Comfort Works contacted me back when we lived in Chicago and asked if I’d be interested in doing a review of one of their slipcovers for them. I was tempted to get something for the Ikea Beddinge sofa bed that was in our living room, but wrote back and asked if it would be okay to wait until we moved to San Francisco. They agreed, and once I started working on putting together our nursery/guest room I wrote and asked if we could start the process of choosing my cover. We ended up buying the Ektorp Sofa Bed from the As-Is section in Ikea (even though it’s a bit big for the room, having a sofa bed was really important to me so we can have people over and house them comfortably) and so Comfort Works provided me a custom, machine washable Comfort Works Ektorp Sofa Bed slipcover and sofa protector. Having a cover that is machine washable was definitely the most important part for me since we will have young kids buzzing in and out of that room. Comfort Works made things extra appealing when they mentioned that they are offering a sofa protector to help protect the sofa from kids and pets (and let’s be honest, from messy adults like me who like to eat on the couch).
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Have you pinned these pouches on Pinterest yet? I’ve been buying a similar non-reusable product at Costco filled with sweetened applesauce (apple juice concentrate is used as a form of sugar to make it sweeter than plain applesauce would be), and once I got it into my head that I could save them and somehow use a funnel to refill them. Fail. I’m guessing the same thought must have crossed the minds of Maggie and Melissa because they created this nifty little product called Little Green Pouches. Little Green Pouches are plastic reusable pouches with a spout on the side and a zipper on the top.
One of the reasons I so badly wanted to fill my own pouches is that I’d really like to feed T1 applesauce and yogurt when we are running errands and he wants a snack, but it’s tough (impossible?) to find things that aren’t sweetened in some way. The yogurt I buy is full-fat and plain, and the stuff they make for kids is usually low-fat and sugar-sweetened (because once you remove the fat no one wants to eat the yogurt). Now I have the freedom to choose whatever yogurt brand/flavor I like, and I can browse the shelves looking for the smallest amount of sugar per portion size in the applesauce jars.
Cleaning them out is a breeze. I open the zipper top, remove the cap, and do a quick rinse of the bag. Then I place it in the dishwasher with the spout stuck on the tongs on the top shelf.
We did baby led weaning with T1 and plan on doing the same with T2, and that’s when these pouches are really going to be indispensable. I can make purees and feed our little one vegetables on the go, and I’m thinking about buying several boxes of Little Green Pouches and creating a freezer stash that I can pull from each night so that there’s something to easily grab during the day.
I have a confession: I like using these pouches even more than T1 does! It’s really convenient to keep applesauce and yogurt stocked in the fridge in a grab-n-go container that I can take with me as we run errands or when I’m running late in the morning. My favorite snack is yogurt in the Little Green Pouch accompanied by these date-sweetened squares that you can find in the bulk section at Whole Foods.
I’ve only had one setback so far with these pouches… I sent one with T1 to his school and the teachers threw it away because they had never seen one before! I explained to them that it was reusable and asked that they please not do that again. If you’re going to be using these around other people be sure to clarify that you would like to have it back. Once the pouches become more common (as they should) I don’t think that will happen as often. I posted the photo above on Instagram and one of the commenters said that her pouches came apart at the zippered top. I’ve had mine for a few weeks and put them through the dishwasher several times and this hasn’t happened to me. I’m thinking she got a bad batch and if this happened to me I would use the Contact Us link at Little Green Pouches as my guess is that every so often there are issues with the production line. They need to know so they can make sure that doesn’t keep happening!
Now that I’m down to just three pouches, instead of the four that come in each box, I think I’m going to have to put in an order for another. Thank you to Little Green Pouches for sending me this complimentary box. You can follow them on Facebook where they frequently host giveaways. I guarantee you’ll see these pouches popping up every so often in my Instagram feed from now on as they’re a normal part of our every-day routine!
When I attended Power of Moms earlier this year Beth was our host, and she asked me if I would be willing to review her book, due out in January, titled Real Moms Love to Eat. It sounded interesting, and I liked the things she said in her presentation at the retreat, so I agreed.
I feel the book can be summed up with this quote from the book:
Your food affair shouldn’t be a one-night stand or gluttonous binge… Instead it can become a lovely, long-term, balanced, nurturing-because-it’s-
I’ve spoken in the past about books like Intuitive Eating and When Women Stop Hating Their Bodies, and I felt like Beth took some of those similar principles, added in a touch of a green/localganic approach, and broke it all down into a plan that goes about 3 months and should help you shape your approach your food and leave you feeling a whole lot better about yourself in the process.
It’s a book broken down into three parts: during the first six weeks you’ll spend time of thinking about what you like/dislike and focusing on subtle changes, then four weeks of making larger lifestyle changes related to food, and the third section is a 3-week meal plan with recipes. Each week you focus on doing five things, which helps create an easy transition. This time of year, all of us are moaning and groaning about how much we overate over the holidays and how THIS IS THE YEAR that we are going to finally make lasting changes. As I read this book for the review, after yet another day filled with baking cookies and eating candy delivered by the neighbors, I kept thinking how appropriate this book is for me. I think maybe it might be something some of you are looking for as well?
A few of my favorite weekly assignments:
Make a list of your 10 favorite foods (at this moment).
Eliminate processed foods and create excitement with gourmet salts.
Make a list of dysfunctional foods you crave. Replace those foods (she includes lots of suggestions and advice here).
A chapter on going raw. (Something I’d be interested in trying during the summer.)
Progression from drink 4 glasses of water, to 5, to 6, to 7, to 8, to thinking about the kind of container you are drinking it out of.
How to get your family to help in the kitchen.
Tips for going out to eat and navigating the buffet.
Easing into vegetarian eating.
Written in conversational style -I like this b/c she’s a real woman (with three boys) sharing what works for her.
I like that it forces you to do a lot of thinking and analyzing about your own preferences. What do you actually like? How can you incorporate those things into your life?
An entire page breaking down different types of salt! Great resource.
I want to print out the pages on the different reasons behind cravings (and how to deal with them) and hang them in my kitchen.
The last section has a meal plan I would actually follow! All whole, real foods. Everything isn’t necessarily “in season” but during the winter months I shop at the grocery store and buy out-of-season anyway, so this is a good time to give it a try.
Excited about recipes like Balsamic Broccoli Salad, Eric the Trainer’s Protein Bomb (a new way to eat tuna that doesn’t involve mayo!), Energy Kale Salad, Butternut Squash Quinoa, Warm and Nutty Cinnamon Quinoa (a possible breakfast for the baby?), Tasty Chilly Lemon-Shew Cookies, Foolproof Lentil and Barley Soup, Pancetta Pea Soup… And I’ll stop there before I list everything
Dislike the pushing of products that I know are sponsors of her book/tour without disclosing the connection. Maybe the connections were forged after the book was written? I don’t know, I guess it’s best to take specific branded product recommendations with a grain of salt.
Probably the thing I disliked the most was what I considered to be the overuse of adjectives. I don’t talk this way or write this way, and it’s not something I personally like. It won’t turn me off from working through the book, but it does break up the flow of the text for me.
Some name dropping throughout.
Overall, I liked the book. It seems like it could be the answer to the plateau I’m experiencing, and I plan to begin the program with the New Year to see if it can jump-start my stalled weight loss. The Real Moms Love to Eat website has a blog, as well as some book reviews from other bloggers. If you’d like to join me, I plan to start the program on January 3rd, the day the book comes out. You can pre-order here, and Beth actually gives away one free copy each week. I’ll be talking about my progress on the That Weight Loss Challenge Facebook Group. Based on the reading I did for this review I started drinking more water each day, and my lips aren’t as dry and I feel better overall. That’s why I want to do the program from start to finish, because I think Beth has created a program that will subtly nudge me toward the small changes I know I should make, but haven’t figured out how to stick with.
*Beth kindly provided me with a pre-copy of her book, pictured above, for this review.
My friend Janssen loves this book. I loved her description of it so much, that I even started telling people about it before I had cracked it open myself. She mentioned in her review that she contacted the publisher directly to ask for a review copy, and I figured it wouldn’t hurt for me to do the same. They agreed to send one my way in exchange for this review.
Make the Bread, Buy the Butter is written by Jennifer Reese of the blog The Tipsy Baker. Jennifer is on a mission to cook her way through the 1000 cookbooks she owns, and somewhow in the middle of that she found the time to write a book as well. Not just any book, one of my favorite books ever (yes, a cookbook just made my top 10 list). I took it on the plane to Dallas with me and read the first half on the way there, and the second half on the way back. The kind of all-consuming speed reading where you don’t even look up when the waitress walks by offering drinks. This isn’t just a cookbook, it’s a memoir. A memoir cookbook. Jennifer describes the birth of her book like this:
[A] question lodged in the forefront of my mind. Where is that sweet spot between buying and making? What does the market do cheaper and better? And where are we being deceived, our tastes and habits and standards corrupted? Could I answer this once and for all? I didn’t want an answer rooted in ideology, or politics, or tradition, or received wisdom. I wanted to see the question answered empirically, taking into account the competing demands–time and meaning, quality and conscience, budget and health–of everyday American life.
So she sets out to figure out which is worth it. Homemade bread of a store bought loaf? Buttermilk? Mustard? Pizza? If you make dumplings, is it worth your time and money to make the wrappers?
Eventually, she gets really hard-core. Buying her own chickens (which she loves), raising turkeys (which she doesn’t love as much), and even getting a goat (I agree Jennifer, why aren’t goats allowed as pets wherever dogs are?). Most recipes are accompanied by a story (I most enjoyed the anecdotes that include her children), and all of the targeted items have the question “Make it or buy it?” next to them. Most items get the “Make it” stamp, but some of them are accompanied by the caveat that you should really only make it if you actually want to take on the challenge of making said rather difficult item. She also provides a description of how difficult each item is, as well as a cost comparison between the store bought variation.
The best part about this book though, is how funny Jennifer is. Who would have thought that a memoir cookbook would have me crouched over in my airplane seat laughing uncontrollably? The night she spends outside sleeping with her goat is my favorite. I kept turning to That Husband to read things out loud to him (this didn’t last long), and after the third or fourth excerpt he stopped me.
“This lady is you, in 10 years. You are going to be her. Right now you are obsessed with making absolutely everything from scratch [this is true] but eventually you will figure out what is worth making and what is worth buying. And I can seee us having chickens.”
So thank you to Jennifer, as you have brought me one step closer to where I’m going to be in 10 years (meaning relaxing a little bit and not being so obsessive). Like you, I’ll be making my own bread and collecting my own eggs, and making cheese on the weekends. Hot dogs and Thomas Keller’s chicken and beekeeping? I’ll leave those things to someone else from now on.
When I started reading I turned down the corners of the pages that featured items I wanted to make. About 50 pages in I realized I had bookmarked every single recipe thus far. So I gave up on that system and decided eventually I’d take a page from Jennifer’s systemand eventually cook my way through the entire thing. I’ve already tried out two recipes, both eaten over Thanksgiving, and Jennifer let me know it would be okay for me to share the recipe below so you can try it out for yourself.
You know how recipes sometimes call for a spice/oil/condiment, and you buy it, use it, and realize you not only didn’t like the recipe, but will never be able to use that $8 jar of spice again? Vadouvan is not like that at all. Next time around, I want to buy it in bulk. She prices this out at $2.40/cup. Souffer’s frozen mac n’ cheese is $1.50/cup. Kraft in the blue box is $0.69/cup.
Vadouvan Mac n’ Cheese
from Make the Bread, Buy the Butter
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus more for the casserole dish
6 slices fresh bread (about 6 ounces), homemade or store-bought, crumbled [I used whole wheat]
5 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup all purpose flour [whole wheat again]
3 tablespoons vadouvan spice blend
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chili powder
4 1/2 cups grated sharp white cheddar (about 18 ounces)
2 cups grated Gruyere (about 8 ounces)
1 pound elbow macaroni [surprise, I used whole wheat here too]
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Butter a large casserole.
2. In a skillet melt 6 tablespoons of the butter and toss with the bread crumbs.
3. In a medium saucepan, gently heat the milk.
4. In a large pot or Dutch oven melt the remaining butter. When it begins to bubble, add the flour. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
5. Slowly pour the hot milk into the flour-butter mixture and whisk well. Continue cooking, whisking constantly until the mixture bubbles and thickens. Remove from the heat and stir in 2 teaspoons salt, the vadouvan, pepper, chili powder, 3 cups of the cheddar, and 1 1/2 cups of the Gruyere. Set the cheese sauce aside.
6. When the water is boiling, add the macaroni. Cook until it is just tender; the inside should still be somewhat firm. Drain the macaroni in a colander, rinse under cold running water, and drain well again. Stir the macaroni into the cheese sauce.
7. Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle over it the remaining cheddar and Gruyere. Scatter the breadcrumbs over top. Bake until browned, about 30 minutes.
8. Transfer to a cooling rack for 5 minutes before serving.
Makes 14 cups, to serve 12
A few weeks ago I mentioned I was headed to a Power of Moms retreat in Chicago*. A friend from Dallas is a part of the organization and has been telling me about it for months, and I have a friend here in Chicago who was going to this particular get-together, so I had high expectations about the retreat. Career women have professional development conferences, seminars, and retreats. Motherhood should be treated the same way, as a life’s work that we can improve at over time, as we seek out help from those who have more experience or innovative methods.
You know my recent realizations about blogging and taking time away? The seed for this was planted at this retreat. We talked about Deliberate Motherhood, Boundaries, Saying No (really important for me), and Integrative Nutrition (among other things, those were the ones that really stood out to me. What I liked most about this day was that we weren’t focusing on potty training, temper tantrums, or how to get our kids to tell the truth. This was about us. Being mothers, women, friends, spouses. Parenting issues were brought up, as they always are, but the conversation always circled back to what we as individual could and should change, instead of focusing on how we can change others (like our husbands or children).
I arrived just as things were about to get started, and found an intimate and diverse group made up of about 15 women. Single moms, moms going through divorce, young moms, step-moms, moms attempting to balance a career and a family. This retreat was quite small too, usually there are dozens of women in attendance, which means that finding someone going through something similar to your own experiences wouldn’t be difficult at all.
Saren started by telling us a little bit about Power of Moms, as well as the two other presenters we would have for the day. She has a blog called Five Kids in Five Years and she happens to be the daughter of Richard and Linda Eyre, famous authors of several parenting books with nine children of their own. I think helping out parents must be in her genes.
Our second block of time was spent listening to Lori discuss Boundaries. My favorite quote from her: If I don’t make the decision for myself, someone will make the decision for me. While she spoke I thought a lot about boundaries, priorities, and finding balance in my own life. The section on Saying No was particularly important for me, and since then I’ve been doing a much better job eliminating unwanted clutter. A great example of this is the listserv I’m a part of for my church. When someone needs something, like a babysitter or advice or someone to fill out a survey, I feel this strange personal responsibility to meed their need. Like I’m letting everyone down if I don’t reorganize my life to somehow make it fit. My friend at the retreat? She said she feels the exact same way when she gets those emails! It also happens when I get emails about the partner’s club for UofC MBA students. We signed up and paid a fee when we first moved here because everyone said it would be absolutely essential to our survival, but over time I realized I had wasted my money with that one and it wasn’t something I need. Still though, every time they send out an email about an activity or need, I feel this guilt for not attending or filling it.
Now though, I have boundaries. And I don’t feel bad for saying no. Saren had an excellent suggestion, to use phrases like “That doesn’t work for me at this time,” or “I don’t think that’s a good fit for my family right now,” if I’m ever feeling confronted directly.
Right before lunch, Beth talked about how we should think about feeding ourselves. Not just nutrition, but education, relationships, exercise, and other important building blocks that make up a healthy lifestyle. I filled out this chart and felt like so many areas were getting my time and attention, nutrition, education, social, but my relationships (like my time with husband) were really suffering. Yet another nudge toward restructuring my life.
Lunch was DELICIOUS. I want it all again right now.
These are the type of salads I want to start making and keeping in the fridge at all times.
I was kind of hoping we would keep going, but I looked at my watch and realized our time was up. I did walk away with a few goodies.
The first is a copy of Lori’s workbook (pictured just behind that stack of books) called The Energy Equation. I was sold on it when I flipped it open and it fell right to a page titled CLUTTER IN YOUR ENVIRONMENT and discussed the importance of having a work environment free of clutter, and walked through step-by-step how to eliminate that clutter. That’s what I need, someone to break it down and help it feel manageable, because this office is a nightmare and right now I don’t enjoy this space where I’m trying to get so much done. I’m excited to go through the workbook from beginning to end and declutter my environment, relationships, my finances, and myself. After my experience with the Francypants business makeover, I knew that this would be a good fit for me as well.
And I also have an advance copy of Beth’s book (coming out in January) to review*. I’ve made it through a few chapters, and I”m actually really excited about the way she has structured this approach to making over your nutrition habits. No gimmicks (I wouldn’t have agreed to review the book if I did), just one woman who loves to eat assuring women that it’s possible to fuel your body in a positive way and actually enjoy it. In some ways her approach reminds me of Overcoming Overeating, and I’m really excited to share my full review with you.
I do have one negative thing to say about the event… it was too short. I told Saren as we were leaving that I wasn’t ready to go, I wanted to spend some more time really getting deeper into these issues and exploring ideas for how we can change. If you’re in Arizona, they are having a premium retreat in Gilbert on the 19th of November, 9am-5pm. The Power of Moms retreat information page also mentioned upcoming events in California, Australia, and Utah.
Motherhood is hard. I think Power of Moms has some of the information I (we) are missing when trying to solve the puzzle of how to do it best.