Self-Care

Why is it that as mothers, or simply as women, do many of us feel guilty about self-care? I use this term generally, as it can mean everything from getting a massage, to attending a spin class, or simply taking time to read a book or have a glass of wine. As a mother of three, I know 100% that my self-care takes a backseat to everything else. And when I can set aside a few hours (or even minutes), the mom guilt kicks in…..strong….

What’s interesting is that I recently read an article that talked about parent self-care not being an indulgence, but a necessity. It’s so true. In order for us to function properly as care givers to our loved ones, we must first take care of ourselves. If only it was that easy.

With that said, I’d like to “challenge” every mom, dad, grandmother, grandfather, whoever you are, to take 5 minutes out of today to think of how you can better your self-care. Then, I “challenge” you again…to do it. Let me know how you make out. I’ll chronicle my journey too.

xo Robin

 

 

The Dinner Dash

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Today I came back from my lunch break smelling of garlic, olive oil, and sizzling chicken cutlets. Why? Because I live 7 minutes from my job and thought it would be a good idea to make tonight’s dinner on my break. Logistically, it was marvelous. While the chicken cutlets were cooking, I even got to put in a load of laundry. It also allows me more time to spend with my children tonight, rather than spending an hour preparing a home cooked meal. Win / Win, right?

For me, today: yes.

But, most people don’t have the same luxury. Hell, some days I don’t either. I typically take my 60 minutes to run errands (and occasionally shove some food down my throat while driving.) This is why I decided to share some of my favorite easy meals with you. Here’s a few reliable one’s that will hopefully make weeknight cooking for your family a little simpler.

  1. Chicken Enchiladas : this first recipe from Skinny Taste is delicious. I love how the chef, Gina, makes her dishes both healthy and delectable. 
  2. Beef Stirfry : Love this fellow mom blogger’s site & you can’t get much simpler than this. Frozen veggies & meat with an easy sauce. I sometimes swap out the beef for chicken too. 
  3. Slow Cooker Sweet Potato and Chickpea Chili **note: this is a vegetarian recipe. to make it non-vegetarian, swap out the chickpeas for a pound of ground turkey or beef.** This one may sound like a lot of prep, but I try to do that the night before, then throw everything in the crockpot in the morning before leaving the house.
  4. Lasagna Grilled Cheese: yes I know, I know, this is a carb-loaded recipe. But it’s delicious, easy, and kid friendly. Live a little and enjoy it 🙂
  5. Chicken Pesto Kebabs : this is a favorite of mine, as the kids get to help me in the kitchen and feel involved. That way we are getting in family time and being productive. Even my hubby likes these!
  6. Crockpot Pulled Pork : I swear I make mine a little different every time. This particular recipe is one from the Pioneer Woman, because if someone knows how to season a piece of meat, it’s Ree Drummond lol. 
  7. Cheesy Chicken Casserole : you can’t go wrong with a casserole. Especially one with chicken & cheese in it. What’s great is that you can add veggies, swap out noodles for rice, and make any dietary changes you want. The above recipe does say it takes “40 minutes” so I typically prep this a little in advance and just pop it in the oven when I get home. 
  8. Cookie Cutter French Toast with Strawberries: This one is probably the most basic, but kids love breakfast for dinner (I do too!) Take your favorite French Toast Recipe, but use cookie cutters to make fun shapes prior to soaking the bread. Once the french toast is cooked, serve with your favorite fruit (I typically use strawberries) and a local, good maple syrup (my go-to’s are Crown Maple or Soukup Farms). 
  9. Honey Garlic Salmon : this is more adult-friendly than kid-friendly in my home, but it’s very tasty. I usually serve it over a bed of instant quinoa.
  10. Lemon Pepper Flounder : this is a super simple, tasty seafood recipe, which usually appeals to kids too. If you prefer grilled fish you can make it on your BBQ as well. I typically serve my flounder with quinoa and asparagus. (The kids have it with french fries and either carrots or apple slices)  

Wishing everyone a great rest of the week…..oh and good news…..I just realized it’s WINE WEDNESDAY! Enjoy!

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xo Robin

Italian Chicken Soup

The past week or so I’ve been dealing with a slight head cold that just won’t go away. Today was a chilly, windy day, and I decided what better to cook than chicken soup. Normally I go old school with making the broth from scratch, using buttery egg noodles, and cooking a whole chicken, then ripping off the excess meat for a hearty soup. Not today though. Today I opted for something a little out of the ordinary.

All this really means is I wanted to use up the spices, veggies, and meat I was running low on so I can restock next time I go grocery shopping. The end result: Italian Chicken Soup. Here’s the recipe 🙂

ITALIAN CHICKEN SOUP

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sliced carrot
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1 cup diced zucchini
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups dry orzo (or any other small pasta you have. Ditalini or pastina works great too)
  • 1 14 oz can of crushed tomatoes with basil and oregano (a more favorable subsitue would be a 14 oz can of fire roasted petite diced tomatoes. The reason I used crushed is because that’s what was in my pantry :/ )
  • 4 cups organic baby spinach
  • 1 parmesan cheese rind (this is optional)
  • 8 cups organic low-sodium chicken or veggie stock (I used chicken)
  • 2 organic boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

Directions:

  1. Heat the 2 tablespoons olive oil and butter in a soup pot over high heat. Once the butter begins to foam, add the diced onion and cook for 2-3 minutes. Then add zucchini, carrots, & celery, and cook for 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook one additional minute.
  2. While the veggies are cooking, put the 2 chicken breasts in a smaller pot and cover completely with water. Bring the water to a boil (this poaches the meat) and simmer for about 20-30 minutes. (The amount of time to cook these through really depends on the thickness. I used 2 huge thick breasts, but smaller ones will take less time. Just take them out and cut in half or pierce with a fork to check doneness) Once finished cooking, let the chicken cool slightly and then shred.
  3. Place the shredded chicken, can of crushed tomatoes, thyme, oregano, parsley, basil, rosemary, & parmesan rind into the soup pot. Cook for 5 minutes to combine the flavors.
  4. Add 8 cups of stock and orzo. Cook for about another  15 minutes or until orzo appears done.
  5. Once the orzo has softened, add the 4 cups spinach. Using a spoon push down the leaves so they are incorporated into the soup. Taste and add salt & pepper as necessary.
  6. Remove cheese rind from pot before serving. Make sure to save some grated cheese and a crusty roll to have alongside the soup.

 

Enjoy!

 

xo Robin

The Road Back To You

Doesn’t the title of this post sound like a U2 song? As an avid fan, I think it does {lol}.

However, the true nature of this post is to follow-up on my last one entitled “Mommy Burnout”. What I’d like to talk about now is how do you get back to “yourself” when you don’t even know how you got off track?

I like to think of it as when you’re exploring in the woods. Especially as a kid, I would always follow a trail, then something would catch my eye- usually something beautiful or exotic. Before I knew it, here I was surrounded by a gorgeous forest, yet scared because I was lost. In those minutes it took me to get back to the trail, I was terrified, unsure, and quite frankly in tunnel vision. But once I found a glimpse of the path, I again was at ease.

Truly, this is the journey ahead. That time between hitting your rock bottom and getting back on track to live your fullest life is the hardest. Trust me, I know. Whether it be with substance abuse, physical ailments, mental ailments…..they all affect us the same…..as we are looking, or for some, discovering for the first time, what our path is.

One way I have discovered honesty and calm is through art. No, I have no talent in this subject whatsoever. I even go to those sip & paint events, which are guided classes, and it still looks like a 3-year-old did my painting. But, there’s something about mixing the colors and the brush strokes on canvas which help to harness positive energy. Or at least for me. Regardless of the end result, the painting itself creates a good environment, allowing me to think clearly.

Music is another one of the ways to touch the soul. As a mom, usually the only music I get to hear is whatever is playing on the Disney Channel. But, what I found works for me is to play my Pandora on my phone while taking a shower. It helps to block out the noise from the kids, and its private time where I can take a deep breath and feel the music. Lately I’ve been on an Amy Winehouse kick, but I also listen to everything from Blink 182 to Frank Sinatra to 80’s Pop. Taking a moment to listen to the words of the song, or even just the beat truly helps me when I’m in a funk.

Physical Activity should honestly be at the top of this “list” of ways to get back to yourself. This is an area I’ve been seriously lacking on lately. I can sit here and blame the winter, blame my IBS issues, blame my kids….but they’re simply excuses. I haven’t made my physical well-being a priority in the last 3 months. But that’s the beauty about exercise- there’s never a bad day to start. So today, I’ve sent my younger two to daycare for a couple of hours and carved out time to do some yoga & meditation. Now, some of you may be thinking that yoga isn’t a workout. Trust me it can be. For me, I’m starting with yoga because I want to stretch, do sit ups, push ups, and asanas before attempting to meditate. I also don’t feel ready to go brave the cold today and do a full on hike by myself in the snow-covered trails. That I’ll leave for another day- hopefully Sunday or Monday when my husband can join me. Being out in nature together is one of our favorite things, and I think it will allow us some much-needed bonding time. Anyway, as I was saying, just moving your body will help you mentally and physically. This I can attest to. You can take baby steps, or a huge leap, if you like. Please just make it for you.

Writing and Journaling is another big one for me. This blog in itself has been a saving grace. There are many times I begin to write a post, only to alter it or delete it completely because it may not be “share worthy”. Those thoughts and ideas reside mainly in my personal journal, but nevertheless, help get out the things that are on my mind.

Whatever creative or physical outlet is feels right to you is where you should go if you’re like me….trying to climb back up to where you feel you should be in life. Another quite interesting way to think of it is that this low or difficult point may just be part of your journey. There’s no “normal” in this world. Who’s to say that what you’re feeling or experiencing isn’t ok? Only you can be the judge of that.

Well, it appears that I’ve gone off on a philosophical tangent. Sorry about that. I hope that no matter what you’re dealing with, you find peace and serenity. Remember that after the storm comes a rainbow. Corny: yes. But I sure can’t wait to see my rainbow.

 

xo Robin

 

Mommy Burnout

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For this post I’ve decided to share with you something that I’ve experienced, and quite honestly, continue to experience. It’s called mommy burnout.

The transition from a full time working mom to a full time stay at home mom was at first an easy one. I was busy with an infant, and loved all the extra time I got to spend with my older children. Housework was done in a timely manner, I got to cook homemade meals, and didn’t have to worry about getting up and running to my office. I’d say the first 12 months were great. I was class mom for two of my girls, on the PTA board, hanging out with friends when our kids were home, and even fit in a series or two on Netflix. Then came last summer. The baby began walking…..well she actually went directly to running…..and baby proofing came along with that. We no longer were content just sitting on a blanket playing with blocks lol. Then came the diagnosis of my middle daughter’s speech delay. She started seeing a speech pathologist twice per week, and each session was a struggle just to get her there and back. Her tantrums didn’t end there- she’d freak out at the slightest little thing if it wasn’t done her way. My eldest daughter has always been a voice of reason- so sweet, calm, collected……andddd then she turned 7. I don’t know what it was, but it’s like the second her birthday came, so did a huge attitude adjustment. She continues to be my bright little sweetheart, but constantly has something to say about everything- especially when it involves her middle sister. In the past 6 months my two eldest transitioned from constantly playing together to constantly fighting. Oh and did I mention that all my kids hate sleeping? I’m serious. The baby (who’s 19 months now) barely naps, my 4 year old hasn’t napped in years, and of course my 7 year old doesn’t. Even at night, despite having everyone ready for bed at 7:30, they usually are up till around 9pm and then wake up at 6:30 the following morning.

I know it sounds a lot like I’m just running off a list of complaints, but I’m simply trying to paint the picture of what it was like. Add in my hubby working 12-14 hour days and mommy eliminating regular time with friends & exercise. When you take all that stuff, multiply it by life’s everyday stressors (ie: money, health issues, family drama) you end up with something called mommy burnout. Or in my case, an extremely bad case of anxiety and panic. I should have seen it coming. I was too calm and collected for too long. Then one day I woke up and just didn’t feel like myself. I felt terrified. Of everything- and nothing all at once. The physical and mental disturbance is unlike anything I have ever experienced in my life. All I can say is that I should have taken more time to focus on myself, but I didn’t. I thought I could be super mom, super wife, super friend, super daughter, and super everything to everyone 24 /7. When I fell apart, very few people knew- only my husband and a couple close friends. And when I say “fell apart” I mean I was plagued with constant anxiety, panic attacks, and stomach problems. I wasn’t stuck in a padded room if that’s what you’re thinking, but I can tell you that I all of a sudden was afraid to go to the grocery store or bring my child to the park- for the fear of having a bad episode of anxiety or a panic attack.

Although it was extremely tough for me, I went to see a therapist and psychiatrist. Honestly, it took me 2 months of suffering every day, losing 10 lbs, feeling shitty about myself and my abilities before I bit the bullet and went. I was afraid of what others would think about me, and honestly, what I would think of myself. I didn’t want people to see me as some nut job who can’t function without meds, and I didn’t want to have to explain to a stranger why I all of a sudden was terrified of everything, although in my mind I knew it was irrational.

But, I went. I saw both professionals. I even switched my dr after seeing one guy that I didn’t really like. And you know what they both said: everything I’m experiencing is normal. I mean sure, I clearly have an anxiety disorder, that much is clear, but no I’m not crazy, I’m not a bad mom or wife or friend. They explained to me that I was having a very physical, real reaction to stress. I felt a little better hearing that, but still wasn’t 100% on the “med train”. After seeing both drs, it took me another month before I brought myself to try medication. I also began practicing yoga regularly and trying to get out in nature as much as possible. I won’t lie- the road from there has been rough and rocky- just when I would begin to feel great I would have a stressful event and then take 2 steps back. In fact, I’m there right now. The past month I felt amazing, I was really almost back to myself. Then I woke up last Saturday in panic mode. I’ve been in an anxious state for the past 6 days. Saw my therapist today and she did point out all of the big events and stressors that have evolved over the recent weeks. I also haven’t been to yoga in 2 months or gotten outside due to the blizzards.

All excuses aside, I’ll admit that every day is a struggle. Some are just easier than others. Through the support of my amazing family, friends, drs, and faith- I’m trying my best to bounce back from my mommy burnout. My advice to anyone else who may find themself in this situation, or one similar, is to make yourself a priority. It’s so much easier said than done, trust me, I know. But, when mommy isn’t feeling well, the whole house won’t be either. You, like me, are a strong, beautiful woman with goals, passions, and dreams. You don’t have to lose sight of those dreams just because you became a mom- your plan on reaching them may just have to be rerouted.

I want to end this post by letting anyone out there reading this that if you need someone to listen, I’m always here. Even if we don’t know each other- you don’t have to struggle alone. Stress, Mom Guilt, Lack of sleep, Anxiety, Depression…..they are all unfortunately very prevalent among today’s moms. Burnout isn’t fun and if you feel like you’re on the edge or just need someone to vent to- go ahead and do it. Or take the time to drop the kids off at the babysitter and get your hair done. Go to the spa every once in a while. Or, simply try your best to take 5 minutes to yourself to read a book. Whatever makes your heart sing and your mind clear.

Best Wishes and Happy International Women’s Day

 

xo Robin

 

Snow Day Delights

Ever heard the saying, “winter meals make summer bodies?”. Yeah me too. And it’s stupid lol. Now if it were “spring meals help shape summer bodies”, I’d be a little bit more on board. Spring allows us to get outside, get active again, and (hopefully) eat lighter, healthier meals. Now, it’s supposed to feel spring like here in the Hudson Valley, but instead my three girls and I are hunkered down inside while a howling Nor’easter drops another foot of snow on us.

After playing dolls, arts & crafts, and watching movies, we decided to cook some delicious, and healthy recipes together. Up first, Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies. Note: none of my children are required to have gluten free diets, but I had almond flour left over from a previous recipe and needed to use it up. The results yielded a delicious and more nutritious result than expected.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups almond flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt (I used Newport Sea Salt)
  • 1 whole organic egg
  • 2 organic egg whites
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup organic grade A maple syrup (I used Nature’s Promise)
  • 1 cup organic semisweet dark chocolate chips (I used Nature’s Promise)
  • 1/2 cup organic walnut pieces

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the almond flour, baking soda, and sea salt. Set aside.
  3. Using a stand mixer (or by hand if you’re stronger & steadier than I lol) beat the maple syrup and coconut oil on medium for about 5 minutes. (The mixture will give you creamy light brown result)
  4. Next, add the vanilla extract, followed by the whole egg, and 2 egg whites, mixing slightly to incorporate each egg.

Up next was a more substantial meal- a lemon chicken & orzo casserole. (In case you’re wondering: yes we do dessert first in this house on special days).

As soon as the word casserole is used, my kids tend to run in the other direction. So instead, I told the girls it was a magical pasta and chicken just like the Trolls love to eat. I also had to put on the Trolls movie soundtrack while we prepared it lol. Hey, whatever works, right?

Creamy Lemon Chicken & Orzo Casserole

Ingredients:

  • One 9″ x 13″ baking dish
  • 2 cups orzo (NOT COOKED)
  • 3 cups low sodium organic chicken stock
  • 3 tbsp melted butter (unsalted preferred)
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 3 lemons: 2 of them zested and juiced, 1 lemon just sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 4 organic, boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tsp dried coriander
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried dill
  • Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease your baking dish with non stick cooking spray.
  2. Let’s work on the orzo first. (This will be the base layer of your casserole). Begin by whisking together the chicken stock, melted butter, lemon zest & juice from the 2 lemons, cornstarch, oregano, dill, and 1 tsp of the salt. Once combined, mix in the orzo and fully coat.
  3. Next we will work with the chicken. Rinse and pat dry the 4 chicken breasts. Sprinkle both sides with salt, pepper, and coriander.
  4. Assemble the casserole by placing the orzo mixture into the bottom of the baking dish. Then, take the chicken and lay them on top of the mixture, but at an angle so they are “nestled” among the orzo. Top the chicken with the lemon slices
  5. Bake casserole for about 45 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving, then top with parsley. Enjoy!

***Sorry for not posting a picture- my hubby dug right into this dish when he got home from work. It was literally demolished in a matter of minutes once the kids got their hands on it too. My favorite part of this casserole is that the orzo becomes very creamy- almost like a risotto. The chicken was very tender and flavorful as well. Definitely a recipe I’ll make again. ***

I had plans to try out another recipe or two , but once my husband got home, we honestly needed a glass of wine. With full bellies from the casserole, and giddy from enjoying a local dry riesling, we decided to tackle the 14″ of snow that had accumulated outside. The snow is still falling, and you can most likely expect another recipe post tomorrow.

Hope everyone is staying dry, safe, and happy.

xo Robin

 

Is it Really Possible to do a “Digital Detox”?

A “digital detox” is an idea I’ve been reading a lot about lately. And although it sounds good in theory, I’m not 100% sure if I have the willpower to go through with it. Or perhaps I simply am lazy and haven’t tried. Seems to honestly be a little bit of both.

The other day I received an article in my email detailing all the positive ways a digital detox can help you. I agree it should help us socialize better, spend more time “in the moment” with families and friends, and of course it will allow us to gain back all that wasted time scrolling on your phone to do more productive things…..even if “productive” for you means reading a tangible book or simply taking a hot shower.

Personally, I’ve definitely noticed a difference in our culture as we as a society have dove head first into the digital age. I find it mind-boggling how my middle daughter needs to be practically pushed outside to play on a warm sunny day because she’d rather watch YouTube on her tablet. Once I get my children outside, they’ll play for hours, which in my mind is what childhood is all about. As long as they’re in a supervised, safe environment, I let them explore, I let them get dirty, and most of all I let them laugh and be themselves.

More and more I see my children (and my peer’s children) all wanting to spend more time glued to an electronic device rather than playing with each other. To me this isn’t real childhood. It’s a shell of one. Something to pass the time and not gain any true knowledge or sense of perspective in the world. My biggest fear is that one day these kids will wake up and they’ll be 18 years old, and not sure how to act on their first interview. They (hopefully) won’t be able to text their college admissions board or first boss…..and I want them to know how to properly interact. Or what if god forbid our worst fears come true and there’s a zombie apocalypse? (Yeah I watched too much of the Walking Dead lol). I know I wouldn’t last 5 minutes out there …….but I certainly believe our future generation wouldn’t last 30 seconds. Without Amazon to overnight them a taser or someone tweeting on how to build a fire…..they’d never make it.

In real talk though, I’ve gotta admit all the ways in which we are so connected to each other should bring more gratitude and positivity. Instead, I find that it breeds anxiety, jealousy, and unrealistic expectations. I mean how many times have you seen something on Pinterest, whether it be a party decor, recipe, or craft, and tried so hard to recreate it, only to fail miserably? I know I have. Or what about seeing constant stories on Instagram of someone you went to high school with going out to chic expensive restaurants wearing their Louboutins every night, while you’re busting your ass at a 9-5 job just to make ends meet and put food on your kid’s table? This is not what social media does to everyone, but I have seen some of these scenarios first hand. Also, I don’t want you reading this to think I hate technology. {I mean, I write a blog, so clearly I don’t lol}. All I’m getting across is I truly feel that we need to take a step back from the hold all these digital devices have on us.

I miss Sunday afternoon family dinners where people would talk, laugh, and tell stories about things new & old. I miss seeing kids playing outside until dark when they had to be yelled at to come inside. I miss making a tangible card or meal when someone is tired or sick or has a tragedy, rather than taking the easy way out and sending an email or amazon gift card (although that is at times totally appropriate). Overall, I miss the meaningful interactions us as humans used to have with each other.

Everything in moderation is the key.  Technology should be there when we need it to support us. Not to destroy us. Friends, families, co-workers, neighbors, etc…. we all need faith, love, and kindness to survive. Not to mention pressing the “reset” button once in a while. That’s in my mind what a digital detox is really about. Resetting ourselves to be mindful, social beings. Perhaps we can start by reducing our screen time by just a little bit each day.

Baby steps.

Stay tuned to see if I can follow through with my own digital detox

xo Robin