Recently in the kitchen.


We have tried so many new recipes recently!  Pictured above is some beef stew in our new Dutch oven.  I asked for that bad boy for Christmas and Kevin delivered.  We are so happy with it!

Here are the new recipes we’ve tried in the past few weeks:

Whole30 approved Apple Cider Vinegar pork chops – these were really tasty.  Very tender and easy to prepare.

Whole30 approved Taco and “Rice” Stuffed Acorn Squash – this was really delicious.  I’m always looking for ways to use ground beef, and this was a good one.  I love squash – it was a really hearty meal altogether.  We did cheat and used a packet of taco seasoning rather than making our own.  So it wasn’t Whole30 compliant, but delicious and easy.

Chicken and Sweet Potato BBQ packets – these were really quick and the clean up was a cinch!  Packet meals are always a good idea.

Spicy Tomato and Shrimp Garlic sauce with Spaghetti Squash – this was delicious.  Spaghetti squash is always fun to make too.  I pierce the squash many times and bake it, then cut when it’s soft rather than splitting before baking.  Taking a knife to an uncooked squash would pretty much guarantee that I lose a digit.

Beef Stew in Dutch oven – this stew was such a perfect winter meal.  We will definitely be making it again in February.

Crock Pot Garlic Chicken with Onions – easy and delicious.  I love anything with garlic, of course, and this definitely met that criteria!

Dutch oven Grecian Chicken – whole chicken in a Dutch oven.  It was moist and delicious and really easy to prepare.  I’d definitely make it again.  And maybe take the lid off the Dutch oven and broil it for a few minutes at the end so the skin gets crispy.

I also used a discount code and ordered three Hello Fresh meals last week.  We made:
Oven-Roasted Chicken with Winter Vegetables, Basmati Rice, and Lemon-Thyme Pan Sauce (really delicious – included parsnips with the veggies and I’ve never cooked parsnips before, so that was fun!)
Quick-Marinated Steak with Broiled Balsamic Vegetables (so tasty – I loved the steak marinade, which included orange juice and orange zest)
Pork and Apple Burger with Rosemary Potatoes and Mixed Green Salad (yum!  Pork and apple is a great combination).
The packaging is fantastic and it was fun to try these new recipes.  Kevin did basically ALL of the prep and the cooking for all three meals, and I think he was happy with the recipe instructions.

If you are interested in trying Hello Fresh, feel free to use my discount code, which I think will get you $40 off your first box.  That makes it something like $29 for three meals delivered right to your door – not too shabby!  The code is WJ6YLR.

What have you been cooking up recently? 

20 items, 21 days.

I decided to do a mini-capsule-wardrobe challenge suggested by Paige at Style This Life.  (Found her originally thanks to a real life friend, Britt at The Fisk Files!)  Choose 20 wardrobe items (including shoes but not including workout gear, pajamas, accessories, jewelry, etc.) and wear only those 20 items for 21 days – from February 8 to February 28.  I love the idea of a capsule wardrobe but I am not sure I can commit to one fully.  This temporary challenge seemed like a great opportunity to give it a try!  There’s an expiration date – I work very well with expiration dates.

I told Britt that I was going to try it and she said she would too.  It’s always more fun to do this kind of thing with friends.  (Like the #fmsphotoaday photo a day challenge.  I’m doing that again this year on Instagram and have four friends who are also doing it.  It makes me feel closer to them somehow, that we’re in it together.)

So I chose my 20 items.  The breakdown is as follows:

2 dresses
– Black and white striped
– Navy blue
3 pair of jeans
– Black skinny
– Blue denim skinny
– Purple skinny
3 cardigans
– Patterned
– Navy blue
– Maroon
4  pair of shoes
– Grey boots
– Brown boots
– Black flats
– Brown loafer flats
8 tops
– Grey t-shirt
– Purple Soothe Shirt tank
– Grey, black, & white raglan stripes
– Patterned short sleeve blouse
– Green long sleeve button up
– Dark chambray long sleeve tunic
– Red plaid long sleeve flannel button up
– Blue plaid long sleeve tunic


I’m pretty happy with my selections – we’ll see if they stand the test of time.  (“Time” being 3 weeks, so…maybe that sentence is a little melodramatic.)  All the clothes – minus shoes – fit in one drawer.  If I decide to take on a capsule wardrobe full time, Kevin could stand to gain a LOT of drawer and closet space.  ;-)

Have you ever done a capsule wardrobe?  Have you ever done a wardrobe challenge of any kind?  What style of clothes do you wear most often?

Nursery rhymes. 

There was a little girl,
once upon a time.
Let’s talk about her nursery,
and let’s speak of it in rhyme.

This little girl,
Ava is her name,
has a nursery with a theme,
which was chosen before she came.

The theme is travel and adventure,
and the room has globes and maps.
There is also a dresser with shelves,
and a crib for taking naps.



There’s a rocking chair for rocking,
and a play mat on the floor.
There are books and toys for playing,
so time in her room is never a bore.


The Broncos are her team,
and there’s a banner strung up high.
Quotes on canvas on the wall,
remind the little girl to always try.




Any dirty clothes,
can be placed inside the bin.
Drawings from the Carrot Top Paper Shop,
hang each from their own pin.


Her parents hope the little girl
will be happy in this space,
that she’ll play and dream sweet dreams
with a smile upon her face.

What is your favorite part of your room? 

And now for a few details that I couldn’t force into rhyme….

The FANTASTIC literary heroine drawings were done by Jenny (link to her Etsy shop above).
The large canvas map over the crib is from Target.
The Broncos banner was made by a good friend for Kevin’s diaper party before Ava was born.
The little footstool with Ava’s name spelled out in puzzle letters was a Christmas gift from that same friend – from this Etsy shop.
The rocking chair was given to me by my mom years ago and she reupholstered the cushions to match Ava’s room.
The globe was mine when I was a kid.  It’s very outdated, which I need to be sure to tell Ava when she’s older so she doesn’t go out into the world thinking the USSR still exists.
The sound machine is partially visible on the table by the rocking chair.  We heart sound machines in our house.  This one was a gift and is awesome.  We mainly use it for white noise but it has a few other sounds and some lullaby’s, a nightlight, and even a light projector.  It’s the Munchkin Nursery Projector and Sound System.
The bird canvas is several years old and from Pier 1 Imports.
The quotes on canvas were made by Ava’s mother who is not in the least bit artsy.

Snapshot {January}.


Making: No progress on the scarf I started crocheting last September. It’s hard to crochet with the “help” of one Ruester cat, who considers all strings, shoelaces, drawstrings, thread, yarn, etc. to be Public Enemy #1 and deserving of an immediate attack on sight.

Cooking: Beef and Brussels sprouts for dinner!

Drinking: Water. Always water.

Reading: Rilla of Ingleside – the eighth and final in the Anne series.

Wanting: Lunch. I came home from work and started feeding Ava right away. An oatmeal bar will tide me over until she’s done!

Looking: At my precious little baby as she eats. Gah, I love her. And nursing is hard work but I really, really love it too.

Eating: See above. Ode to the oatmeal bar.

Wishing: For warmer weather. It got frigid overnight!

Enjoying: The balance of time at work and time at home that I’ve got going on.

Loving: My sweet husband always and forever – he sent me off for a massage on Saturday and it was such a treat.

Hoping: The Super Bowl is a good game. And if I get to be picky about it…that the Broncos win and Peyton retires on top.

Needing: A sip of water soon. I wonder if Kiki or Rue would deliver my water bottle to me…

Smelling: That sweet baby scent.

Feeling: So incredibly blessed.

Wearing: Leggings, a short tunic dress, and my casual black knee-high boots. Two things: I think I want a new pair of casual black boots and I’ve decided to only wear dresses and skirts to work in February.

Watching: The tree branches dance. It’s windy out there!

What are you wishing/needing/loving/eating right now? 

Ava // three months old. 

Ava is three months old today! She is such a blessing – we fall more and more in love with her every day.

She is a very good baby. She really only fusses if she’s hungry, needs a diaper change, or is bored or lonely. We all go to bed at around 10:30 and she sleeps through the night, waking at around 6:30. She is so smiley in the mornings (well, after a fresh diaper and a meal). We call it morning smile time and it melts my heart into a soppy puddle of mush every day.

Ava loves this little Fisher Price foot piano play mat that we bought her in January. There is this one little pink zebra toy that hangs from it and she gives that zebra the biggest and sweetest smile when she sees it. It’s like she’s saying, “Hello there, old friend!”

She does not prefer tummy time and can usually only stay calm in it for ten minutes or so. I bet that will get better as her front neck and shoulder strength improves and she can see more around her. She’s holding her head up pretty well. I still baby it a little bit but I’m trying to be better about letting her practice holding it up on her own.

She’ll take a bottle from Kevin but she prefers that they be walking around while she eats. Once she relaxes into it, he can sit and she’ll keep eating. She does fine but definitely prefers to eat straight from the tap. No nipple confusion here!  She usually spits out the pacifier too but it soothes her a bit sometimes.

She has been quite the social butterfly this week. Infant music class will become part of her regular Tuesday routine (she liked it okay at first, but the music was quite loud so she seemed to get a little overwhelmed by the end. Like mother, like daughter.). We also went to mom and baby yoga this week and to the breastfeeding mom’s group that we’ve attended a few times in the past.

At the group, she weighed in at 10 pounds, 1 ounce, so holla – we’ve hit double digits. She has transitioned from size Newborn clothes to 0-3 month and 3 month clothes. She is also in size one diapers now. Perfect size for a Pea, that’s what we tell her.

What else… She smiles and coos and makes other sweet sounds. Starting to discover her voice! She loves chewing on her hands and she’s starting to notice her feet. She is pretty drooly and it’s adorable. She blows a lot of bubbles and seems highly entertained by that skill. She scoots herself around when she’s lying on her back. She can roll to her side. She favors her left side so we’ve been focusing on getting her to look in the other direction too so she doesn’t wind up with a flat spot on her head! She likes being the Ergo and the Boba carriers once she is in them but she definitely prefers that we be walkin’ while baby wearin’.

Her eyes are still blue and her hair is beginning to lighten. Her eyelashes are very fair and kind of strawberry blonde in color so maybe her hair will follow suit? Her most commented on features are her big blue eyes, her long fingers, and her cute little nose. And all her hair.

She has started taking around three naps each day. Sometimes she just naps in Kevin or my arms after eating. I usually try to swaddle her and put her in her crib to nap. She still sleeps in our room overnight but I’m hoping the transition to her crib in her room in a few months will be an easy one if she can nap well there in the meantime.

I start working part time this week so I’ll be in the office for four hour stretches four days a week. Kevin’s mom will stay with Ava two mornings a week, his dad will be with her one afternoon a week, and Kevin will be with her one afternoon a week. I think that will work out very well, but I am sad to see my full-time time with her draw to an end. I’m very grateful that I’ll still be able to be with her for half the work week and to have the flexibility to make up hours at home on nights and weekends when Kevin is with her.

We think she is the sweetest, most wonderful little girl and such fun to be around. So grateful she’s ours!

2016 reading challenge. 


The 2016 Reading Challenge is not nearly as intense as last year’s.  Here are the categories:

A book published this year.

A book you can finish in a day.

A book you’ve been meaning to read.

A book recommended by your local librarian or bookseller.

A book you should have read in school.

A book chosen for you by your spouse, partner, sibling, child, or BFF.

A book published before you were born.

A book that was banned at some point.

A book that you previously abandoned.

A book you own but have never read.

A book that intimidates you.

A book you’ve already read at least once.

I’m excited for the challenge and I think it is very manageable – only 12 books, one of which has to be read in a day.  Anyone want to play along?? 

There is another reading challenge underway in our household.  Ava is participating in a 1000 Books Before Kindergarten program that the library at my old school has organized.  Kevin and I have been reading to her at least a few times a week.  She has no shortage of books – my mom (a librarian) has been keeping a database of all the books in Ava’s personal library.  I think we’re up to nearly 200 books!

What are your reading goals for 2016?

The Whole30 that wasn’t. 


I was intent on starting a Whole30 on the day after my birthday.  Kevin was hesitant, but willing to take the challenge on after he thought about it a bit.  No sugar, no grains, no dairy, no legumes, among other things.  Basically no happiness.

Kevin got sick on my birthday and didn’t feel well the following day.  I cooked a Whole30 approved breakfast for myself and snacked on the carrots and celery that I’d so carefully prepared over the weekend.  Then Kevin’s mom brought over a big pot of chicken, rice, and dumplings soup, and I was like, “Whole30 will be there tomorrow….  I can’t let dumplings go to waste.”  So I was Whole30 compliant for one meal and one snack.

And we started talking about it. What did I hope to accomplish by taking on the Whole30?  I don’t think I have food sensitivities, so that wasn’t it.  Mainly, I guess, I just wanted a reset.  And to show I could do it.  And if I lost a few of the 10 lbs that are lingering around my thighs, hips, and midsection, well, that’s the icing (mmm, icing… Cake.).  But Kevin was very not excited about the 30 day challenge, and I didn’t have a noble or necessary reason for taking it on.  As I thought about it more, I started worrying about whether cutting out dairy and legumes (specifically peanuts) abruptly and then adding them back in after the 30 days while breastfeeding could raise the risk of Ava developing allergies to those things.  That’s probably never happened and not a risk at all, but mama’s gotta worry about something, so why not that?

So we came up with our own plan for January (no sweets, no pasta, no fried stuff, no fast food, no cokes, etc.) and decided to just do our best to remain righteous in our food decisions post-January.  It’s manageable and nearly sustainable as a lifestyle (sometimes a girl needs some pasta).  It was a good decision for us now.  Maybe I’ll do Whole30 in the future, just to prove I can.  But today…I’ll take some cheese, please.

Have you tried the Whole30?  Or any other cleanse or eating challenge?