5 reasons mom should plan some adults only travel

I love traveling with Olivia and one of my top goals as a parent has been to show her as much of the world as possible. However, I have recently come to realize that traveling solo and traveling adults only can be just as important.

This past weekend I met up with my sisters for a long weekend in Chicago (more on that next week). Hopefully this will be the beginning of an annual tradition because it was just what we all needed.

I had a day along before they arrived and then we had two days of fun, laughter, adult conversation, shopping, good food, and relaxation. So here are just five reasons why I know I will do it again and why I think all the overworked, overstressed moms should do the same.Chicago O'Hare airport

1. You will be reminded of why you love travel and what you hope to share with your little one. I love traveling as a family, but I will be the first to admit that traveling with kids can be stressful and no matter what it is different. Going solo reminded me of why I love the airport – the people watching, the excitement and expectation of seeing new things, and the sense of possibility that hangs in the air. Once my feet the ground in Chicago it was about being out of your comfort zone and soaking in as much as possible.

2. It is a reminder of who you are. Yes, I am a mother and a wife, but I am also a dozen other things that I was long before I took on either of those roles. Getting away from the daily grind can give you the space to remember things you love to do and things you want to bring back into your everyday life. I was reminded how much I love running when I don’t have a constant thought in the back of my mind that she might wake up before I am finished. Or that I have been a sister longer than a wife or mother and that we can rely on each other for advice, honesty, and laughter.

map3. You get a glimpse of the outside world. As a mother, especially a mother of a young child, your attention is always focused on them when they are around. You can try to fight it and give partial attention to what is around you, but there is always this mental force that draws you back to them. Are they safe? Are they having fun? Are they getting what they need? Without that, you can let that mental field down and relax your mind. You can take a look around in a way you haven’t done in a while.

4. Sleep. I’m not going to lie, the opportunity to sleep and rest your mind and body is beyond compare.

5. You will miss them and be reminded of how much you love your life for all of its craziness. When we are in the thick of everyday life we often can’t grab even a second of peace. We can’t wait to get away and leave it all behind. However, you will miss their little smiles, their stories, and their hugs before too long.

Mother's love


Motivation Monday: We are all travelers

TravelersI hope you have found several honest and true friends to travel this world with. I am thankful I got to spend a long weekend with three of those people in my life. If you have them keep them close and let them know how much they mean to you. If you haven’t found them yet, never stop looking and opening yourself up to new friendships.

5 Lessons learned from an elderly neighbor

We all have “older” people in our lives. People we look up to and who if we pay close enough attention have some valuable lessons to share. My grandmother has always been one of those people for me. She is a spry, brutally honest firecracker well into her 80s. The thing is, I will always remember her as the younger woman who helped raise me. Living several states away I don’t get to see her very often so the lessons she continues to teach me to this day are less glaringly obvious than the ones learned from those closest to me.

In my early twenties I worked in a long-term care facility, which was a daily reminder of the fragility of the mind and body. After moving on from that job, I found myself surrounded by much younger people which is usually the case. You find young families congregated together in neighborhoods, workplaces, and social circles. I had begun to lose sight of some of the lessons of those older and wiser than I.

Then we moved into an established neighborhood with a mix of ages, styles, and interests. We found ourselves sharing a fence and swapping stories with a soft spoken, but wise elderly gentleman. To be honest, it has been a blessing to be raising our family with a reminder of what life holds for us living nearby.

If I listen to every short conversation we share I’m sure I could fill a whole book with insights and gems of advice, but I’ve taken away a few precious nuggets I’d like to share with you.

GG and Olivia1. Do everything you want to do while you can still do it. We all make excuses for why we don’t get to that one item on our list, but we won’t be able to do everything forever.

2. Take joy in the physical labor – even the mundane and dirty – because one day you will be watching others doing these things and wishing only that you could be doing them too.

3. In the rush to get things done, don’t forget the precious moments with family, friends, and by yourself. Children don’t stay small and we won’t be on this Earth forever, so grab hold of those simple kisses, hugs, and laughs. Hold them tight and close to your heart.

4. Find something you love to do that you can do for years. It doesn’t matter what it is, but it will keep you active and engaged and sometimes that is the only thing that keeps you going.

5. Don’t close yourself off. Family, friends, and neighbors will come and go. The main thing to remember is that there are new people who will come into your life all the time and you have to be open to accepting and enjoying that. The pain of loss is strong, but the joy of companionship is stronger.

Teachers and lemon raspberry muffins

I have always loved learning and school and I hope we can instill the same passion in Olivia. As much as I love learning in general, it always helps to have a great teacher. We should celebrate these teachers year round, but especially this week. We should recognize their hard work, long hours, patience, and unwavering support.

Hopefully, we have all had at least one teacher that sparked something in us. Someone who could make you dig deeper than you thought possible, believe in your own talents, or just make you realize that you are not alone.

For me, there was Mrs. Gaither, who made me believe in myself again. Mr. Williams, who encouraged my love of reading and writing (and look where I am today). Mrs. Lane, who made science a passion and proved it could be entertaining. Mr. Paternoster, who made me proud to be one of the “smart kids” and reminded us that teachers are pretty cool people. Really the list could go on and on because I was blessed with a collection of amazing teachers and still am to this day.

Olivia has already had a handful of teachers in her young life and if they are an example of what is to come then I know she will be in good hands. To honor them and share a little of our love with them we made them some beautiful Lemon Raspberry muffins. Just a nice way to kick off their week . . . we hope they enjoyed them and we hope you do too.

Be sure to thank the teachers in your life and let them know their work is appreciated and making a difference.

Lemon Raspberry Muffins – from Eating Well 



1 lemon

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup nonfat buttermilk

1/3 cup canola oil

1 large egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1 1/2 cup fresh raspberries

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Use a vegetable peeler to remove the zest from the lemon, trying not to get the pith (white layer). Combine the zest and the sugar in a food processor and pulse until the zest chopped into the sugar.

lemon sugar

Add the wet ingredients: buttermilk, oil, egg, and vanilla. Pulse until blended.

In a separate bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the buttermilk mixture and mix just until almost blended. Gently fold in the raspberries, trying not to break them.


Coat 12 muffin cups with cooking spray and evenly divide the batter between the cups.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes until the edges and tops are golden. Let cool slightly before turning out of the pan.


Weekly randomness: bouncy house, zombies, and wanderlust

SleepThis picture pretty much sums up how I have felt all week. On a typical week I am rushing between family time, work, and school which can leave anyone feeling a little drained, but this past week was our daughter’s third birthday and we wanted to make it extra special. So we threw a special bash and invited friends and family to our house, which equals deep cleaning, a late night arrival by family from Illinois, and lots of extra little errands to run.

All of that work and loss of sleep was well worth it though.

Olivia jumpsgiftscakeOlivia loves to jump or as she says “jump, boing, hop” so we rented a bouncy house for everyone to enjoy. We highly recommend Twin Cities Inflatables.

What birthday party is complete without a birthday cake? I searched all over for a local bakery to get our cake from and landed on Taste of Love bakery. Marie at Taste of Love did a fantastic job on our Doc McStuffins cake. A delicious and beautiful double layer chocolate cake covered in pink buttercream with smooth buttercream separating the two cake layers. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. If you get the chance, check out the cupcakes, cinnamon rolls, and other goodies from this local gem.

Of course, my mind never stopped running full throttle this past week so I still found lots of things to check out and share with everyone 🙂

zombies runningNeed motivation to keep the pace up when you’re running? There is a new app that taps into our basic instinct to fight or flee when in danger. Zombies, run! mixes gaming with exercise and definitely gets your heart beating faster during a work out. The app sets the stage during your workout with a story that you are out to get supplies in a world overrun by zombies. Your music playlist still plays, but every once in a while you get a message that a zombie is gaining on you and then you get a beeping sound that increases in frequency as the zombie gets closer. I didn’t think it would affect pace – it is fake after all – but without even realizing it the pace increased to get away from the zombies. So if we ever have a zombie apocalypse I guess I will be well trained for the supply runs.

EAT! Vancouver

EAT! Vancouver Food and Cooking Festival Pastry Tasting and Panel Discussion.

As part of my economics class I am working on a group project for business travel. All this talk about hotels and airlines is making my wanderlust kick into hyperdrive. So of course I’ve been looking at places to go, people to meet, and foods to try. And I stumbled across EAT! Vancouver Food and Cooking Festival. Definitely going on the list!

Weekly randomness: cruffins, craft beer, and Star Wars

If you asked anyone who knows me well they would probably tell you I am organized on the outside, but a total ball of randomness on the inside. I jump from topic to topic and if something grabs my attention I will tell you about it.

So here is what grabbed my attention this week . . .


Cruffin from Mr. Holmes Bakehouse, San Francisco, CA. 

The cruffin – mix between a croissant and a muffin! It might be time to head back to San Francisco 🙂

Etsy for beer lovers – Noble Brewer Noble Brewer

Homebrewers bring their best bottles to this beer club site. You sign up and get to try exclusive beers and learn about the brewers behind the scenes. Many of these homebrewers have dreams of one day owning their own brewery . . . who knows you could be trying the next big thing in craft beer.

When I was three I was reciting all the lines to Return of the Jedi so to say I am excited about this movie is an understatement 🙂

The full Monica Lewinsky TED Talk . . . she is so relatable and intelligent and you really should watch this!

Easter traditions and lemon poppyseed rolls

Happy Easter

Growing up Easter Sunday meant it was one of the few times we were forced to sit though church service dressed in our best. It also meant bright colored baskets, lots of candy, and a toy or two. We would bounce out of bed like it was Christmas in spring and start eating the Reese’s and Hershey kisses.

Little hands help with breakfast

Little hands help with family breakfast – Lemon Poppyseed Breakfast Buns via Half Baked Harvest

Lemon poppy seed breakfast bunsAfter a special family breakfast and church it was off to grandma and grandpa’s to be with the extended family. Usually, the day entailed sidewalk chalk, an Easter egg hunt, and a game of tag or even Wiffle ball. I can still remember my dad and my uncles out there running the bases with my teenage cousins. Of course, there weren’t any sore knees and backs that another good meal couldn’t heal. Chow time

So the ham, potatoes, casseroles, homemade bread, and those weird Jell-o molded eggs cluttered the table until everyone got more than their fill. Easter for us now isn’t high profile enough to cross state lines for a large group gathering. It has become a chance to slow down and sign off from the rest of life.

Of course, the Easters of year’s past are another one of those things you never realize you are going to miss until it is gone. We’ve all grown-up and moved around. My aunts and uncles are grandparents themselves, my cousins have started families, and, like us, begun their own traditions. I hope they all look back with fondness at those spring days and maybe even work in a little sidewalk chalk and Wiffle ball themselves.

Apple spice cake

Apple spice cake with Two Gingers whiskey glaze; recipe coming soon 🙂

As for us, we are still trying to find the right Easter tradition, but chances are it won’t be until years after Olivia is grown that we look back and realize what that special thing was.

Note on lemon poppyseed rolls: We couldn’t find passionfruit and I didn’t want to make a blueberry syrup (I’m just lazy!) so we substituted a simple powder sugar glaze made with pomegranate juice. Still beautiful color yummy flavor!

Motherhood may have saved my life

This past week I had the opportunity to be interviewed by an author who is writing a book on recovery from eating disorders. In my work I’m usually the one doing the interviewing so I was a little nervous, but also very excited. I know I’ve said before that I have come a long way in the past couple of years, but this was a big reminder of that.

Fills the hole inside meOnly three short years ago I was still living a semi-conscious life. I had graduated college in 2007 weighing less than 100 pounds, constantly dizzy, suffering heart palpitations, and feeling hopeless. All of this from something that many people thought I controlled – how much I was eating. How I got to that point is a whole other story. Three years ago I had improved from this low point in my life, but I still had anxiety attacks eating around others, considered a mini tootsie roll a splurge, and didn’t believe that I could do all the things I saw others accomplishing. It was experiences like these that bind all of the people the author was speaking to.

What she was really interested in were the moments that brought each of us out of this abyss and back to life. When she was asking me questions I realized most of my answers were things that I hadn’t thought about in the past year or more. One thing that she asked me really got me thinking hard about the journey I have taken on the road to recovery – when did you realize you truly wanted to recover?

When I was going through the process it was a constant struggle and battle between what I had known for so long, and letting go of that safety net to live life the way I knew it could be lived. I would half-heartedly agree to seek treatment just long enough to get family off my back; then revert to living life full of anxiety and constant counting.

So what did make me truly want to recover? I found out I was pregnant. For once, there was no denying that my choices were directly affecting someone else. My unborn child had no way to make health and food choices for herself. My choice was her choice. That is when my choice changed. That is when I realized the safety net that was actually dragging me down wasn’t going to work anymore. It isn’t an understatement to say becoming a mother saved my life.

I never really thought I wanted to be a mother . . . as the oldest of four siblings I sort of felt I had already had children. However, I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world. Having Olivia has helped make me the person I always wanted to be. But the most important thing about that is I know I changed myself; I don’t rely on Olivia for all of my strength. I always wanted to be the hopeful, energetic, and life loving person that I feel I am today. Now I can say I am who I am for me. And my family and friends enjoy me much more for being that person. Olivia

I am thankful that Olivia came into our lives and I’m thankful I can be a part of her life in a positive way. We can share treats and meals together. I can teach her about cooking and old family recipes. We can travel the world and taste each place with a smile on our face and nothing but love in our souls.

I hope one day Olivia will understand how important she is to my life and I pray that she never has to face the battle that I went through to get to today. And I hope to one day show her my story as part of a project that encourages others to fight their way to recovery; to show her even when it is tough you can make it through and sharing your story can make a difference.

A foe named Migraine

I’ve really been enjoying sharing stories of motherhood, cooking, and exploration with everyone. I had planned on a story of this wonderful place we recently ate at, but I got sidetracked by an old nemesis.

As I’ve done for years with this enemy I was going to work through it and share the planned post, but then I realized how many people deal with this same thing and how it really can affect everything you are – mother, wife, friend, cook, employee, writer.

Lego splitting headache

Photo: Matt Brown

The name of my nemesis – Migraine. We started doing battle in my teens and really went at it in my college years. I can usually feel it coming, but often feel paralyzed to do anything against it. The fuzzy blackness begins at the outer corners of my vision and moves in until only bright pinpoints remain. And sometimes even those disappear leaving me blind for a minute. The ringing in my ears. The pounding at my temples. The searing pain with every change in position.

I’ve had all the scans and they’ve come up empty. I’ve tried the medications – the very first one I tried made me look like a lobster only a few hours after taking it. I’ve been told to track everything: stress, workouts, mood, weather, food and drink consumed . . . all in the hopes of pinpointing that moment when it all goes wrong. Nothing has given me the answer.

So I have learned to keep going on with my daily life even when I can’t always feel all my limbs and my head is screaming “curl into a ball!” I try to stay hydrated and watch my caffeine intake. I work out daily, eat lots of fruits and vegetables, and try to avoid highly processed foods. I try to get enough sleep and have learned ways to help reduce stress. Yet, Migraine and I still duel on occasion.

I hope my daughter never has to deal with this, but if she does I want her to know she isn’t alone and I understand. I know there are many people out there who deal with the same thing and have found their own ways to cope. For a day or two I might be consumed by my enemy, but I always return to be mom, friend, cook. And that story will get told after all.