Butternut Squash Tomato Soup

This soup has been such a hit at our house!! Even though the weather is warming up (hopefully for good) it can always be soup season! And what a tasty way to get those veggies! My little chef loved making it with me.

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Butternut Squash Tomato Soup

Ingredients
– 3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
– 1 onion, thinly sliced
– 4 cloves garlic, smashed
– 2 fresh sage leaves
– Freshly ground black pepper
– 4 medium canned plum tomatoes
– 1 medium butternut squash (about 2 pounds) peeled, halved, seeded and diced
– 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth (or water)
– 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
– 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

What to do:
1. Heat the olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, sage and one teaspoon of the salt. And season with pepper, to taste. Cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until soft and fragrant about 15 minutes.
2. Raise heat to medium-high, add the tomatoes, and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the tomatoes break up and the onions brown slightly, about 7 minutes.
3. Add the squash and the remaining salt, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally for about 12 minutes or until the squash is tender.
4. Add the broth, bring to a simmer, and cook, uncovered, until the vegetables tender about 20-30 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly.
5. Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender.
6. Return the soup to the pot and reheat over medium heat. Stir in the balsamic vinegar.
7. Serve the soup with a touch of fresh grated parmesan cheese if desired.

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

It’s been a while since I’ve added a recipe for you all.

Growing up and to this day, Mac and Cheese is my jam. I mean it simply is the best. I’m not talking about a kind from a certain blue box. I’m all about the gourmet delicious mac and cheese. Hello Capital Grille lobster mac and cheese. Now I could probably eat it multiple times a week, but it probably wouldn’t be very good for my waistline.

Butternut squash is also my jam…so when these two are combined it. is. amazing.

Give this a try, you won’t be disappointed. Who knows, your toddler may even it it??? Say what? I like to pair this with a simple spinach side salad.

And for all you fixers it is 21 day fix approved! It was such a yummy dinner. Perfect winter weather comfort food, but let’s be honest, I can eat macaroni and cheese year round! Paired with a salad and it rounds out the meal!

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Here is the recipe:

1 lb. dry whole wheat macaroni

1 tsp. olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

2 medium red bell peppers, chopped

3 cups cubed butternut squash

1¾ cups low-sodium organic chicken broth

1 cup low-fat (1%) milk

2 Tbsp. low-fat (1%) plain Greek yogurt

1 cup shredded Gruyere (or Swiss) cheese

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Sea salt and ground black pepper (to taste; optional)

Nonstick cooking spray

Finely chopped fresh parsley (for garnish; optional)

Preparation:

1. Preheat oven to 375° F.

2. Cook macaroni according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

3. Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.

4. Add onion and bell peppers; cook, stirring frequently, for 4 to 6 minutes, or until onion is translucent. Set aside.

5. Combine squash, broth, and milk in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium; gently boil for 22 to 25 minutes, or until squash is tender.

6. Place squash mixture in a blender or food processor; cover with lid and kitchen towel. Blend until smooth.

7. Combine squash mixture, macaroni, onion mixture, yogurt, and cheeses. Season with salt and pepper if desired; mix well.

8. Place macaroni mixture in a 13 x 9-inch ceramic or glass baking dish that has been coated with spray. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until sauce is bubbling.

9. Garnish with parsley if desired.

Tip: Blend small batches of hot liquids in blender or food processor since they expand during the blending process, therefore decreasing the chance of overflowing.

Choosing love

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I haven’t posted in awhile, but I have so many thoughts swirling around in my head. I don’t talk much about politics in general or share my opinion on the topic. But I have to put into writing my feelings today.

I already worry enough about my kids and their future. It is a scary world out there with technology, accidents, stranger danger and more.

My goal as a mother and what I strive to do, is to raise kind, compassionate, empathetic children. In the grand scheme of things, I don’t give a crap about the “academic stuff.” Yes there is place for that, but what good is it if you can’t share, work together, or speak harshly and disrespect others? Apparently it gets you to powerful positions.

I am in shock and horror for the future that these sweet innocent children will be raised in. What kind of person that is elected to lead our country. And that apparently the majority of the population is okay with electing someone like that and is in support of?!?! Is this truly the country we live in? It sickens and saddens me.

The biggest fear I have is that my son and daughter will look up to people like our president elect and apparently the majority of Americans. And think that it is OKAY to speak and act that way towards women, the LGBT community, and people of different races and various ethnic/religious backgrounds; pretty much anyone. It is simply NOT okay. I will not allow for it. And what kind of message are we sending our kids? Our future?

I’m thankful for their innocence. I’m thankful, yet guilty, that I don’t have to explain this to them today. Someday? Yes, but for today I don’t have to.

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These two deserve SO much better it breaks my heart. They deserve a world filled with love. Not the hate that I’m seeing. For now I can protect them from that.

What I can do and will do? I will lead by example in hopes I raise caring, kind, loving, and empathetic children. Ultimately, they are the future. They will bring about the change. Until then, I will remain to choose love, to show love, kindness and compassion. And to teach my kiddos how to take care of others and how we respect one another no matter what…and that is the only option.

 

 

Cecilia Birth Story Part 2

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Birth and pregnancy are such a beautiful and incredible thing. I hope by sharing my positive VBAC story, it may help or inspire one person. I’ll reiterate that there is no right or wrong way to birth a baby. This is my story and simply what I wanted this time!

On Monday 9/12 I went and got acupuncture in the morning. My acupuncturist was pretty confident something would get started over the next few days. I was hopeful but I was starting to doubt myself and if this baby would come on her own. I was getting anxious as I had my 40 week 3 day appointment coming up on Tuesday 9/13 and I didn’t want to even talk about scheduling a C-section. I went on with my day but decided to up my Raspberry Tea. I think I had maybe 8 or 9 cups that day?!? I also did hypnobabies “get out baby” like 3 times on Monday (I’d been doing it about once a day for 5 days).

On Tuesday around 1:00 in the morning, I woke up and noticed an uncomfortable contraction. I didn’t think too much of it (occasionally I had mild ones) but this time I noted the time. I tried to go back to bed but I was noticing them every 10 minutes now. This went on for about an hour, so we decided to text our doulas. They told us to rest. I tried resting but just couldn’t.  I tossed and turned in bed and then around 3 I decided to get up and take a shower because I thought it was go time. Ha, silly me! The contractions were painful, but not unbearable. Around 7 am, things were still going/progressing so I texted my mom that it was time! Her hotel was only 10 minutes away, so she was here within 15 minutes of that text. I wanted to be at my home laboring, without the distraction of a wild/moody two going on threenager. Mom was quick to arrive and get him up and take over!

I labored at home all day with the tub, stability ball, bed and having snacks in between contractions. We spent the majority of the day in the in the bath or in the bedroom using the stability ball and trying to rest between contractions.

I found a variety of yoga poses to also be helpful like child’s pose and cobblers pose. When I was in child’s pose, Aaron put pressure on my lower back to alleviate the pain from the contraction. Aaron was a champion using the words of affirmation that I had sent to him. One of my favorites was “inhale peace, exhale tension.” As painful as each contraction was, it was comparable to running inclines, going up the hill, reaching the peak and then coming down. Plus I knew I was going to get to meet my baby girl at the end of it, so I tried to focus on the end in sight.  Around 1pm the contractions were getting harder and more painful and there were tears. So we went back to the bathtub, where Aaron would pour water on my belly. I’d say my contraction pattern was sort of wacky. It would be following the pattern of every 5 or 6 minutes, then stop following the pattern and get farther spaced out and then pick up again, or I’d have a few much closer together. Our doulas suggested some other techniques to speed things up again.

Our doula came over around 3:30/4:00. In between contractions I’d continue to rest, or have a bite of peanut butter sandwich or lara bar, and we’d chat. I put on my labor outfit (a nursing sports bra and a cheap maxi skirt and flip flops), and we headed to the hospital around 6ish. I had so many contractions on our 10 minute drive to the hospital.

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Upon arriving we were sent to triage….however; it was during shift change so the waiting room got to see me in action. Thanks to our doula, we got to skip on through triage and went straight to a room.  At first I was nervous to labor in front of a bunch of strangers, but then I didn’t give a (pardon my french) F.

Here is where it gets a little blurry. I declined the hospital robe as I chose to wear my own outfit. We had the lights dimmed and I had some honey and a few sips of water and we got the music going. I had selected some hip hop rap but wanted more calming music instead.  Right away I got checked and was dilated to about a 5-6. I got on the stability ball to take some contractions and our doula got the tub filled up. I was so excited to get in the tub. It was very therapeutic and calming, despite the intense contractions I was experiencing. After the tub I was an 8 then a 9 and when I was checked again I was still a 9. The doctor said if we wanted to speed things up, we could break my water so she did that (wanted to have this baby before midnight, so we could go home earlier!) We used the peanut ball and then I started transitioning (aka throwing up)and got to a 10! Around 11 pm, we did some practice pushing. We were able to keep the lights dimmed and music on the entire time.

Pushing is where I had the hardest time, figuring out holding my breath and not blow out, grabbing my ankles etc. The nurse had an ultrasound pic of my little girl that kept me going. The position that we found to be the best to push in, was having my knees apart and feet together, and my chin tucked. I had my hands around my ankles, and Aaron and my doula had my legs. Things went pretty quickly after that. I have no idea how many pushes it was, but it was pretty surreal when they told me I could “feel my baby’s head,” which was the push (no pun intended) that I needed. Then the rest of her beautiful body came out at 11:27 pm. She came out wailing and got right to skin to skin. We were able to delay clamping for a few minutes (have no idea how long but I know it wasn’t immediate) as well and Aaron got to cut the cord!

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Cecilia’s birth was one of the most amazing, surreal, empowering moments of my life. I could not have done it without my husband and our incredible doula, there.  I am still in shock how smoothly and perfectly it went and it went exactly to my plan!

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Cecilia’s Birth Story Part 1

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I want to start off by saying that I think no matter how a baby is born is beautiful, there is no right or wrong way to have a baby. In the end, a healthy baby and healthy mom are all that matter! And it is your birth and what you want out of it! I feel like there are so many negative birth stories I want to share my positive VBAC birth story. I have a lot to share, so I thought it would be best to divide this into two posts.

For a little background information, Benjamin was breech and I found that out at my 40 week ultrasound. I still am not thrilled that I found out so late in the game. It is unknown if he flipped late or if the doctor was feeling his butt instead of his head. We found out on a Tuesday, we did an external version on Thursday that was unsuccessful and he was delivered through a C-section on Friday. He had a shorter than normal umbilical cord, which the doctor thought could be the reason why he wouldn’t flip down. My recovery was fine, my c-section was fine. It was all I knew. I had accepted how Benjamin was born and I was and am completely okay with it.

When I found out I was pregnant with my second child (Cecilia), I was excited to say the least. At my first doctor’s appointment my OB asked if I wanted to consider a VBAC or schedule a C-section. I had no idea at the time.

Now, over the past 18 months, I have become much more aware of what I put into my body and I have really made it a point to take care of my body. Reducing the amount of processed foods and focusing on eating whole, clean foods and exercising daily. So when I found out I was pregnant, I wanted to become more informed and make sure I was taking care of my body and my baby. I started attending some prenatal yoga classes, as I regretted not doing that with my first pregnancy. I fell in love with the studio I went to (Home Holistic) and learned so much at every class. There was a special, warm welcoming feel at yoga, where we shared how we were feeling, any uncomfortable symptoms and things like that. It really brought a community/family feel to class. Each time I walked away learning something new, as well as feeling more bonded to my little babe that I was growing. The more I went to class and spent some time doing my own research the more I was drawn to the idea of trying for a VBAC.

When I was 30 weeks along I decided it is what I wanted, with no medication, no medical interventions unless they were absolutely necessary. So I signed away my life, well not really just felt like it, when I was filling out the TOLAC (Trial of Labor after a Cesarean) paperwork at my OB’s office.

A few of my friends were trying for VBAC and told me about The Business of Being Born so we decided to give it a watch. I was so intrigued and fascinated. I became more educated and unfortunately very frustrated with the way things are. I knew I wanted to go all in, so we decided to hire a doula. I had decided I wanted this birth experience and I wanted another support person and another advocate for us. With a VBAC, you are monitored nonstop and so often they are quick to do another C-section, and I didn’t want that! We hired our amazing doulas that were also my prenatal yoga teachers.

One of the things we did with them is create a birth plan. Some of the things we included was that our goal was to have an unmedicated birth, dimmed lights, music, the opportunity to use the tub, to push in a position of my choice,  delay clamping, and delay newborn bath are just a few of the things we wanted.  I did not do this with my first pregnancy. I was well aware of the fact that things could not go to plan but I wanted to at least have my wants and desires known. Being a VBAC since you are monitored continuously, I wasn’t sure if my doctor would be okay with everything, but I was thrilled when my doctor signed off that she was okay with all my wants and desires for this birth!

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I demanded that I would have an ultrasound to confirm baby was head down around 35 weeks as I didn’t want to be in a similar situation where baby flips or they didn’t know baby was breech. From about weeks 35 through the remainder of my pregnancy I visited a chiropractor to make sure everything was properly aligned to help me with my VBAC goal. In my due time I also started acupuncture, to help reduce any anxieties/fears surrounding birth as well as getting things started naturally. The month prior, I started reading positive birth stories as well as creating my own positive birth affirmations. I’m a big believer in attracting what you desire, and this birth experience was no different! Stay tuned for part 2!

What’s in my hospital bag

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For my first pregnancy I packed everything under the moon to bring to the hospital. I think we probably had about 3 full size suitcases! Who even knows what I had in them too. This time around I was selective on what I needed/wanted to bring. I created this list of some of my “must-haves” for the hospital bag!

  1. Per my doula’s suggestion! We brought chia squeeze packs, apple juice, honey, bananas, Lara bars, Clif Bars and almonds. These snacks were for me to occasionally take a bite out of and for my husband as well. I am so glad that we had them!
  2. My own pillow. Hospital pillows are not comfortable! I wanted to be somewhat comfortable during my stay so I brought my own! I made sure that the pillowcase wasn’t white so it wouldn’t get lost with the hospital pillows. It was nice to have a little piece of home with me.
  3. My labor outfit. I wore this to the hospital as well. I don’t love the hospital gowns and I didn’t know that you could wear whatever you wanted! So I chose for a nursing sports bra and a maxi skirt from Target. I had planned to cut the skirt but never did. I knew I would be so much more comfortable in my own clothes, which helped me relax as well and progress. When I had to change into the gown to move rooms I was so annoyed with the snaps when it came time to nurse. So glad I had my own labor outfit!
  4. I brought my bikini top. My doctor had okayed me to use the tubs and since I was a VBAC I needed continuous monitoring. I didn’t end up using it, but it was there.
  5. Iphone/speakers. I really wanted music as part of my labor and delivery. Music speaks to me and I had created a play list from everything from soothing music to hard-corp hip/hop rap.
  6. I chose to bring 2 pictures. One of myself with my husband, toddler and our dog. And I brought an ultrasound picture as well. The nurse and my husband held up the pic of my baby girl to help keep me motivated during labor and when it came time to push.
  7. I brought my own slippers as walking around the cold stark floor wasn’t appealing to me. Also brought flip-flops to take a shower with.
  8. A comfy nursing nightgown and robe. I already mentioned how I disliked the hospital robes. I wanted something cute and comfy that I could wear around the hospital. I found something from Motherhood Maternity and loved it. It made me feel pretty after delivering my baby and was comfy and easy to nurse in. Sadly after my milk came in it doesn’t fit anymore!
  9. Baby Stuff! I picked this cute outfit up from an Etsy shop and LOVE it. I also grabbed a swaddle for hospital pictures as well from this shop. I brought my own baby wash with so when it came time for the bath, we could use stuff we wanted not the stuff the hospital uses with yucky ingredients in it.
  10. Can’t forget my iPhone chargers, chapstick and hair binders! Along with the everyday things in my toiletry bag (glasses, contact solution, toothbrush) that sort of thing. I threw in some make-up as well. And I did put it on!
  11. Going home outfit. This dress was perfect to wear going home. It was loose, and comfortable. It was hot when we came home so I didn’t need anything over it, but I would have thrown a jean jacket over it if it was a little chillier.
  12. I threw in my belly bandit to start wearing right away as well! I loved it with my first pregnancy.

 

What were some of your hospital bag must-haves??

The Waiting Game

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As the texts come in….”still pregnant?” “had that baby yet?” or “any signs” I’m patiently impatiently waiting for the signs of labor to begin and stick.

I’ve had a few wake up contractions but nothing that has progressed to anything…obviously. So many Braxton hicks. Some feeling of nausea but here I am at 39 weeks 6 days and I’m still pregnant.

I’m in a few Facebook groups for mamas and specifically expecting mamas around the same time as me. As you can guess, many of them have had their babies and are getting antsy. I’m getting there but not so much just yet. I am trusting my body and I know that the best place for baby to be right now is in my belly. And I’m not even “overdue” just yet. Plus the due date is a guess!  I’ve consistently measured “small” through every ultrasound. I take those with a grain of salt because I know they can be pretty off.

So now, I wait. I am so fortunate and blessed to grow this sweet babe and to experience pregnancy. For now, I’ll focus on loving up my toddler and soaking in all the moments.

She’ll come when she is ready and I have faith in that.