Thursday, August 30, 2012

Coffee-mate Natural Bliss: Review & Giveaway!

If you've been reading my blog for awhile, you know what a big role coffee plays in my life. I drink a lot of it, all throughout the day. I don't quite function in the morning until I've had my first cup. (Just ask my husband!)

One of my favorite ways to enjoy coffee is by flavoring it with specialty coffee creamers. However, I've never been thrilled with the use of un-natural ingredients found in these creamers, so I only use them on special occasions. Instead I put milk in my coffee because it's all natural and not made with chemicals and partially hydrogenated oils. (I've been trying hard to eat and drink healthy and put as many all natural foods in my body as possible.)

You can imagine how thrilled I was to visit the Coffee-mate Natural Bliss booth at BlogHer12. Have you heard of Coffee-mate Natural Bliss? It's coffee creamer made with only four simple ingredients: milk, cream, sugar and natural flavor. (The low-fat Vanilla flavor also contains carrageenan, a natural thickener.)

Even though I was excited to discover an all-natural coffee creamer, I was a little bit skeptical as to how it would taste. I mean, I think the unhealthy creamers are delicious, so could an all-natural creamer taste as good?

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that not only does Coffee-mate Natural Bliss taste as good as other, unhealthier options, I actually think it tastes even better. There's no chemical after-taste, just smooth and delicious flavor.

Coffee-mate natural bliss comes in 4 flavors: Vanilla, Sweet Cream, Caramel, and (my personal favorite) Low-fat Vanilla. It retails for &2.79 at grocery stores nationwide. (Find it in the dairy aisle!)

As a busy, coffee-loving (worshiping) mom, all-natural Coffee-mate Natural Bliss is an amazing product. I can savor my flavored coffee while still being healthy and not loading my body up with un-natural ingredients.

I love this product and am thrilled to announce that Coffee-Mate is going to offer one lucky A Baby Makes Four reader a chance to win free Coffee-mate Natural Bliss! Enter my raffle-copter giveaway, and if you win you will be sent 5 coupons, each worth a free bottle. Even if you don't win, I highly recommend you give this product a try.

*Disclosure: I was provided product for this review. All opinions are my own.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, August 27, 2012

Chicken Pot Pie-Toddle Along Tuesday

I was so excited to see that this week's Toddle Along Tuesday over at Growing up Geeky is all about quick and simple meals.

My number one go-to simple meal is chicken pot pie. It's a family favorite, and rotates through our dinner repertoire several times a month.

Before I share the recipe I need to share the back story of how this recipe came to us. After all, don't all good meals have a story?

For those of you who don't know, we live on a college campus. My husband runs several residence halls and manages a staff of resident assistants. When Stephanie was born, one of those RAs, J, brought us a pot pie. When Dan told me she was making it, I said "I'm not a fan of pot-pie but I'm desperate for a hot meal, and it was so sweet of her to make for us!" And then I ate it, and realized what I had been missing all these years. The fact that J made this for us and shared her recipe with me ensures that she will always top my list of awesome people who made those first weeks of new motherhood more bearable!

It might not be the healthiest meal, but it's hearty, can be put together in less than 10 minutes, and is a "fix it and forget it" type of meal. I've since passed the recipe along to my sister, my mom and my best friend, all of whom make it frequently now. Stephanie gobbles it up, and it's a great way to get extra veggies into her. After Joseph was born, my sister made one and brought it to us, sealing it as our family "when a baby is born you bring it" meal. It was also the first meal I made for us when Dan went back to work after his 6 weeks of family leave.

The best part of this meal is that I can put it together at nap time, or even the night before. Then I just throw it in the oven an hour and fifteen minutes before we want to eat. So simple!

Ok, I've sung the pot-pie praises enough, now to the actual recipe!

- 1 or 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- .5 of a 1lb package of mixed vegetables
- 1 can of diced potatoes
-  2 cans of Campbells cream of chicken soup (I use the 98% fat free kind)
- 1 refrigerated pie crust

*Mix soup, vegetables and potatoes together in a pie plate
*Dice the chicken into small pieces. Add to the soup mixture.
*Roll out the pie crust, spread on top of the pie plate, and cut a few slits in top for the steam to escape

*Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for one hour. Take the pie out to cool for about 15 minutes. Dig in and enjoy!

*Tip: I bake my pie on a cookie sheet lined with foil. Sometimes it leaks, and this prevents a mess in the oven.

This is what's left after the 3 of us attack our meal on pot-pie night. (It's just as good leftover, and makes a perfect lunch!)

Family Time on the Home Front

Family time. We get a lot of it around here. During "normal" times (meaning when Dan isn't in the middle of training his staff for the new school year) we spend a lot of time together. We eat breakfast and dinner together almost every day. After dinner and clean up we go for evening walks. On the weekends we try to plan fun things to do, even if that just means a trip to BJ's or Target. We enjoy our time as a family, and are making sure to soak up as much of it as possible before the kids get older and get into school and various activities.

All that family time is one of the reasons it's such a challenge when Dan is working constantly, like he is now. We aren't used to him leaving the house at 7:20 and not returning until long after the rest of us have gone to bed. It's hard on the kids not to see him, and it's hard on me. (And i'm not just saying that because he isn't here to help with dinner/baths/bedtime.)

The good thing about him being away so much these past three weeks is that we appreciate him so much more when we do get to see him. This past Saturday he was off work all day, which is typically unheard of this time of year.

When he first told me he was going to be home, we talked about having a fun family day. We could go here, or there, or here and there. But as it turned out, we stayed home all day. And it was one of the best family days we've ever had!

We ate all our meals together as a family. We hung around in our apartment and played with the kids. While they napped, Dan also napped. (Making up for the late night's of sleep.) We went for a lot of walks. We just enjoyed each other's company.

We proved to ourselves that we don't need to go anywhere and spend a lot of money to have good, wholesome family time. It's the being together that counts. And now we're all refreshed, and ready to tackle a new week of work!

*What are your favorite family activites? Do you prefer to stay home for your family time or leave  the house?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Sibling Love


*I'm linking up over at Two in Diapers today! Come on over and check out all the stories of Motherhood in this week's edition of the Mommy-Brain Mixer! 

My eyes didn't want to open but I forced them to. I could see the early morning light shining behind the closed blinds. The fan was whirring, and the white noise from the kids' room was coming through the monitor. I didn't hear crying though. What woke me up?

Then I heard it again. A soft whisper, barely audible through the baby monitor. 

"Joseph! Wake up Joseph!"

Then again, a little louder this time. Next was rustling, and a quiet baby squeal. Then bouncing crib springs, and full on baby giggles followed by toddler squeals.

I laid in bed and just listened to them. They laughed and jumped and chatted. Nobody cried, nobody called out for me. They entertained each other. 

As I stretched out and woke up gradually, I found myself smiling from ear to ear. The love that the two of them have for each other is sweet, simple and beautiful. She is his hero, he is her baby. They share an unbreakable bond, and as Joseph grows it gets stronger and stronger. 

I see it throughout the day too, in the little moments. The times she cheers for him as he takes steps. The hugs and kisses she bestows on him for no reason. The way he follows her around, crawling as fast as he can to try and catch up. The way his face lights up and he grins ear-to-ear when she enters the room. 

They are my babies, but they have a relationship separate from me. This relationship will grow and alter as the years go on. They might not always worship each other the way they do now, but for as long as it lasts, I will relish it.

Some people told me I didn't know what I was getting into by having the two of them so close together. They warned me about the challeneges two under two and two in diapers would bring. But nobody mentioned the amazing and positive aspects of having them so close. The fact that they'll never know a life without each other in it. They will grow up together, protecting each other and always having someone to play with and argue with.

I get to watch them as their relationship changes and grows, and that warms my heart and makes me feel like the luckiest mommy in the world. Are they close in age? Yes. Are the day-to-day aspects of that a challenge? Often, yes. Would I change their age difference if I could? Not in a million years! 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Mommy Brain: I have it

I have to apologize for taking a few days off from blogging. It wasn't intentional, but goes along with the theme of this post. I just simply kept forgetting what day it was and the fact that I needed to blog.

Seriously, I have a bad case of mommy brain. Please tell me i'm not the only one who gets afflicted by this! Back when Joseph was born, I would see this ailment cropping up, and I attributed it to the lack of sleep and adjusting to life with two children. Now, I have no idea what my problem is, except for the fact that I have a lot on my plate and my brain seems to be going in a million directions.

Here is a small sampling of the things I've done lately that just make me shake my head:

1. I took the kids to Panera for lunch over the weekend. I ordered our food (a half salad/sandwich combo for me) and handed the woman my rewards card. She told me I had a credit for $2 off a full salad that expired that day. I thought "OH I don't want to lose that coupon. It will save me money!" So I told her to add another salad onto the order and I'd take it to go. On the way home I realized I actually spent more money instead of saving, since I tacked an extra salad onto the order. I could have just changed my order to a full salad. (I still have half of that extra salad in my fridge. So much for saving money. Sigh.)

2. I jumped out of the car the other day and shut the door. The seat belt was stuck, so the door didn't shut. I spent an embarrassing amount of time trying to shut the door over and over again before I realized it made more sense to remove the seat belt and then try to shut the door.

3. A week or so ago I had made plans to take the kids to the beach with some friends for dinner. That day came and went, and I got a Facebook message from my friend saying "We missed you guys last night!" I stared at the computer for a few minutes, completely baffled as to why she missed us. It took me a long time to realize that I had forgotten to meet them at the beach.

4. As I pulled into my driveway a few nights ago, I scraped the side of my car along our fence post. This is the same driveway that I've pulled into every day for four years. The fence hasn't moved position in that time, and yet...I totally hit it. (Stephanie yelled "WHAT WAS THAT MAMA!" at me and I honestly didn't know until I got out and looked at the car.) Luckily it wasn't hard enough to make a dent, and only left some paint from the fence post along the side of the car.

As i'm writing this I'm thinking "I know there were more examples that I wanted to share." But of course I can't remember them. Just rest assured that I am indeed suffering from Mommy Brain. I don't know what's going on with me at the moment, but if you need me for something...if i'm supposed to return a phone call, a text, an email, a tweet, etc., please don't hesitate to remind me. I'm not ignoring you on purpose, I promise! And if you have an remedy's for getting my regular brain back...please share! (I have a nagging feeling that I may be plagued by this until the kids grow up and move out...)

Friday, August 17, 2012

How A Trip To The Dumpster Changed Our Day

Today started great. We had a playdate planned for the morning, a bbq planned for the evening, and (hopefully) a long nap in the middle. With Dan working long hours lately (it's 10:30pm and he's still not home) busy days are welcome distractions.

Our playdate went great. Both kids had a fantastic time and it was nice to catch up with some friends we hadn't seen in awhile. But then Joseph screamed the whole way home. And then he refused to nap. Stephanie was feeding off of his crankiness and took forever to settle down for her nap. By the time I got Joseph to sleep, it was very late. I had about 100 emails to respond to and a few blog posts I wanted to write.

I made a small dent in the emails while mindlessly devouring a bag of chips. At the end of which, my stomach hurt, I felt bloated and tried from the salt and had no energy to do anything. Joseph woke after a very short nap, but it was still late in the day and I started to fret that he wouldn't go to sleep tonight. I started to get irritable and cranky. I just wanted to curl up and do nothing.

I felt silly. I couldn't even explain to myself why I was feeling so miserable because nothing happening was that bad. But I guess when you're in that kind of a funk, it is that bad. I was in melt-down mode and felt ridiculous for it.

The thought of waking Stephanie, preparing both kids, running to the grocery store to find something to bring, and attending a bbq alone with them was the last thing I felt like doing. So, feeling horrible about it the whole time, I cancelled.

Then I whined to my blogger friends about how overwhelmed I am with the (exciting and new) blog growth that I'm hoping to see. I texted a friend to complain. I still felt blah. I got Stephanie up, and she was in major whine mode. I snapped at her. I felt guilty. Joseph was being cranky and clingy. I held him, even though it was hot and humid which added to my miserableness.

I thought about dinner. I didn't know what to make. I didn't have the energy to do anything. I was getting so mad at myself at this point for feeling this way.

Then I told myself I needed to snap out of it. Nothing was wrong, the day wasn't all that bad, and I needed to get a grip and pull myself together.

So I told Stephanie we were going to take out the trash. She jumped up and down and said "YAY, I will carry the small bag Mama." I was taken aback by her enthusiasm for this little field trip, but decided to roll with it. "You're such a big helper sweet girl! Thank you so much!"

We stepped out into the thick, muggy air. It was gross, but we skipped all the way down the road to the dumpsters. We each threw our bag of garbage in. Joseph started giggling for no reason. "Stephanie, lets go for a walk over the bridge to stretch our legs before dinnertime."

Her response? "Hooray! I gonna walk all by myself, and I going to SKIP over that bridge Mama!"

How can you not smile when you hear that? And skip over that bridge she did. Then we circled around to head back to our apartment, playing the stop/go game all the way to our front door. We walked in and Stephanie asked to eat carrot sticks. Sure kiddo, knock yourself out!

I was smiling. I was happy. The cloud had lifted. I made us the weirdest throw together dinner, but we all ate and were happy. The rest of the night went by and we were all in better moods. All thanks to a short trip to the dumpster. Who would have thought that was all it would take?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Project 10: Vegetable Edition

I'm happy to say that things have finally settled down again. After a whirlwind two weeks of trips and overnight guests it's nice to get back to every day life.

With the return to reality, I've also turned my attention back to living a healthy lifestyle and losing the last of the baby weight. I'm 1.5lbs over what I was when I first left on my camping trip almost 3 weeks ago, but i'm ok with that. After all, I know I wasn't eating right or exercising the way I should.

But now I've gotten back into the habit of recording all of the food I eat, and getting a work-out in at least 3 times a week. I've been going on long, 45 minute walks with the kids in the double stroller, using Wii Fit several times a week, and doing some ab work with weights. I'm feeling good again, and happy to be back on track!

My goal is still to get down to my pre-Stephanie weight by my birthday. (Which is September 17th, for those of you who were just dying to know!) That means I need to lose 6 more pounds. I think it's possible!

One of the things I've noticed that I'm lacking in my daily eating is vegetables. I think this is common for a lot of people, although I have to say that I actually do enjoy eating vegetables. The problem is, I get stuck in a rut. In fact, when we were driving to BlogHer we got talking about food and I listed all the vegetables that I like. (Broccoli, cauliflower, peas, carrots, green-beans, corn and sweet potatoes.) This is way more of a variety than I ate when I was kid (broccoli and corn was pretty much it back then) so i was surprised when my van-mates laughed. They insisted that I really don't have as much variety in my vegetable arsenal as I thought.

Not only do I not each as wide a variety as I should, I also get bored with the way I prep them. I tend to buy bags of frozen vegetables and boil them. They taste fine, Dan and the kids eat them with me, and so that's that. But after awhile it does get boring. I want to add some pizzazz to our vegetables. I want to add new flavors. I want to eat more than just one vegetable at a time, and I want vegetables to often be part of the main dish not just a simple side.

And so i'm asking you, my readers, to share some of your ideas. I'm looking for new varieties of veggies, as well as different ways of preparing my old stand-bys. Feel free to share any of your ideas in the comments below. I'm looking forward to hearing from you! Thanks. :)

Sunday, August 12, 2012


BlogHer12 was my very first blogging conference. Prior to attending, I read blog post after blog post, talked to people who had gone before, chatted with others who were going, perused the BlogHer website at length, and made myself a rather detailed agenda. But I still didn't know exactly what to expect.

I did have some goals and things I hoped to accomplish. Things like networking, making connections with brands, meeting some of my favorite bloggers, attending some sessions that I felt were important, and yes, going to a few parties.

I have to be honest and say that I never made it to any sessions. But I also don't necessarily regret that. At future conferences I'd like to make sure to attend at least one, but this time around I was so overwhelmed that I just couldn't fit it in. 

I did however accomplish many of the things that I had hoped to do. Some of the highlights from my trip, in no particular order, are:

~The car-ride down. I was lucky enough to road-trip with some fabulous women, and we had a great time chatting excitedly about our upcoming adventures as we drove to NYC.

~My roommates. I roomed with Sarah and Melissa, and the three of us had a blast. We got along great, and although we spent a lot of time together, we never felt obligated to spend every minute with each other. They are awesome, and I feel so much closer to them after experiencing our first BlogHer together. 

~Parties. Both BlogHer sponsored and private. It was fun to mingle with other bloggers, meet people whose blogs I was familiar with and some I wasn't, meet some brands, and just enjoy grown-up time without the kids hanging on me!

~The Expo Hall. I loved going booth to booth and chatting with reps. There were so many brands that I was excited to talk with, and hope to have a further working relationship with in the future. 

~Katie Couric's key-note speech. I found her to be such an inspiration, and listening to her was definitely one of the highlights of my weekend. 

~Meeting Jenny from Karma Continued. Back before I was blogger, I faithfully read each and every piece of work that Jenny wrote. When I decided to start my own blog, she was my inspiration. Her writing is absolutely beautiful, and I feel honored by the fact the we have become good friends online over the past two years. One of the things that I had looked forward to most about the weekend was getting the chance to meet her, and it was definitely one of the best parts of the conference for me. I actually ran into her several times, and at one point we were able to chat for about 40 minutes over a glass of wine. I'm delighted to say that she is as wonderful in person as she is online!

~Listening to the Voices of the Year readers. When I found out that Jenny was chosen as a BlogHer Voices of the Year, I knew that it was one part of the conference that I absolutely could not miss. Being in the audience and listening to her read her beautiful post brought tears to my eyes. 

~Watching Brack Obama address the BlogHer attendees via live video conference. 

~And best of all? Being at the conference with the best group of blogger friends I could ever hope for. I've mentioned before that there is a group of us who are local and get together every month or so. Spending time with them for 4 days in NYC was just so much fun. We shared meals, partied together, walked around together, sat and chatted over beer and wine, and just generally enjoyed the experience together. I feel so blessed to have this amazing group of women who all get along well, and I know that BlogHer would not have been anywhere near as much fun had it not been for them! In fact, this wouldn't be a complete re-cap if I didn't give shout-outs to all of them. 

I was lucky enough to attend BlogHer with:

Melissa from Filling Our Bucket (Roomate and co-road-tripper)
Sarah from Soxy's Diamond (Roomate and co-road-tripper)
Joanna from Baby Gator's Den
Jen from Keekoin
Sarah from Sweet Lil You
Candice from The New Modern Momma
Audrey from Mom Generations
Kameron from My Wrinkle In Time (Our fearless road-trip driver)
Liz from Learning to Juggle (Another road-tripper)
Jodi from BlushMamas
Liza from Cira's Lyrics
Catherine from Twins With Tots
Elizabeth from Documama

And here are just a few pictures from this amazing trip!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Project 10: I Got Way Off Track

I fell off the weight-loss wagon. In fact, I'm so far off it that I can't even see the wagon anymore. Sigh.

I went camping and had every intention of eating well and tracking my food. That ended the second I spotted the cookies. And the chips. And the s'mores. And the dough-boys. And the ice-cream. But I walked a lot and figured that might help. Until I got home after 3 days and saw the scale had jumped by 1.5lbs.

I decided not to fret. I was off to NYC, and figured I'd be too busy to over-eat and would be doing a lot of walking.

Well, I got to NYC. There was definitely a lot of walking. And I did not eat nearly enough food. But what I did eat? Was all carbs and sugar and alcohol. I was always starving and all the booths had cake-pops. What a quick and easy thing to eat while I was dashing here and there. And of course every party, every gathering, every meal had alcohol of some sort. Needless to say, I did not track my food intake. I also felt bloated and icky from the food & beverage choices I made.

Then I came home. I'm back to tracking my food, but i'm eating everything in sight. My brother-in-law and his girlfriend are staying with us for a few days, and they brought all sorts of goodies. Which of course I can't stay away from. It's pathetic. I need to figure out a way to get back on track. To not eat everything in sight, to not over-indulge.

I know this post is complain-y. And I also know it's my own fault and only I have the power to make the change.

I do have a plan, which is to start over tomorrow. (I could start today, but since I've already eaten so much i'm just saying forget it. Which I know is not a good thing. But it's the way it is right now.)

Starting tomorrow I will track everything that I eat, using My Fitness Pal. I will make the same healthy choices and normal sized portion choices that I did a week and a half ago. I will fit some form of exercise into each day. I will not weigh myself until next Tuesday, which is when I do my Project 10 weigh-ins. (I know if I see higher numbers I will get bummed out and say forget it and over-indulge all over again.)

My goal is to be at the same weight I was before I left to go camping. That may or may not be realistic, since I have no idea what my weight is right now. But it's my goal, and with that in mind I will do my best to get healthy again!

*As always, feel free to link up your health or fitness posts. And check out all the other awesome bloggers who are participating in Project 10 with me!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Back To Reality

The return to real-life after my weekend away at BlogHer12 has been very challenging.

I'm overwhelmed, my to-do list is a mile long, and my mind is still going in a million directions.

I want to soak up every minute with my babies that I can. I want to talk to my husband and share my conference experiences with him. I want to write my re-cap post. I want to respond to the 500 emails, messages and blog comments that are waiting for me. I want to contact brand reps and bloggers that I connected with in NYC. I want to clean my house to prepare for our house guests that are arriving today and staying for three days. I want to get back into eating healthy and recording my food intake. I want to finish unpacking from both our camping trip and BlogHer.

But the truth is I can't do it all. At least not right away.

I returned from the weekend full of renewed energy and excitement for my blog and the things I hope to accomplish with it. That energy and excitement is still there, but it's tempered by the other stuff that needs my attention.

Like the hour-long grocery trip the kids and I took yesterday to re-stock our food supply. And the outlet shopping trip that we went on in the afternoon with friends we haven't seen all summer, that we had been planning for weeks. And the loads of laundry I washed this morning and now need to put away. And the huge stack of forms that I need to fill out for Stephanie's nursery school.

All I can do is take it one day at a time, one task at a time. Take a minute to breathe and relax. Recognize that it won't get done as quickly as I want it to. But if I keep plugging away, slowly but surely, I can get my act together and feel in control. I hope that you all will bear with me as I focus on not losing my mind. Thank you for being patient with me!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

BlogHer12...Home Already!

It's official...I survived my first blogging conference!

I will be writing a full recap post soon, when I've had a minute to recover from the trip. What I will say right now is that it was an amazing experience, and the weekend flew by in a whirlwind. I'm exhausted, my head is full of information, I met a TON of great people, had a blast hanging out with some of my all-time favorite bloggers, and learned so much.

I also missed my babies and my husband and was practically giddy when I finally got home and saw them at 4:00 this afternoon. I swear that both kids grew by leaps and bounds during the four days that I was away from home.

I'm also so proud of Dan for holding down the fort while I was gone and doing 100% of the parenting and housework. He's amazing.

Right now I need to relax and recuperate a little bit in my own home, under that same roof as my family. But until I get to that recap post, i'll leave you with this image of what happens when 6 bloggers road trip to NYC for a conference and return with a lot of stuff:

There were also a TON of bags surrounding the four of us who were sitting in the two back rows. I was really impressed by the fact that it all fit in Kameron's van! 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

BlogHer12: I'm ready!

We cut our camping trip short yesterday, which means we're spending today (the last day before BlogHer12!) home. Since I assumed we wouldn't be getting home until later tonight, I had everything packed and ready back on Sunday. I love that I don't have to rush around and get last minute stuff done, but at the same time I sort of feel like I should  be doing BlogHer related stuff! I may go stir crazy by the end of today.

I am SO excited for this trip. My business cards are designed, printed, ordered, delivered, and packed. Dresses are bought and jewelry is chosen to go with them. Shoes are picked out. Daytime and travel outfits are ready. Wine is bought. Suitcase is borrowed from my little sister. Schedule has been prepared and inputted into my google calendar. I really think I'm ready! Eeek.

I wanted to link up a picture of my shoes with Candice from The New Modern Momma for her post today, but my shoes are already packed. On the bottom of my suitcase. And there is NO WAY i'm unpacking everything just to take a picture. Instead, you get a picture of the suitcase:

Notice the bottle of wine, prominently featured on top for easy access. Ha!

I will not be posting about the conference while i'm there, since I'm not bringing my computer. But there will definitely be a recap post as soon as I get back! See you all on Monday. :)
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...