Intentional Blogging Challenge
FitFluential Is Fitness Found

Pregnancy Week 5: I’m Pregnant! Now What?

On May 30, 2013 we celebrated Hailey’s 2nd birthday AND the news that she will be a big sister on/around February 8, 2014! It is unreal to think that we’ll have a newborn again and, much like I couldn’t imagine what life would be like with a newborn the first time around, I can’t even begin to fathom what it will be like to have an almost-3-year-old as well as a newborn!

During my first pregnancy I had many fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants moments in terms of nutrition and health. Between morning sickness, exhaustion, aches and pains and water retention I was definitely in “me mode”. This time around, I had the idea to chronicle week-by-week health and nutrition tips as both a way to help me focus on one thing at a time and to share my nutrition knowledge with others who are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant.

Since I wasn’t really comfortable sharing our exciting news with the world until I was past the first trimester mark, the series is on a time delay from my “real life” pregnancy countdown. Regardless, in each post I’ll interject personal anecdotes when relevant and share some of my own experiences, but otherwise the topics and information is timeless so the time delay doesn’t matter all that much! The series is running on Smart Eating for Kids, but I’ll be sharing links to the content here as well as a few additional posts to recap trimesters and potentially share some personal stories related to this pregnancy. So, without further ado, let the fun begin – and where better to start than at the beginning?


Before I dive in to first post of the series, I want to take a moment to say that whether you are reading books or blogs or listening to podcasts or the wise women of the world…every pregnancy is different. No two women are going to have identical pregnancies, so although freaking out is one of the things that we mothers do best, please try to not let the things you read or hear stress you out. Your care provider is there to help guide you through this process, so give them a ring if you are truly concerned (and try not to call the after hours number unless it is a true emergency). Don’t send yourself into panic-mode over your latest Google diagnosis – nothing productive will come from that!

Continue reading and learn 3 nutrition focus areas this exciting and (potentially) overwhelming time…


Note: This post was added to Indulgent Wellness on September 4, 2013 and backdated to match the date the first post in my pregnancy series ran on Smart Eating for Kids.

Support Local Agriculture: Keep the Farmers Market Going All Year Long

I’m not sure about where you live, but here in the Chicago-land area the temperature can be described as downright fall-like. While the cooler-than-normal temps are a nice departure from the sweltering heat we usually experience this time of year, thinking about fall brings with it some harsh realities… one of which is that fall is when many farmers market close for the season (tear!). Thankfully my local market will be going strong until October (which is months away despite what the mercury says!), but what can you do if your market ends sooner? Or, if you don’t live near one at all? Here are a few ideas to keep the Farmers Market experience near+dear all year long.

Continue reading over at Smart Eating For Kids for tips and ideas…

Hawaii farmers market produce

Fresh, local produce from our December 2008 vacation to Hawaii (makes me want to go back!)

NOTE: This post was added to Indulgent Wellness on October 5, 2014 in an effort to compile all my posts in one place. I backdated the post to match the date it was published on Smart Eating for Kids.

Tea for Two? Kids and Caffeine

Hailey has developed a taste for iced tea. Not sweet tea mind you, but it is regular, caffeinated, black tea. I can probably count on two hands the number of times she’s had a taste, but ever since she had (and much-to-my-surprise) liked her first sip, I’ve been wondering if I should be worried about the caffeine she’s consuming (at the start of this investigation my gut said yes).

Continue reading on Smart Eating For Kids…

NOTE: This post was added to Indulgent Wellness on October 5, 2014 in an effort to compile all my posts in one place. I backdated the post to match the date it was published on Smart Eating for Kids.

More Milk, Please

By virtual show of hands, how many of you have read something or been in a conversation about whether or not you or your kids should be drinking milk? And I’m talking about good, old-fashioned milk from a cow. I was getting my eyebrows done a few weeks ago and the aesthetician chatted my ear off about all sorts of utterly uninformed and nonsensical things she had recently heard about drinking milk and then not 48 hours later I found myself in a similar conversation with the cashier at the grocery store.

My Hailey Bailey Boo cheers-ing with her milk!

My Hailey Bailey Boo cheers-ing with her milk!

Continue reading at Smart Eating for Kids…

NOTE: This post was added to Indulgent Wellness on October 5, 2014 in an effort to compile all my posts in one place. I backdated the post to match the date it was published on Smart Eating for Kids.

Fun on the Farm

Heins Family Farms

Last month I visited Kansas City, along with a group of fabulous Registered Dietitians, at the invite of the Midwest Dairy Council. We had the opportunity to tour Heins Family Farms in Higginsville, MO and learn more about milk from farm to table.

Group in Front of Truck

Photo courtesy of Amber Pankonin (@RDamber)

I’ve been a milk-drinker all my life, but this was my first visit to a dairy farm and it was incredible to learn that it is so much more than just a “cow & milk” operation. I never knew how much agriculture was involved in dairy farming and that they grow a large majority of the crops that feed the cows right on the property. In fact, when we arrived, they were quickly trying to harvest rye before a crazy weather front moved in that changed the weather from sunny and 80 degrees to snowing the next day! We got to see the tractors packing down the rye to be used as part of the food mixture in the coming year.


One thing that really caught my interest was the careful attention to resource utilization and recycling on the farm. We learned that tons and tons of sand are used to provide bedding for the cows. The stalls are flushed with water many times a day and both the sand and water are reclaimed (along with the inevitable manure that comes with it!) for further use on the farm. The waste from the cows is used to fertilize the agricultural crops, the water is recycled to clean the stalls and they are able to reclaim 85-90% of the sand to be used again. There was also some brilliant engineering involved in the process – the thoughtful layout of the farm and planning around the sloping of the land helped this entire process happen with essentially gravity alone.


Top left photo courtesy of Amber Pankonin (@RDamber)

I got a kick out of how Farmer Chris talked about the “girls”, the cows, that is! As we walked along he pointed out specific “girls” and talked about their personality and quirks – those sassy ladies! Toward the end of the tour I asked Chris why he had numbers scrawled on his hands with Sharpie marker and he said they were his notes from his morning rounds. If he saw something of concern or out of the ordinary with any of the girls, he made a note to circle back and check her out. What really stuck with me was when he said, “If we take care of the cows, they’ll take care of us.”

Hand Writing

Kate and Farmer Chris

I’ve always been a milk-lover, but I have a whole new appreciation for the farm to table process after having toured the farm myself. I want to be sure that Hailey has an appreciation for her food from farm to table from an early age and I actually bought a Groupon yesterday to tour Fair Oaks Farms sometime this summer! We pass by there often on our way to visit family, so when I saw the Groupon I couldn’t pass it up! If you live in the Indiana/Illinois area, you should check it out – the Groupon is available for another day or so!

I can’t close without a special shout out to new RD-friend Amber Pankonin who graciously shared her amazing photos of our dairy farm adventure, some of which are used in the post. (she’s the one with the cute striped scarf in the group shot above!) She writes the blog Healthy Under Pressure and her latest post about photo “selfies” is hil.a.ri.ous.

Disclosure: I happily attended this farm tour as a guest of the Midwest Dairy Council. I was not compensated to write this post and all milk-loving views are my own.

Two Years Old and Purple All Over

Hailey-bear turned 2 years old last Thursday. Two. Years. Old! We had a small celebration on the evening of her actual birthday that involved brownies we made together earlier in the day as well as ice cream. She seemed quite pleased to get to have “choc-ic” and “I-ceam” and sang her own rendition of the Happy Birthday Song as we enjoyed our dessert.

Bday Brownies

On Saturday we celebrated with friends and family and every shade of purple you can imagine. Purple is, by far, Hailey’s favorite color. She’s pretty good with all her colors, but she’s known purple for quite some time. If she’s feeling silly, the answer to any question is usually, “purple.” So, purple it was!

We started the day by painting our fingernails and toenails in Essie “Play Date”.

B-day Nails

I purchased some purple serving bowls/spoons, plastic tablecloths, and napkins at Party City. Costco had a huge package of plastic cups in 4 colors – purple among them. My crowning achievement was the “Happy Birthday Hailey” balloon banner that I made after seeing inspiration in the April 2013 edition of Real Simple. The linked instructions are fairly easy to follow, but my key learnings include: Don’t try to get fancy and use your paper shredder to make the confetti. The shredder won’t like the weight of the tissue paper and the resulting crinkled mess isn’t light enough to stick to the inside of the balloon with static. If you know someone who has a Cricut (or other die cutting machine) ask them to make the letters using full-sheet labels. My mom made the letters using her Cricut and we were able to test a few different sizes. Consider coloring the letters with a crayon before sticking them to the balloons (or forgo the whole clear w/ confetti thing and use colored balloons.) The white letters can be hard to see if you have light colored walls. (I suppose we could have painted the house purple…) Buy a balloon pump…‘nuf said. And, finally, this is definitely a do-ahead project. I was worried that the balloons might deflate so I talked myself into waiting until the morning of the party to put this together. As I sit here 48 hours later, it still looks just fine.

Purple decor

The menu for the party included purple grape and watermelon skewers, purple potato salad and purple cabbage cole slaw as well as a number of other summer BBQ foods that were tasty, but alas, not purple in color! The dessert buffet, however, was entirely purple! We ordered the cake, cupcakes and cookies from nearby Lovin Oven Cakery. Hailey’s great aunts made the chocolate dipped pretzels and Rice Krispies treats and we had a variety of purple candies purchased at Party City as well.

Dessert Buffet

The birthday girl had a wonderful day and was showered with love (and of course presents too!) Hailey makes us laugh every day – her personality is larger than life, her smile and laugh are contagious and her hugs and kisses make you melt. We love you Hailey-bear and hope all your birthday wishes come true!


Hailey2ndBday 141

Hailey2ndBday 212a

Spring Out My Window

The mercury is finally climbing higher here in Chicagoland and nature can feel it too. Today’s view out my home office window is a budding tree and blooming daffodils. Finding the daffodils in this picture is sort of like playing Where’s Waldo, but they are there!

Budding Tree

I had a great meeting yesterday with my Smart Eating for Kids partner in crime. We launched SEFK about 1.5 months ago and we’re just as excited as the day we first started talking about the idea. I’ve always been interested in nutrition, since before I formally studied it in school, but nutrition takes on a whole new meaning once you are feeding your own child. We’ve been so fortunate that Hailey doesn’t have any food allergies or intolerances and, for the most part, she is an adventurous and eager eater. But, even with those things on our side, there are challenges that crop up and SEFK is a place for me and my fellow contributors to share some of our research-based, tried and true strategies. You can also find SEFK on Facebook, Twitter & Pinterest.


Lunch today was a yummy turkey & co-jack sandwich along with a spinach salad drizzled with a little bit of EVOO and cinnamon pear balsamic vinegar. I used to think of vinegar as an unpleasant, acidic ingredient that only tasted good when incorporated in to a recipe…that was until I started tasting really good quality balsamic vinegars. The cinnamon pear balsamic is from a local shop we love called Oh Olive. When I bought it, they included a recipe for the most amazing sweet potato fries – warning: they are seriously addictive. Also on my lunch plate are some Spicy Chili Pepper Hummus Chips. I spotted these at the grocery store on Sunday and they sounded intriguing. The flavor has a bit of kick and I love that a single portion (about 30 chips) feels substantial, but only costs you 130 calories.

TIP OF THE DAY: Some nutrients are better absorbed by the body when they are eaten with a small amount of fat. This is especially true for nutrients called carotenoids found in red, yellow, organge and some dark green fruits and veggies. You’ll probably enjoy eating your salad even more when paired with a drizzle of good quality EVOO or regular dressing used sparingly – and you’ll certainly get more nutrients out of it.


See The Trees

You know that saying, “Don’t lose the forest for the trees?” I like it. It’s a good reminder to not lose sight of the bigger picture. But today, I’m turning the saying on its head. Yesterday, in a fairly casual e-mail to a friend, I admitted that I struggle with spells of paralyzing anxiety. And, when I say paralyzing anxiety, I’m not talking about an anxiety attack or some dramatic physical response to my dread, but simply a state of, “I know I can never get everything done that I want to get done, so why do anything?” All I can see is the daunting forest – I forget about the trees.

I have lists and lists of things I want to accomplish. Some are fairly finite (find a new dentist and book appointments for all of us) others require lots of time and our day-to-day life doesn’t depend on their completion (digitize and organize the entire music and photo collection). These are life examples, but the same holds true for work tasks too. Instead of focusing on the finite things that I know I can accomplish, I focus on the size of the list overall or a task that is so intimidating, I can rationalize not getting started. Then I find myself chasing deadlines and deluding myself into thinking that I get my best work done when I am under pressure.

This blog is really important to me. I have lines and lines of to-dos on my list to prove how much I think about it. However, oddly enough, I’ve been self-perpetuating extreme guilt over not crossing anything blog-related off that list for quite some time now. My e-mail admission seemed to help get me unstuck. Unstuck enough that instead of just making my morning smoothie and thinking about sharing it with you…I am. So, I’m proposing a Monday morning smoothie toast to keeping the momentum going…tree by tree.


Strawberry Spinach Smoothie


Into the blender: ½ c. Green Machine juice, 1 c. frozen/thawed organic strawberries, ¼ c. rolled oats, 1 Tbsp. chia seeds, 2 scoops EAS vanilla whey protein, 1 handful organic baby spinach, 1 c. crushed ice.


Dear Santa, Do You Like Chai?

The big decision is right around the corner…which cookies to leave out for Santa?! Being that I drink tea every day, I’ve been pondering ways that I can incorporate tea into my cooking and baking. I was sifting through holiday recipes drinking Argo’s Masala Chai and an idea struck…Chai Sugar Cookies!

I started with a couple family recipes, pulled elements from each and then incorporated chai into both the cookies and the icing. I used a food processor to grind loose leaf Masala Chai (I removed bigger/tougher pieces first) to the consistency of fresh ground pepper and then added the tea with other dry ingredients. Then I steeped the loose leaf tea in warm milk for the icing. The tea and spices add a subtle warmth to the flavor of the cookie and the icing tastes like a concentrated version of a yummy chai latte.

The end result?…an unexpected treat for the big guy that might even get you an extra surprise in your stocking! How do you use tea in cooking or baking? I’d love to hear your ideas!



Masala Chai Sugar Cookies

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground loose leaf chai
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 cup unsalted butter softened to room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon salt (omit if using salted butter)
  1. In a large bowl, wisk together the flour, chai, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger; set aside.
  2. Using a mixer cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, vanilla and salt.
  3. Gradually add the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined. Be careful not to overmix or your cookies will be tough.
  4. Divide the dough into quarters, cover and refrigerate for 2-3 hours.
  5. Heat oven to 350 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Working with one segment of dough at a time, roll the dough on a floured working surface to ¼ inch thick. Using lightly floured cookie cutters, cut the dough into shapes and place cookies 1 inch apart on baking sheets. (Note: you can sprinkle with sugar before baking or decorate with icing once cooled…or enjoy the cookies plain)
  6. Bake 8-10 minutes until the edges just begin to turn golden brown. Watch closely!
  7. Remove from oven and let cool on baking sheet 1-2 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Chai Icing

  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon loose leaf chai
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
  1. Warm the milk until steamy, but not bubbling. Steep the tea in the milk for 5-6 minutes. Let cool completely.
  2. Add 1 teaspoon of the cooled chai milk to the confectioners sugar and stir thouroughly. If icing is not at the desired consistency, add an additional ½ teaspoon milk and stir again. It is very easy to make icing too thin, so start with a little milk and add more to your liking.
  3. Frost cookies using a knife or pastry brush. Top with decorative sugar if desired.
  4. Use remaining milk to make a chai latte to enjoy with your cookies!

Holler for Apples


It’s apple picking season! A couple weeks ago, I took Hailey apple picking at Apple Holler in Sturtevant, WI. We took a tractor ride to the orchards and picked collected Gala, Golden Delicious, Jonathan and Honey Crisp apples. I say collected instead of picked because by the time we arrived at 3:00 pm the open section of the orchard was picked clean, but they had plenty of harvested apples to choose from in crates. Unfortunately, due to heat and drought earlier this year, the apple crop was much smaller and the growers need to carefully manage which orchards they open for picking and when they open them to the public.

Wagon Ride

We were slowly but surely making a dent in our haul and apples can keep for up to three weeks in the refrigerator. However, I was starting to fear for the quality of the ones that were left, so I decided to bake an apple crostata for this weekend’s Purdue Homecoming tailgate (Boiler Up!). I spotted the inspiration for this recipe in a Food & Wine San Pelligrino ad, but I ultimately decided to make Ina Garten’s version after looking around at other recipes. I simplified it further by using a premade pie crust because I haven’t yet found the time to perfect the art of pie crust. (I could only find 9-inch premade pie crusts and the recipe called for a 12 inch crust. I forgot to scale back the apples and topping so I had some left over.)

Apple Crostata

The final product was delicious and bursting with the favors of fall. And, best of all I love that a day of apple-picking fun was extended to a house filled with scrumptious smells and lip-smacking kudos from hungry tailgaters.

Anyone have any recommendations on making a perfect pie crust?