Friday, February 27, 2015

Cooking at Home with Blue Apron

Have you guys heard of Blue Apron? I've seen in on a few friends' blogs, and recently one of my girlfriends tried the service and fell in love with it. I'd been intrigued for awhile, but wasn't exactly sure how it would work with the with our family, our preferences, and our lifestyle. So when Blue Apron contacted me about a partnership I think my email response time was about 10 seconds. I was so excited! I had high expectations, and when that big box showed up on our front porch a week later, it was like Christmas.

We opened the box to find two meals worth of ingredients, individually packaged and ready to go. The boys and I had been out and about all day and the box had been sitting there for a few hours, but everything inside was still perfectly cold thanks to the refrigerated box. It looked VERY easy and I think one of the neatest parts about the whole process is getting to try meals and items you might not normally make. I for one had never tried "Chicken Schnitzel," or had ever even considered making it...but there we were, whipping up a batch of it right there in our kitchen.

The directions were very clear and it was fun having everything all ready to go. Hank could do one thing while I did another, and it was convenient having the sheet to look off of (with photos!) when we needed guidance, rather than our phone when we are grabbing a recipe off a website. We cook often in our home, but sometimes we get stuck in a rut and this is PERFECT for keeping things fresh.

A few things to note:

We tried two meals (this plus a spaghetti and meatball dish- both delicious), and each meal fed our whole family of four, even though it said it was for two people. See the pricing info here, but divided by people in our family, on the 2-person, 3-meal a week's just $9.99 per person, per meal. We are only able to really cook three good meals during the work week anyway due to schedules, so moving forward that plan is a great option for us. The family plan is a also a great one for those with older kids, or bigger appetites, although I have to say that the portion sizes were generous and satisfying.

You can cancel the service, skip a week, and tailor the service to fit your lifestyle. This is a major plus for me, as some weeks were are traveling and wouldn't be home to make the food!

I enjoy that the ingredients are locally sourced when possible and perfectly portioned. And what I love most of all is that as hard as we try, when we make new recipes or big dinners I often feel like I'm wasting leftover ingredients. This takes care of that problem, and also allows you to have the freshest food on hand. Two thumbs up!

Blue Apron has a HUGE database of recipes. Like I mentioned above we also got to try the spaghetti and meatballs, and next on my must-make list are the Seared Tofu & Soba Noodles with Japanese Sweet Potatoes & Pea Tips (yes, they have a vegetarian option!) or the Tomato-Baked Cod with Bulgur, Lemon & Almond Tabbouleh. Yum!

Overall, I highly recommend Blue Apron. I know sponsored posts can be like "okay, I know you're suggesting this because you're paid to do so..." but I promise you, you will LOVE this. It's not just convenient but it's FUN and I sincerely hope you all give it a whirl.

To help make it easier, Blue Apron is offering the first 50 Sometimes Sweet readers two meals off their order, free! Redeem the offer here (then click the orange box up top) and be sure to keep me posted on how much you love it. And if you sign up, let me know below!

Happy cooking...and better yet...eating. Below are some photos from our first experience with Blue Apron. Enjoy. xoxo

*this post is in partnership with Blue Apron, and as always, all opinions are my own.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Walking the Line

Every time someone asks, I find myself saying "THIS is the best age, seriously." Then I follow it up with a laugh and a "...but I say that at every age." It's true though. 18 months is the best, just as 19 months will be the best, just as 4 years and 3 months is the best. They're all good in their own way, and the older my children get the less sad I am about time passing, about them growing bigger and older. That surprises me, but just the other night I told Hank that although I wholeheartedly hope there are more babies in our future, if we were to just be done here, even though my heart would ache over the fact that we wouldn't ever have another tiny newborn of our own, I feel like we've done it right- at least so far.

So then I started thinking about what I consider to be "doing it right." I thought about it a lot. I certainly don't think we have it all figured out. In fact just the other night after a particularly rough day with Henry, Hank and I spent over an hour asking ourselves "WHAT ARE WE DOING WRONG?" and subsequently questioning all of our parenting techniques.

I often think about this line that I walk as a mother. I want so badly to keep Henry's spirit wild and free, but at the same time he needs to understand that there are rules in place for a reason. I want to raise an independent, thinking child who doesn't feel like he needs to be anything but himself, but I also want to raise a polite, respectful, contributing member of society who understands that everything he does has an impact on his environment. So I walk the line. I try to be fair and consistent, firm and kind, loving and open. It's hard, this parenting thing. The past few months have been the most challenging for me, and I realize that at times I can go to yelling much too quickly, so I've been working on that...because lord knows that doesn't help or solve anything. And me yelling? It only teaches my children that that is an appropriate way to react to things, which it obviously isn't.

It's a constant learning process, every single day. Sometimes I feel like I have it all figured out but then I'm blindsided by the simplest things. I'm grateful though, to have these little people who are constantly pushing me to be better, to do better. I look forward to many years down the road and seeing who I am then, after being these boys' mama throughout their lives. I can only imagine.

But doing it right? I think if you stop and question things, and wonder how you can do something differently; when you want to improve constantly and are always asking yourself "what can I do better?" that's the way to go.

So the sun comes up, the sun goes down. We do our best and go to sleep wanting to do better. The days feel so slow while we're in them but I always seem to look back in amazement that an entire month has gone by in a flash. The boys keep growing- Charlie is impossibly a year and a half old and Henry is almost four and half. I think to myself often- this can't be right. They can't already be this old. But it's true, and as the days slide on by I try to reach out and grab bits of them, capture them in photos and video and words. I walk the line, I work hard at being the best mother and partner I can be, I work hard at my job and at being a better friend, daughter, sister. I offer up little prayers to the universe, please please please let the goodness keep coming. And I'm thankful. I'm so thankful sometimes that I cry thinking about all of the things we've built, thankful for the LOVE in our world. So I keep on calling every age and stage the best, because they are. Every one of them. And I look to tomorrow and next week and next month, and hope that each one continues to be the best. I hope that I always see our now as being the most beautiful. Because really, what more could I want?

Friday, February 13, 2015

Your Voice, A Reminder

When you sit down to write, it's a powerful thing. You are the only you, you know. That's amazing in both the most simple and most complicated ways possible. When you think about the fact that there is no one else who does what you do, who lives this life of yours, who feels all of the things you do- it will become glaringly obvious that anything you put on that paper or onto that screen will be worthwhile. You are the only you who woke up this morning with these thoughts in your head, who drove to work listening to this or to that, who stopped at stoplights wondering about what you wonder. You went through your day like no one else, you spent your time only as you can. These hours and minutes are your story- the little pieces that make up the big ones of your beautiful, beautiful life.

So many times that cursor is blinking and you feel blank, I know. I feel that too. I often convince myself that there is nothing else to really say. It's all been said before; it's all been said better. What's the points and why even bothers float up and into your orbit and sit there, trapped under some hazy cloud that makes everything seem futile. Yeah, I'm right there with you.

But hey.

Remember that your story is your story. To have the guts to take your life and write it out, to dissect the seemingly simple things in your day and splay them out there and examine them piece by piece, the whys and hows getting clearer the more you look, that is brave. No one has said what you have to say, because no one has lived this life of yours. No one has seen things the way you see them. So when you feel like your brain is empty or you feel like you don't have anything to contribute, remember that yes, yes you do.

Share from that authentic part of you, the stuff inside that might take a few layers to peel back. Get in there. Start simple and once you start you'll see more often than not, the simple stuff is the most beautiful. And just write. And write. And write. Tell your story like no one else can. Because (really and truly) no one can.


Thursday, February 12, 2015

5 Reads for February

Happy February! We're about two weeks in, but I wanted to share some of the books I've either read or had my eye on this month. My "to-read" list is growing longer, but I am going to Chicago on a work trip next week so I'm looking forward to working my way through a few reads while in transit and during down time. So here are my picks- happy reading!

1. The Girl on the Train

So I usually try to stay away from crime/mystery novels because my active imagination does me no favors when I'm home alone at night. I get spooked pretty easily, and if I read scary things everything starts to freak me out! However, the synopsis of this book really drew me up, and I actually had to stop reading it so I didn't get any spoilers. This book looks to be a good one though, with 1,500 almost all positive reviews! So let's just agree to not read anymore about the book and just start it, shall we? I sent the sample to my Kindle last week and I think I'm most excited to begin this one.

2. Torch

I just love Cheryl Strayed so picking up another book by her is a no-brainer. I really, really enjoy her writing style and I'm looking forward to starting this one! Here's a little blurb from Amazon, and like always I don't want to read too much about it before I begin. "In her debut novel, Torch, bestselling author Cheryl Strayed weaves a searing and luminous tale of a family's grief after unexpected loss. 'Work hard. Do good. Be incredible!' is the advice Teresa Rae Wood shares with the listeners of her local radio show, Modern Pioneers, and the advice she strives to live by every day."

3. The Handmaid's Tale

This is one of my VERY favorite books in the world. I've probably read it 10x, and I thought it would be a good one to recommend (for maybe the 5th time). If you like dystopian fiction (I cringe to compare it to The Hunger Games, but it's in a similar vein) you will love this book. In one line, it's about government as we know it falling apart and becoming something entirely different. The book is scary in its "what ifs" and possibilities, and I think it's a must-read for anyone.

4. Still Alice

Have you seen this movie? I saw the preview and was immediately interested. Then I found out it was a novel first and as usual, I wanted to read it before I saw it. This book looks great. Very heavy and sad (Alzheimer's scares me so much), but also very full of emotional and beauty as it tells the story of a cognitive psychology professor at Harvard who has early onset Alzheimer's. I'm thinking tissues will be necessary for this one.

5. The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom

I reread parts of this book the other night and it was such a nice refresher. I'm a total sucker for "self-help" type books like this (or maybe a better term is "work on yourself" books!), but this one is much more than that. Over the years I've found it to be very helpful, and revisiting this book from time to time is both motivating and inspiring. It includes four agreements, and goes into detail about each one: Be Impeccable With Your Words, Don't Take Anything Personally, Don't Make Assumptions, and Always Do Your Best. Definitely worth a read if you're into this type of reading.

Enjoy! And before you go, what else is on your to-read or have-read list this month?

Sunday, February 8, 2015

To Be a Mom

It's having your heart go walking outside of your body, you know. I remember hearing that when I first got pregnant- a woman told me that for the rest of my life, it would be like my heart would be separate from me, walking around out there away from me, once my baby was born. And she was right. It really does feel like that. Most of all it's hard to let go; it's weird to have equal parts of myself wanting him to grow and thrive and be who he will be, while there's the other side that wants him a baby forever, tucked into my neck here, snuggled under my arm there.

Time is strange. Being a human is strange. I often think about how I grew these two boys right inside my body. I housed them, I kept them safe, my heart beat into theirs at they grew and grew, hands and hearts and feet and brains. I remember those little kicks in my belly, the faintest flutters turning to jerky movements as time went by. My body changing, my belly growing bigger and bigger, my hands running over my stomach at night, wondering and whispering "who are you, who will you be" as I drifted off to sleep.

Then one day it's done. Inside to outside in a flash and just like that all of those quiet days and nights spent wondering what this life would be like, well, you're living it. All of those hopes and dreams for the future- the future has become now. And as different as everything is, your responsibility is the same- protect and house and nourish your child, but this time with your baby on the outside.

So I stand there and watch as my first baby walks into school, running and jumping down the walkway, smiles and laughs and a high five for a friend. I think about that woman who told me about how it would be, about how it would feel to have my heart walking around out there, outside of my body. And there he is, the tiny thing I carried everywhere in my arms, the baby who was crawling then walking then running. And I think about being a parent- what it's like to accept the fact that your heart will ache every moment of your life, for the rest of your life. About what it feels like to let go a little more every day- to learn what it means to truly love someone unconditionally.

I watch the back of my baby's head turn the corner, feeling that familiar twinge in my chest. My mind runs along as I walk back to my car, thinking about what his day might be like, hoping he feels accepted and loved and happy while we are apart. I smile and nod at the mama in the car next to me, and she smiles back, because we both know we're in this together- we both know that we've got our hearts out there, walking around on their own. This is what being a mama is. Love so strong that sometimes it feels like pain, with a heart so full of love it feels like you couldn't possibly love a bit more. Letting go and loving more. Always, always more.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Valentine's Day with Pear Tree Greetings

Some of my fondest memories are from Valentine's Day as a kid at school. I can still remember going to the drug store with my Mom and picking out a box of Valentines for my classmates, poring over every one before finally making my choice. My Little Pony, Rainbow the '80s these were the best! Then there were the mailboxes we'd make, set atop our little desks in our 1st, 2nd, 3rd grade classrooms, waiting to be filled with those tiny white envelopes from our friends. At home my Mom would make special Valentines projects with us too- a heart for Dad, a card for my Grandma. Doilies and ribbon, glue sticks and scissors, and folding the red construction paper just so, to make a perfect heart. Memories!

This year Henry did a mix of all three things- we've been doing some fun crafts at home and at Pre-K, he picked out some store bought special items for his buddies, and then we also went online to Pear Tree Greetings so he could choose Valentines for school- they have the cutest Valentine's Day cards for kids! He took a long time to choose- and in the end it came down to these and a rocket ship lollipop holder, but Robots ended up ultimately winning. We've been spending some time every night working on writing his classmates' names, and it's been really fun to have this little project to work on together.

Thank you to Pear Tree Greetings for providing the adorable cards for Henry. And friends, use code BEMINE15 for 15% off + free shipping. Happy (almost) Valentine's Day, everyone! xoxo

*this post was brought to you by Pear Tree Greetings

Sunday, February 1, 2015

My (Small) February Goals

I love new weeks but better yet is a new week that starts a new month. I've been thinking a lot about the idea of little goals, and I thought it would be fun to jot down some things I'm working on this month. I hope you'll share some of your goals too!

So, here are my (small) February goals:

1. Sleep more. This is something I really need to work on. Sometimes I won't go to sleep until almost midnight, and no matter what time I go to bed, my internal alarm usually goes off around 5am. Five hours of sleep just does NOT cut it for me, and I can see evidence of it in my skin, mood, everything. In an ideal world I'm in bed by 9pm and asleep by 9:30pm, then headed to the gym early feeling good and refreshed, not sluggish and hating life. Everything feels better with more sleep! So my number one small goal is to get to bed early as much as possible.

2. Step up my running. Brenda, Alana, and I are heading to Vancouver this summer to run Lululemon's SeaWheeze Half Marathon (13.1 miles). I run pretty regularly but I need to step it up a bit so I'm completely ready for it. I'm not going to follow a training schedule as of yet, but I do want to make sure I get in a couple good long runs in every single week this far out, building up to 14 miles. I typically run about 4-6 miles when I go, so my main focus is on making them progressively longer.

3. Date nights. Our beloved babysitter moved away last year, so our regular date nights haven't been happening as frequently. Hank and I are really good at making sure the other has enough friend and "me time," switching off on the weekends, but we both recently realized that we hadn't gone on an honest-to-goodness date in way too long. Dates at home (our norm) are so fun too, but this month I'm aiming to get us out on the town, on two official dates. I can't wait.'s your turn! What are you aiming for this month?

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