pulled bbq pork shoulder with pineapple bbq sauce (pinterest recipe, use frozen pineapple)
- sweet potato fries seasoned with old bay
- garden salad on the side with oil and vinegar (use up garden tomatoes today)

- mini chicken pot pies with sourdough crumb topping (my recipe, use frozen stock and rest of carrots)

- left over night

- eat out for supper
- ice cream sundaes for dessert (use bananas)

- mild ancho beef chili with essential oil rosemary cornbread (yellow farmhouse recipe pg. ---)
- trader joe's artichoke ravioli with brown butter

- brunch
- frozen pizzas

when it comes to meal planning i am not rigid nor do i make things hard on myself.  the whole point of the plan is to make things less stressful, so getting super detailed is only a means of helping me out when i need it, not to impress or make things fancy.  when preparing our meal, i'll usually enlist the help of stella who is now at the age where she can peel and stir and sometimes chop (with my observation).  it's fun to spend this time together and i know it makes her feel special. sometimes in the planing stages i'll ask her to choose between two or there recipes to add on our weekly menu.  she loves helping in this way and i feel it also helps her eat better come suppertime since she had a hand in the prep.  i am putting together my favorite crockpot recipes for a future autumn post, so stay tuned!


motherhood // a little essay on life with three and a celebration of myself

we've just returned from a trip to the oregon coast for a bit of summer fun and to iowa where we got to spend time with family.  as far as vacations with little ones go, it was everything we'd hoped for and more.  our days were long and beautiful and adventurous there was lots of messes made.  like that time theodore found my lip stain before the sun came up and colored his little heart out all over his face and our room and my things.  that was fun.  but seriously.  on top of all the craziness and nights spent awake nursing or keeping toddlers from falling off beds, topping it all by miles and miles, were our very full hearts as parents.  hearts bursting with happiness from all we got to see and do together as a family, and that's the darn truth.  we are back home in kansas city with september here and preschool having just started.  the five of us are finally settling into a routine of sorts and it feels really good to have our days strung together with simple joys and comforting routines.

it's morning time and i've got my favorite yellow legal pad full of little square boxes to my left sitting atop our white tablecloth, a real to-do list maker this former teacher is.  there's a sleepy baby with warm milk still wet on his upper lip to my right, having just spent the last hour or so on my breast, half eating, half sleeping and relishing the warmth of my body.  stella is running around the soggy yard in her elsa halloween costume singing an ear-piercing rendition of "let it go" and theodore quietly taking his favorite little toy car over and under and around everything in his path, ever so gently.  strong chicory coffee with heavy coffee cream and bright green juice have both been drank quickly and i am contemplating another cup of each to get me through the afternoon.  it's friday.  i am tired, very tired.  but this no surprise from you i am sure, as it is to be expected of a mama who wakes every three hours or so to feed her hungry bub throughout the darkness of the night.  i could use a long shower to shave my legs and keep thinking about my yellow yoga mat to stretch out on, but that will come after lunch.  the house is pretty tidy and ready for the weekend which feels nice since my parents are visiting while andrew is away, and like every morning, our daily load of laundry is downstairs spinning.  tonight's supper is simmering away on the back burner, and the house smells like a yummy roast.  sometimes i'll just throw things found in the fridge with a big hunk of meat into my big cast iron pot and let them simmer away for hours.  more often than not what turns out is really quite tasty.  i've found you can't quite mess up a roast, unless of course you roast the heck out of it.  and if you happen to do so, there's  always ketchup.  it's really starting to feel like fall here in the midwest and in fact leaves have already turned on our walnut tree out front.  we've got the windows thrown open and the porch doors swung back, letting a gentle breeze make its way from one end of our home to the other.  such is our day thus far.  it has been good to us.

i've been meaning to write about how motherhood has been with three little ones, but each time i get settled into a comfy writing position, it's time to nurse or change a diaper or make a meal.  at such times, the computer gets closed and pushed under the covers so i can do what i do best and love on and take care of my babies.  it has taken me two whole months to get my thoughts out but here you have it.  life with three.  so how is you ask?  are we surviving?  how's the chaos?  what's it like in our home nowadays? is it just crazy loud?  to those who ask my reply is always the same.

it's just so good. and also, so very hard.

can it be both?  is it okay to say that it is both to those who are probably just asking to be polite?  can a mother or father simultaneously be swallowed up with pure joy and be still be struggling, and i mean really struggling to find their way?  oh, absolutely.  a rehearsed and flaccid, "it's great," just doesn't cut it.

i have found, especially true this time around with three little ones under four, that riding those parallel train tracks IS parenthood.  it is a steady, rhythmic beat that sways and rocks to the tune of not one, but two competing melodies, one sweet and lovely and bright, the other chaotic and loud and sometimes full of dark doubting shadows.  it is both for me.  and so i have found that rather than describe this journey as a serious of ups and downs, a flow of valleys and mountains rising and falling and soaring and crashing, to unfold the truth of its two extremes and how they more accurately (in my own experiences) overlap and intersect like growing vines, thus making this calling a beautiful one that is also the hardest thing i have ever done and presume will ever do in this life of mine.  i love it.  and it's hard. and that's where where i am at these days.

when alfie was about a month and a half old andrew and i decided to have someone come by the house a few hours a week to help give me some mama time.  the constant giving and giving as a mother to three small children at home was really catching up with me and as a result, i was starting to neglect myself.  everything was in order, put in its place, all the bubs bathed and fed and swaddled and more. all except for me, i just didn't seem to make it that far in the day.  sure a long uninterrupted shower would have been nice, and i did take those when given the chance, but this was more than just me needing to get a good lather in whist in solitude.  i started to feel that what was most in need of nourishment was my inner self, my soul and who i was as a woman detached from my role as a mother, so i could be a better mother. because one has to come before the other.  it just so happens that when i took a good hard look in the mirror i saw a mom who looked like she could use a real break.

after sharing this with andrew, we both decided i was in need of a little reprieve every now and again to really start to find myself and connect to my emotions and with my body in a healthy way.  after all, my pregnancy had been pretty rough on me and now my body was still healing from delivery.  the selflessness in creating and caring for anther human so intimately requires an enormous amount of energy, on mental and physical and emotional levels.  it was time i make time to fit in things just for me.  yoga a few times a week, some time to rest without a baby within arms reach, to read, to take a walk by myself.  things that nurture and heal.  and so with our plan, we had the most wonderful helper come and i was jolted at how hard it was to let go of control and give up my domain as mother hen in our home.  surprisingly, i was flooded with a whole new set of emotions, ones dealing in shame and felt like defeat, on top of already feeling overwhelmed and a little lost.  the perfect self i was striving to be was unable to accept that i was hardwired for failure, just like everyone else that is and ever was.  us flawed, broken humans, we make things so complicated don't we?  i know i do.  i tend to get so caught up in my own head that i miss the target altogether and create a world that is impossible to live in.  i needed a hefty dose of reality and i needed to get grounded, and fast, so i talked with family and friends and watch probably too many brene brown videos and relentless ted talks and read story after story of mamas just like me, who were feeling similarly in needed help to get out of their rut, but felt shame in doing so.

in time, i dug deep and i asked myself, who was this woman in the depths of her being, deeper than those roots of hers that gripped into and gnarled around her identity and role as a mother?  how was she really?  was she okay?

and you know, she was, but she needed a damn pep talk.

a little, hey there, you beautiful imperfect human, you.  and then what she needed was a sincere hug and to be praised boldly and confidently, to let her know she was kicking ass.  that she was doing one heck of a job and that by taking some time for herself, she was not neglecting her babies.  that she was not letting anyone down, no no no.  nor was her needing help and time to regain a sense of identity outside of her role in motherhood a sign of weakness, but rather a declaration of integrity, self-respect, and strength.  that she need not feel guilty for tending to her personal needs, even if that need be sitting on the toilet in silence or taking a therapeutic drive to the country or going grocery shipping alone.  and that taking time to repair and mend her wounds and find herself would be beneficial for everyone in the family.  for getting help no a selfish act, rather, it's the opposite.

i needed not hush this truth across the room in tones that threw shame like piercing darts, but instead, shout it loudly and clearly for her to hear so that it may rattle the very marrow of her bones, sending her to a place where she feels comfort and peace in knowing that she's making the right choices in celebrating herself again. not just as a woman who mothers babies.  but first, and foremost, as a woman.

so i did.  not once.  but many times.  and each day, i am doing so over and over again, until i believe it without hesitation, until i practice what i preach, casting shame aside and declaring myself strong and courageous for standing up for myself.  such is my story, my current season in life with three.  oh, how joyful this struggle is and i am thankful for it.


recipe // simple avocado pasta

now that i am digging myself out of the whole "gimme-a-cinnamon-roll-for-breakfast-and-for-second-lunch-and-for-dessert-after-supper-too" stage of pregnancy it is time that i start making real food again for my family.  after having alfie, i started craving not just healthier food, like big leafy salads and fresh summer veggies on the grill, but time spent in my kitchen again, chopping and stirring and creating.  we got into a major rut eating around town and getting carry out for those ten months i was growing little bub and it started to take its toll.  not that going out for street tacos three (sometimes four) nights a week is a bad thing!  but, still.  it came to a point where my body, all our bodies, needed wholesome nourishment and home cooked meals again.  and what a perfect time to do so as fall is upon us!

being intentional with my time in the kitchen bent over our wood chopping block is my happy place.  it always has been.  it's the perfect place for me to slow down and let the day's crazy just wash off of me.  sometimes i'll pour a little red wine into a small canning jar and sip as i go.  other times, squeeze a big slice of lemon or orange into ice water, drinking as i add this and that to my cast iron pots.  going almost a full year neglecting this happy ritual of mine left a little empty space in my soul, i must admit.  it feels really nice to be back at it, coming up with new recipes for my family to enjoy.

here's one we all love and something i make quite frequently for the kids come lunchtime.  it's rather easy to whip up and allows for maximum creativity if you are in the right mood, as you can really spice things up or add whatever is in your fridge to complete this dish.  but of course, you an always opt to keep things simple and leave it alone, perhaps with a dusting of parm cheese to taste.


dried noodles, a cup or so worth (i used short curly ones. that's the fancy term)
2 ripe avocados
1-2 garlic cloves (depending on how garlicy you like things)
the juice of one lemon, go ahead and add the zest too if you fancy
a few mild garden peppers (i used poblano)
a large handful of basil leaves
a good swirling of olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

to prepare, cook your noodles until al dente.  set those aside and make your sauce.  in a food processor, add all remaining ingredients except for the olive oil.  pulse it well so the garlic and peppers get incorporated, making a smooth puree.  once you've hit that stage, start drizzling in the olive oil to make your avocado mixture extra creamy.  at this point, you can add as much or as little as you like.  i added about a fourth of a cup, or a few good glugs for those who prefer glug measurements. once whipped to your liking, use a long wooden spoon and mix the avocado spread with your warm noodles.  serve with some fresh grated parmesan cheese on top and eat away!

*you can easily add meat to this for protein or even white butter beans to give it more of a hearty note.  some marinated vegetables like artichokes or charred sweet corn, or even a few simple sautéed mushrooms would easily take this to a whole other level of goodness.  just take a peek in your fridge to see what needs to be used up, like that pancetta you cut into for breakfast the other morning, and go from there!

also, for those interested, here are a few of my favorite cookbooks that have been helping me get back on track:

it's all good by gwyneth paltrow
buvette by jodi williams
the yellow farmhouse cookbook by christopher kimball
barefoot contessa at home by in a garten

i'm putting together a few of my favorite crock pot meals to share with you in the coming weeks, perfect for busy days, or for weekends you'd rather not cook but be outdoors doing lovely fall things.


homestead // my cleaning routine

it's an overcast and somewhat rainy day here in the midwest and it's clear that we are in a seasonal transition.  summer has left its mark and boy was it a good one, full of newborn snuggles and family adventures.  as sweet as that time was, we are eager for cooler temperatures, for morning walks amongst the crunchy autumn leaves, stews for supper, and more sturdy routine when it comes to how we structure our days.  i am also ready to spend more time sharing here too in this journal of mine.

stella will be starting preschool next week (!) and so i have been spending our most recent days figuring out what our new rhythm will look like here at home.  one way i am able to clear my mind and really reflect is to have a clean and tidy space.  since we have been in our home for one year now, i have been able to really find a proper place for everything, cleaning tools being no exception.  because scrubbing and tidying and organizing is part and parcel of a stay at home mama's job, i have made it a point to be intentional in finding joy in those tasks.  such things like beautiful but practical tools with easy accessibility help make my time cleaning more enjoyable.  with alfie wrapped up and snug on my chest, and the older two running about the yard or watching an episode of peter rabbit, i'll start my cleaning routine by making something in the crock pot for supper.  tonight we are having thai curry chicken over coconut rice, an easy favorite.  i like crock pot meals on days when i am giving everything a good scrub because the clean up after we eat is nothing more than a few plates and some silverware.  the mess of meal-making is taken care of throughout the day as our supper cooks in one little pot.  no mess and time to do other things!  that makes me happy.  after having prepared our supper, i'll throw on some music, usually david gray or louie armstrong, and diffuse oils around our home to help cleanse the air.  today i did a mixture of thieves, nutmeg, and orange oil.  not only does it smell like fall in our home, but it gets rid of pesky germs, too.  a real win-win.

after having set the stage for my cleaning spree, i'll start with the dishes, do all surface areas, and sweep and mop the floorboards.  i'll put a couple of drops of lemon oil on a warm wet rag and scrub everything down, no counter top being left unscrubbed.  sometimes i'll substitute thieves oil for this, it just depends on my mood.  lemon helps cut the grease so i tend to use that more often in the kitchen. when moping the floors, i'll add a few drops of tea tree oil to the mop rag and several drops of orange to make them shine and smell lovely.  at the end of my cleaning routine, i'll soak my brushes in a mixture of vinegar, water, and essential oils (today i used rosemary) to keep them fresh and clean.

during this time i'll do a load or two of laundry, adding purification oil to the wash and spraying lavender mist on clothes when they've dried.  now that we have three little ones, laundry is a daily task, so keeping up with that is a must for my mental clarity.  aiming for one load a day has been the trick to keeping things manageable around here.  and then there's the bathrooms, my least favorite. i'll do these one a week, often times neglecting the shower and leaving that for a twice a month job.  i should probably scrub the tiles in there more often, but i don't.  on the days that i do get to those tiles, i'll also wash our sheets and top layers of bedding.  since most of it is white i am able to put it all together using a non-bleach alternative to get them looking really white.  the laundress makes a good one.  if it is sunny on days that i get to this chore, i'll line dry our linens.  if not, a good tumble in the dryer is good, too.

where my cleaning supplies & tools are from:

- essential oils // young living
- wood shaker peg rack // the container store
- large broom // home goods
- french market bag to house rags // gifted back in college
- blue rag // schoolhouse electric
- black dust pan // an amish store in iowa, a gift from my mom
- ivory dust pan // world market
- duster // ikea
- laundry brush // the laundress
- dish scrub brushes // season and square, a store here in kansas city

so there you have it.  it's moments spent doing such cleaning tasks around our home that help recharge me as a mom.  since we live pretty simply and have eliminated clutter when we moved here, it takes about an hour, sometimes two, to really clean it.  keeping up with this routine several times a week also helps keep that time to a minimum, rather than forgoing cleaning for many days and having to tackle one big mess, taking hours away from our day.  i have found that this all works well for us.  it gives me time to clear my head and also make our home a place we truly enjoy.


motherhood // as a family of five

a little glimpse into our lives at home as family as five...

with full hearts and tired eyes, we go to bed beyond thankful each evening, counting our blessings one by one.  thank you sweet kaley for taking these photos, we'll cherish them forever and ever. xx