Meal Planning Sucks — But I’ll Do It Anyway

“What’s for dinner?”

This question plagues me every day. 

OK, I realize this is a tad dramatic. But seriously — does anyone else tire of trying to figure out what to cook every night? Breakfast and lunch are pretty easy. For some reason though I always feel immense pressure when it comes to dinner. 

Roasted potatoes with seasoning, smashed and sprinkled with Cheddar.

Barbecue chicken sliders, prepared in the crockpot!

I have a handful of go-to recipes, and I work them into rotation quite a bit. It’s hard for me to come up with something new. This is why we started trying the meal delivery services — Home Chef ended up being our favorite, and we plan to start using it again soon. Right now though, the thought of preparing meals that are somewhat complicated and take more than 30 to 45 minutes to prepare? Well that’s really not in the cards while juggling a newborn and going back to work. 

So for now I’m relying on meal planning, and allowing a few very simple meals each week to fill in the gaps. 

Here’s what’s on deck this week:

Sunday: take out

Monday: baked chicken, roasted potatoes, green beans 

Tuesday: sandwiches 

Wednesday: breakfast casserole (Yup! For dinner!)

Thursday: Leftover breakfast casserole 

Friday: Tacos

Saturday: sandwiches 

I’m sure to some the idea of having sandwiches a couple times a week is rather dull. But we’ve found ways to jazz it up! I try to find nice rolls at the Publix bakery (They have pretzel rolls that are to die for!), and we choose usually turkey or ham and sometimes roast beef. I like provolone and my husband has found some good mayo with different flavors (Boar’s Head brand). And the key to our tasty sandwiches? Using a panini press! We received one as a wedding gift and it’s been very handy. Works great to make quesadillas, too. 

So that’s my simple meal plan for this week. Do you plan meals ahead of time? Do you use any apps or websites to help you plan or find new dishes?

(You can find the recipes for the dishes featured above here: Pinterest Recipe Wins.)

5 Ways To Practice Self-care

Earlier today I cashed in a birthday present my husband so wonderfully gifted to me: a massage! It has easily become one of my favorite indulgences, which I’ll explain why below. But I wanted to share a few more of my favorite ways to practice self-care. 

I’ve always felt that taking a little time to do something to relax or that you find fun — a way to tune out the craziness in everyday life — is so important. I’m hoping as a new mother that I’ll be able to remember this! But no matter what keeps you busy these days, take time for yourself even in little spurts whenever you can. 

Here are my 5 favorites:

1. Massage!

As I said above, this is definitely one of my favorite indulgences. I say indulgence because it can be costly, but I have found its money well spent. Every time I’ve had a massage, I’ve left feeling lighter, less tense and my mind has also had time to relax and escape all that is usually running through it. If you’re in Birmingham where I live, my two favorite places to get a massage are Escape Day Spa in Homewood and the spa at the Ross Bridge hotel. Both are a tranquil experience and every massage therapist I’ve been to has been excellent. 

I used to feel a little self-conscious about stripping down for a masssge, but I’m glad I shook that off because this is the therapist’s profession — just like going to the doctor, it’s probably nothing they haven’t already seen. I highly recommend adding this to your wishlist for self-care! (Maybe ask someone for a Christmas gift card?!)

2. Pedicure. 

I live in the South, so my feet need to be sandal-ready most months of the year. But you’ll rarely find me without my toes painted, even in winter. While I don’t often get manicures, having polish on my toes is just one of those things that makes me feel like me. And sadly, I inherited some pretty tough skin on my feet (Sorry! TMI!), so pedicures are kind of a necessity. They’re also relaxing and give me time to read a book or a magazine, which I always appreciate. 

3. Reading. 

One of my recent favorite reads.

Speaking of reading, this is another favorite way to unwind and I try to find time to read on a daily basis. Usually when I get into bed, even if I’m too tired to read for long, I’ll read a little of a book that’s queued up in my Kindle. I also like to use my friend Mandy’s ideas for finding more time to read, such as reading while waiting in line at the grocery store.

4. Exercising. 

Walking with Penny!

While I may often complain about working out, the truth is when I’m doing it, I can’t deny how good I feel! Whether it’s going for a walk or something more strenuous, exercising makes me feel strong and capable, and gives me something to focus on besides whatever the days stresses have been. There are so many great ways to work out — from yoga to running to swimming or something more daring like rock climbing — I believe anyone can find something suitable for his or her abilities and tastes. 

5. Dancing/Singing. 

If you’ve ever been in the car with me, you know I love singing along to the radio, no matter how tone deaf I may be. And dancing around my kitchen is quickly becoming a fun way to let loose and entertain my baby as she watches her mom’s antics from her rock n play. I may not have great moves, and my singing voice is quite embarrassing, but I don’t care. This is a great way for me to let it all out and have a little fun!

Try these hip-shaking songs by Shakira — I love dancing to her music!

What are your favorite ways to practice self-care?

Finding Body Positivity When You Don’t Feel Body Positive

Yesterday I posted a message in the Stellar Fit Fam private group page I host on Facebook. The page is a safe place to encourage one another in our health and fitness journeys, no matter where along that journey we may be. I always enjoy sharing articles, seeking encouragement and showing support for one another in this forum.

And yesterday the Fit Fam came to my rescue.

I shared with the members that the night before, during a discussion with my husband about how I was feeling post-pregnancy, that sometimes it can be easier to preach body positivity than to actually feel it for yourself.

I’ve been feeling down that my body can’t just bounce back to where it was before I got pregnant. While I was still overweight at that time, I had been working out consistently and eating more healthfully — I felt fairly strong and like I was heading in the right direction.

Now, however, I’m having a tough time just getting off the floor when I play with Penny on her play mat. If I’m really active several days in a row, my belly still gets sore, and I can’t walk as far as fast without feeling kinda out of breath.

It’s depressing.

But as I reminded the Fit Fam members yesterday, and I need to keep reminding myself over and over again, I need to show myself some grace. I’ve been pregnant for nine months. I worked out for six of those months, but nevertheless, pregnancy changes your body no matter how much you work out. Or so I’ve been told, and now I’m finding out. I also just had major surgery two months ago.

While logically I know these things have affected my body and I need to give myself time to build back up to where I used to be — and then work toward my new goals beyond that — sometimes it is hard to show myself that kindness. As a Fit Fam member commented, we can often show encouragement and kindness to friends that for some reason we can’t show to ourselves. As she brilliantly said, “When I started self-talking like I was coaching a friend, healing got a bit easier.”

Other members reminded me that I “created a whole new person” and it would take time to rebuild and reminded me not to move too quickly and cause damage to my body. All good points!

I suppose part of the reason I struggle when I’m not body positive is that it’s a huge part of who I am, what I want others to embrace and what I’ve built this blog — and my book — around. It can be difficult, as another member agreed, to not feel that positivity all the time while you’re espousing the benefits of such an attitude.

But here, again, is another place where I — where we — can show ourselves grace. We’re only human. We’re not going to be 100 percent on top of our game at all times. My blogging guru Javacia always reminds us of a quote by Soledad O’Brien in which she states that work-life balance doesn’t exist — sometimes she may be brilliant at work and not keeping it all together at home. And vice versa.

It’s the same with body positivity — we’re not always going to embrace that ideal fully for ourselves, even while we may believe in it and push others to find it. Just like sometimes we may be working steadily on our own health and fitness, and rocking a body positive attitude, while not necessarily having as much time for others.

It’s OK to be off-balance sometimes, and to not feel completely happy with yourself. As long as we remind ourselves to show ourselves some grace, even if it’s in little ways each and every day, that positivity will start to build, the negative voices will start to fade, and that confidence will come more easily along the way.

What I Want Now: Velvet

Last year in my list of “5 Fall Fashion Favorites for 2016,” I mentioned how much I love velvet touches on clothing and accessories.

Well, this year I’m taking it step further and demanding all velvet everything!

Here are a few items I’m loving that take velvet to the next level for fall 2017.

The velvet sneaker

Last year I had my eye on a pair of slip-on burgundy velvet sneakers. But now, I’m more into these — the Michael Kors Scout lace-up with gold touches, via Neiman Marcus ($135).

michael kors velvet

The velvet blazer

I think blazers made with different fabrics or patterns or embellishments make them all the more fun. This one from Lane Bryant could work for day with nice dress pants, but pairs well with a great skirt or jeans at night. 

The velvet top

This top, also from Lane Bryant, would work well at the office under a blazer (just not the velvet one — that’s a bit too much!) but would look even better with a pencil skirt for date night or a holiday party. 

The velvet skirt

What I like most about this skirt is its unexpected. Many times you see velvet skirts in heavy, full-length gathers. I personally think that look can be a bit dowdy. And while a pencil skirt has a sexy appeal, what I like about this Lane Bryant design is it has a boho feel that can be dressed up or dressed down.

The velvet bag

I like the idea of a velvet clutch, but velvet for daytime seems more modern. This crossbody from Target is affordable and the wine red color is perfect for the season. 

  What velvet items do you want to wear this winter?

Stellar Baby: 4 Things We’re Working On Now

Not too long ago, I sent my mom a text that said “newborns are unpredictable.”

Man, is that an understatement or what?!

I’m sure I was referring to trying to schedule a FaceTime call with my parents so they could see Penny, and I wasn’t sure if she’d be asleep, awake or having a complete meltdown. But the statement is true for just about anything else to do with newborns, too.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned (or more honestly, I’m still working on) is to go with the flow. There are days when scheduled tasks must take place, like a visit to the doctor. Other times, you have to go with what your baby is willing to handle.

While we’re only a couple of months into this adventure known as parenting, and we are by no means experts, we are working on a few areas that are going fairly well. This is definitely not a comprehensive list of everything that goes on during our days, but maybe some of this will be handy for you or will prompt questions. 

Be sure to reach out and ask away, or if you’d like to share your tips and tricks with me, comment here or on Facebook!

1. Our Feeding & Sleeping Routine

Right now we feed Penny every three hours during the day and at night we let her wake up and “tell” us when she wants to eat. She’s starting to sleep longer hours at night — we’ve had a couple of 6 1/2-hour stretches! But we make sure to get in seven to eight feedings a day. Our routine is to do a diaper change, feed while pausing to burp several times, and then keep her upright for a bit to hopefully prevent spitting up. We’ve found if we put her on her play mat too fast, she spits up. 

Sometimes during the day she falls asleep after eating, and she’s fairly good at doing this at night. Once in a while at night we have to rock her or walk with her to get her sleepy before putting her in her crib. But she’s also pretty good at going down sleepy and falling fully asleep after going into her crib. 

One tricky thing right now is she’s been fighting her naps in the afternoon and evenings. You can tell she’s sleepy and could use a cat nap before her next feeding, but she gets really fussy and won’t just go down easily. We try all kinds of things to calm her — walking, bouncing, singing, walking her in the stroller, etc. — but sometimes she just has to get it out of her system and then eventually falls asleep. 

2. Playing With Our Newborn

Penny loves her Baby Einstein play mat! She’s fascinated by the colors and loves knocking around the toys with her hands and kicking them with her feet. She’s grabbing the rings with her hands and pulling hard, and looking at herself in the mirror. 

She also likes us to read and sing to her, but generally needs some visual stimulation, too. Simply walking around the house looking at everything entertains her. This helps when we’re out of the house, too! She loves taking it all in, so we’re getting her out more often. Observing this new world is fun for her — and tends to wear her out and make her nap!

3. Keeping Supplies On Hand

My husband and I should adopt the motto “be prepared” because, for the most part, we’re awesome at reviewing what we have on hand and what we need. We’re pretty well-stocked around here!

Whenever we leave the house, here’s what we have in the bag: diapers, wipes, pacifiers (two, in case one falls on the floor and there’s nowhere to wash it!), at least one extra outfit, blankets in case it’s chilly, at least two Enfamil 2-ounce pre-made bottles (since she eats usually 3.5-4.5 ounces per feeding now) and disposable nipples, a burp cloth and hand sanitizer. 

At home, besides diapers and wipes, we always have powder formula, gallons of water, gas drops and Aquafor for her bum and dry spots on her head (she’s been dealing with cradle cap so I put Aquafor or baby lotion along her forehead sometimes). I’ll have another post soon about the gadgets and gizmos we couldn’t do without!

4. “Me” Time And “Us” Time

While I’m on maternity leave, we have a routine for the evenings that helps us have a little alone time after Penny goes to bed. My husband does her bedtime feeding while I have a little alone time to wash up, read a book — or sometimes I just use the time to shower! When she goes down, we can watch TV and talk, but we sometimes just go to sleep, especially if we’ve been up more with Penny the night before. Of course if she naps in the evening, we get a little extra chill time. But that’s never a guarantee! 

During the day I can find a little time if she naps. Sometimes she really wants to sleep on me and I’m not as able to put her down. But when I can, I use the time to do dishes and laundry, catch up on emails or blog posts, or call my mom, etc. I used to nap when she napped, but I’m not doing that as often now. 

Once I go back to work in three weeks, a lot of this will change. The plan I have in my head looks like this:

5:00 Get up, shower, dress

6:00 Get Penny up, dressed, eat breakfast while feeding her

7:00 Take Penny to daycare, go to work

4:00-5:00 Leave work (the earlier time is if I’m able to work through lunch)

5:00-6:00 Pick up Penny 

8:00-9:00 J puts Penny to bed, I prepare Penny’s stuff for daycare (bottles, clothes, etc.) and make my lunch

Of course we’ll see how this all works out. I’ll have no idea until the first full week or so if this plan will work, and as always, I’ll remind myself to remain flexible!

So, that’s how things are rolling for us right now. I’m always interested in hearing how other families go about their day-to-day. Any tips?