Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The BEST Winter Day

Summer is on it's way!

Or, at least it feels like it this past week. Our Minnesota / Wisconsin weather has been unseasonably warm, and I'd be lying if I said I haven't enjoyed every minute. Sunshine and lots of time outdoors has the entire state population exhaling a big sigh of relief.

Alas, summer is most definitely NOT on its way. It's the end of February and there's still many cold (and probably snowy!) weather days left in March and April. Maybe even May ... though, goodness, I hope not.

When my friend Mirjam and I picked a day for her family to join us at the lake cabin for ice fishing, we never would've guessed the weather would be what it was last weekend. The forecast called for temperatures in the low 60's which had Andi and I worried about the condition of the ice. Would we still be able to go fishing at all? Fortunately, the ice was still 14 inches thick on our lake which meant it was safe to walk on and drive the Ranger UTV.

Mirjam, her husband Markus, and their kiddos Elia (3) and Lynn (6 months) arrived early Saturday morning and Andi and Markus quickly got to work drilling holes in the ice. We planned to have a "tip-up party" and set up lines all around the bay in front of our cabin. That way, the kids could run around and play, and everyone would be able to enjoy the warm weather together. Mirjam said she'd envisioned ice fishing as us all huddled together in our fish shack - and we could've done that - but this much more fun with lots of people, and especially with kids.

Right away, the fish started biting which was exciting for our friends to experience. Weather conditions play a huge factor in fishing, and the warm temperatures kept the fish active. "Fish, fish!" the kids would scream as they ran toward each vertical flag waving in the air.

The top layer of the ice was like a pool of water, and the kids were soaking wet in no time. Fortunately, it didn't seem to bother them much. Tory led Elia on an exploration of one of the state-owned islands on the lake, and they all had fun chipping away the ice to discover treasures (aka: leaves and sticks) once frozen in place.

Andi started a bonfire in our yard, and we all gathered around for lunch. I made shredded pork, broccoli slaw and a black bean salad for everyone, and Mirjam brought homemade grissini (Italian breadsticks) and sinfully delicious lemon bars. As we sat around the fire and listened to the kids running around, laughing, and playing "firefighters," we all commented at least a dozen times how wonderful it was to be outdoors. Such a perfect day!

After lunch, we made s'mores and hot chocolate for the kids which is Tory's very favorite thing to do at the cabin. It was absolutely quiet for at least a minute while Tory, Aden and Elia sat in their kiddie chairs and enjoyed their treat.

Andi had the idea to take the kids tubing on the ice, so he pulled out our summer boating tube from under the deck and tied it to the back of the ATV. It seemed like a crazy idea at first, but the kids had SO MUCH FUN, how could I say no? "Faster! Faster!" Elia and Tory screamed between squeals of joy. Fairly certain the neighbors thought we were crazy.

We capped off our day with a fish fry. Nothing better than eating freshly caught fish from your lake! This day will be one we remember for a long time - such an awesome day with friends!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Stitch Fix #20

I had the same stylist for my first 12+ Fixes, and she was amazing. She seemed to understand what I liked and what I didn't, and rarely sent me something I didn't keep. At the time, I was transitioning into regular clothes following my pregnancy with Aden and I owned very few pieces that made me feel beautiful. Stitch Fix definitely helped fill that void in my closet and my confidence level.
Then, one month my beloved girl suggested I try another stylist. I don't know if she was bored styling me or what (?!) but the next time I ordered I was assigned a new person. It was never really the same after that. My body size also continued to change, and the clothing fit seemed 'off' no matter how many times I updated my profile.

Eventually, I broke up with Stitch Fix.

Earlier this month, I got an email from Stitch Fix offering to waive the $20 styling fee if I'd schedule a shipment. Why not? I figured I'd give it a try again.

Now, I need opinions! What should I keep?

Here's what I received:

MIA Emerson Tassel Zip Bootie

While these booties were cute, they were way too big - obviously. The floor angle of this photo actually makes it look like I'm a kid wearing her mother's shoes! No question here - RETURN

41Hawthorn Shara Herringbone Vest

This vest is my favorite piece from this box, I think. I like wearing vests, especially in transitional seasons like fall and spring and this one is cute and comfortable. KEEP 

Just Black Judy Scissor Cut Skinny Jeans

I really like Stitch Fix jeans - like, they're the main reason I'm still interested in their company. All of the jeans I wear are from Stitch Fix; they fit me well and hold up between washings. Except ... for the one pair of Just Black maroon-colored skinny jeans I bought in my last box. Those colored jeans fit fine initially, but stretch out super quick and I find myself pulling up the waistband all day long.

This pair of skinny jeans are exactly like those - thinner material and very stretchy. No question on this item - RETURN

41Hawthorn Kassidy Faux Wrap Dress

I requested an Easter-appropriate dress in my style notes for this shipment, and here's what I received. I like this dress. It fits me well and modestly covers my bust, which is usually my issue with wrap dresses. I wouldn't say I'm in love with this dress, or would wear it often, but it would be nice to own a nice dress for church or special occasions. KEEP or RETURN - what do you think?

Skies are Blue Charlene Button Down Cotton Top

My initial reaction to this button-down shirt was NO. Honestly, it's not really my style. Then, I tried it on and looked at the photo I snapped on my camera and thought, "hmmmm." It definitely looked better than I thought it did. Cute, even! What do you think? Definitely everyday casual which fits my mom-life ... but does it look like I'm about ready to paint a bedroom? KEEP or RETURN - what do you think? 

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Valentine's Day Chocolate Superfood Bites

I'm always on the hunt for healthy sweets and treats I can feel good about eating and with Valentine's Day around the corner, I thought I'd share one of my favorite indulgences -- chocolate superfood bites.

One of the first things new fitness challengers usually say to me is, "I have a sweet tooth, so I need to find a solution for that." The awesome thing about the 21 Day Fix / Portion Fix Eating Plan is that you can still have chocolate, cookies and muffins - you just have to plan for them! Also, it's important they're made with the cleanest ingredients possible and these chocolate superfood bites fit the bill.

These treats taste sinfully delicious and satisfy that craving for chocolate we all get sometimes. They're also easy to make and look so fancy! Here's how to make them:

Start by assembling your favorite nuts, seeds and dried fruits. You don’t need much in quantity for this recipe, so hit up the bulk food section of the grocery store or scour your pantry to gather ingredients. I used pistachios, cranberries, dried blueberries, slivered almonds and unsweetened coconut flakes. For the chocolate, I used a bar of Ghirardelli Intense Dark Chocolate (look for chocolate with 70% cacao or higher).

Heat chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl on 50% power in 1 minute increments until melted. Then spoon melted chocolate onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and immediately top with chopped nuts and dried fruit. Pop the tray in the refrigerator when you’ve finished to let the chocolate harden. Store leftover chocolate superfood bites in the refrigerator.

How sweet would it be to receive these handmade chocolates for Valentine’s Day?

Recipe adapted from the Beachbody Blog

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Letters to Tory: Five Years!

And, just like that - my big girl turned F-I-V-E this past August. Somehow time slipped away from me (hello, she's basically 5 1/2 years now!) and I have yet to write about her birthday celebration or her many milestones at this stage in life. There's so much to say, I fear I won't capture the awesomeness that is Age Five ... but here's goes nothin'.

Dear Tory,

You are FIVE, little girl! How in world did this happen? As you remind me whenever we discuss you growing older, you'll always be my baby girl -- even when you're 16. I know this to be true, but it doesn't make change any easier on this mama's heart.

Age Five is wonderful. Dare I say, the best? You are so fun to be around these days. Your knowledge and thirst for learning is inspiring; your humor, witty and your love for others, infectious.

No trace of baby is left in your appearance; these days, you're grown up as grown up can be (at least, it seems that way to me). Your long legs stretch on forever sticking out of your swimming suit this summer. You're now wearing 5T clothes, size 9 shoes and weigh about 34 pounds. Still a peanut in comparison to your peers, though. At your five-year check-up, you measured in the 14% for height and weight.

Developmentally, you've changed so much in the year. One of the most notable things about this age is the ability to reason with you. You might not always like the answer, but you understand why thing happen the way they do. You're also very responsible and understand/follow rules around you.

You're in Pre-Kindergarten this year, and absolutely thriving in the classroom. I wouldn't say school is challenging you academically (truthfully, you're super ready for kindergarten) but you love your classmates and idolize your teacher, Ms. Jessica. Every afternoon, in fact, you come home and draw dozens of pictures to take to your teacher the next day. You have your whole life ahead to focus on concentrated learning, so I'm pleased this year you're developing a love for the classroom. You're so excited for kindergarten to start that you remind me often you'll be just fine at school all day and that you'll "send me letters" so I won't miss you.

Drawing is one of your favorite activities. You mostly freestyle hearts, flowers, rainbows and portraits of our family. Without fail, every afternoon you come up to me and ask, "So, Mom, do you have a craft idea?" I'd better have one up my sleeve, too! One of our big kitchen drawers is plump full of stickers, paper, scissors, glue and markers. All of those items can keep you occupied for hours.

My favorite part of your drawings is the way you sign your name - "Tory Mom." In your eyes, we're like one person, like you couldn't possibly be you without me. I know it won't be like this forever, so I commit those little pieces of art to memory (and usually snap a photo of them) so I can remember this stage forever.

You still very much enjoy playing with your dollhouse and Barbies. When we're at the cabin, you're a tom-boy through and through. You have no problem touching worms and minnows, love to collect rocks, to fish, snowmobile and ride the ATV. I have no doubt you'll be driving the boat by the end of summer! Really, you thrive in nature. Wild Kratts is one of your favorite television shows and your knowledge about animals and other creatures is astounding.  


You've very compassionate, tenderhearted and a Mother Hen to Aden. When you're feelings are hurt, you'll often retreat to your bedroom to be alone for a while ... and almost always fall asleep in there which tells me you were tired and emotional to begin with. I often tell you you're "in charge" of Aden when I'm leaving the room for a minute, and you're very good at keeping things in order. When Dad and I have been away for a few overnights, I never worry because you know exactly how things function in our home.

Strangers often compliment you on your politeness and cooperation. This makes my mama heart happy, especially because your brother can be a little crazy! As grown-up as you appear, you quick to remind me you're still five-years-old. The baby talk stage has begun which can be a little annoying (sorry, it's true!) as well as when you refer to yourself in the third person. I know it's a stage, so I try to ignore it the best I can.    

Another funny thing you do recently is sneak into our bed at night (which is a no-no) and then roll out sneaky as a mouse before we realize you're there. Your feet hit the ground and then you pop up like you just arrived. We can't help but laugh, as deceitful as it might be.

You worship the ground Grandma walks on, and still have many "best friends" including Ryan from school, Ashley in Kentucky and Hannah at the cabin. You're also especially fond of our condo neighbor, Jenn, who lives on the floor above us. Life with you, Tory, is always joyful. Age Five is shaping up to be a great year!


On your fifth birthday, I asked you the same set of questions I do every year on your special day. Here's how you responded (8/30/2016):

1. How old are you today? Five

2. Where do you live? Minnesota

3. What is your favorite thing to do with Daddy? Go on adventures with him

4. What is your favorite thing to do with Mommy? Do crafts and play games

5. What is your favorite thing to do with Aden? Play with him

6. What is your favorite color? Pink and purple and yellow and turquiose

7. Who is your best friend? Ashley (from Kentucky), Deanna (our cabin neighbor), Mom, Dad and Aden

8. What is your favorite book? Cinderella

9. What is your favorite food to eat? Cheese

10. What is your favorite thing to play? With my favorite baby

11. Where is your favorite place to go? The pool

12. What is your favorite song? I made up this song called Mary Sista and it goes like this ...

13. If you could buy anything at the store, what would it be? Cupcakes

14. What is your favorite animal? Giraffes and piglets

15. What would you like to be when you grow up? A ballerina teacher

16. What do you want to do on your birthday? Go to the State Fair

Love you, Tory Bean!