Confessions of a Midwest Blogger

1. This isn’t the first time I’ve dressed as a cow on Halloween. It is just toooooooo easy and a comfy (warm) go-to costume.

2. I’m not looking forward to Winter. GASP. I’m just not looking forward to be freezing, even though I love the pretty snow.  I’ll be wearing a snuggie and fleece socks for 5 months. Cheers.

3. I LOVE LOVE LOVE my talented cousin’s new blog and she is such a great blogger. Check her out. Delicious Duds.

4. I’m sort of obsessed with fleece lined tights...please refer to #2. Halle – Do you approve? I wish you could dress me daily.

5. I have ZERO clue what brocade pants are….can someone inform me. Halle?

6. I’ve eaten more pb&j, quesadillas and random sandwiches in the past 5 months than I’ve ever eaten. It hasn’t been the more blog worthy couple of months. Apologies.

7.  My daughter fell asleep during story time and before her last feeding. I’m in for a loooooooong night, but the sleep deprivation is totally worth it.

8. We smoked our own brisket this weekend….disregard #5 for a second….because I completely forgot to take ANY pictures. #bloggerfail

9. Getting back into shape sucks. Ugh, it is so darn hard. It is soooo good for my heart and getting rid of my muffin top. 🙂

10. I love me some dairy. I’m a proud Wisconsin girl and I love my cottage cheese, cheese, yogurt and milk.

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Momversation Monday – Homemade Baby Food

Hello All!

As I mentioned in my “coming back” post, I’m going to try to incorporate posts about my new role as a mom so I thought a mom-themed post on Mondays would be a great balance. I love alliteration.

After my first week back to work, I was thrilled to spend the weekend with Z and EJ. I soaked up every minute of my time with the Z-monster and I was thrilled to be here for her first giggle-fest. It was music to my ears. I swear EJ and I were beaming for hours after the fact and those 5 minutes made my day.

This weekend I was also able to carve out some time to do something that I’ve been looking forward to since we found out that we were expecting, make baby food. I don’t know why but I’ve always been excited (hello dorky lady) to make my own baby food. And I’m here to tell you that it is not only extremely easy, it can also be ridiculously cheap if you grow your own produce or buy it locally while in season.

This was actually my second batch of zucchini and summer squash puree. Our zucchini plant has been working overtime in our garden AND my sister was kind enough to gift us her garden leftovers as well.

I followed the Cooking for Baby cookbook recipe to make both batches and I can’t stress how easy it was.

You will need:
– One big pot
– Veggie Steamer
– Food Processor/Blender
–  2-3 large Zucchini/Summer Squash
– Water
– Ice Cube Trays or Baby food freezer trays (I use Fresh Baby trays but regular old trays will work perfectly)

Step One: Fill your pot with about one inch of water and boil. (I place my veggie steamer into the pot while bring the water to a boil) This took about 3-3 1/2 cups of water.

Step Two: Chop your Zucchini into 1 inch thick rounds

Step Three: Place chopped zucchini into the pot and cover. Let sit for 9-11 minutes. *One of my zucchini’s was mammoth so it took me about 14 minutes. Make sure the squash is soft before transferring it.
*Edited to add: keep the heat on while steaming the veggies. 🙂

Step Four: Transfer steamed squash into food processor and puree/pulse until it reaches a smooth consistency (i.e. no chunks)

Step Five (last one): Transfer puree into ice-cube trays and place in the freezer until frozen (duh!). This takes about 8 hours for me, but I need them pretty firm so I can transfer them into a ziploc bag.

Done.

Truth be told I have zero clue how much this actually yields because Z isn’t eating solids (are we really calling the picture above a solid?) yet. I’ll have to do a follow-up post once she starts actually eating the homemade baby food. Next, on my list will be butternut squash and apples. I’m not sure if we will be able to feed her homemade food exclusively while she is transitioning from puree to actual solids, but I would like to give it my best attempt especially since I enjoy making it.

Now, if anyone has any ideas for what this girl can do with all this basil send them my way. (Not pesto! I’ve used 10 cups of basil already and have enough pesto to last through the rest of the year)

Let me know if you have any ideas for my new posting series, I’m thinking my title might be a tad dork, perhaps we’ll shorten to Mom Monday. Happy Monday ladies and gents!

Don’t Call It A Comeback

or that is exactly what you should call it. I know….I know. It’s been awhile and that is putting it nicely. While I’ve missed my little blog and creative outlet, a few things have changed since my last post.

I went from growing a baby…..

To meeting my amazing, breathtaking, heart stopping daughter and becoming a mother.

Zoe Elizabeth Johnson

Zoe Elizabeth

It is hard to put into words how amazing motherhood feels. I love waking up every morning to my wonderful husband and smiling daughter. (Feel free to gag) The past 12 weeks (only one week of maternity leave left 😦 ) have been some of the best days of my life and I’ll cherish them. I never really believed that motherhood would come so naturally, but it has and I have the world’s best support system when I do have questions.

And guys, I’m in love with this little girl. < —- Just in case anyone was still wondering. 🙂

I know there are many bloggers out there that want to keep their blogs the same after various life changes, but I’m not one of them. I want to expand my blog musings and share more “mommy” related posts as well as what it will be like to attempt a work/life (oh yea and school) balance starting next week.

I’ve also been kicking around new blog ideas….which would change GG completely. One of those ideas would be to create a shared blog with my sister. We would share our unique perspectives on healthy living. We live very different lives, yet we remain very close and one thing we bond over is healthy cooking, exercise and (now) motherhood. Would people be interested in that? Is anyone even out there? Bueller?

Regardless, I’ve missed writing tremendously and I can’t wait to share my randomness thoughts again.

My next big goal is get back into shape and get back down to my pre-pregnancy weight. I’m taking things slow though and trying to keep in mind that it took 9 months to put the weight on. (I’m also debating adding a section to the blog, showing my progress towards that goal. Any interest? Be honest, it won’t hurt my feelings.) Also, I don’t want to do anything drastic that could affect my milk supply. Basically, it is all about balance and I’m trying to navigate my new normal. I hope you stick around .

I’ll leave you with another pic of my Z-monster.

z

She is super proud of herself. 🙂

L

Sanders Family Farm

On my way home, I stopped off to pay the Sanders family a.k.a my sister and her family a visit.

I give my sister ALOT of crap for living in BFN  but all kidding aside they live in the heart of the Wisconsin country and during this time of year you can’t help but be awe-struck by the beauty. It was a gorgeous drive, that gave me plenty of time to enjoy the scenery. Ahhhh nature.

When I arrived at the Sanders Casa, I received the warmest welcome from the three of the Sanders  girls. They attacking me with hugs and kisses and shouted in excitement, “Aunt Annie’s here!!”

I will never grow tired of that welcome.

I will also never get tired of my brother-in-law saying, “Leanne, let’s go shopping.”

Let me explain, my brother-in-law is brilliant (actually, both of them are) and wherever he gets an idea into his head, he somehow always manage to see it through to make it a reality.

He is also unbelievably handy (re-doing bathrooms, kitchens, insulating basements, building decks, you name it) and crafty (homemade paper, candles, ornaments, wine making, etc), needless to say he is a GREAT resource to have in my family.

Ever since I can remember, Bob has mentioned wanting be self-sustained. Prissy Lissy wasn’t always a huge supporter of this dream but I think she is COMPLETELY on-board these days especially considering their amazing organic and self-grown vegetable garden, chickens (+ eggs) AND wine collection! Although not completely self-sustained, they are darn close.

I manage to learn something new every time I hang out with him.  For instance, their “Three Sisters garden” wasn’t coined after their three beautiful daughters, the term and definition date back to early Native Americans  who used to plant corn, squash and…(blanking) beans in the same plot. Now he told me they did so for harvest purposes and while they were away hunting they would come back to dried corn, beans and ready squash. There is a lot more to the story and tradition, but I would never have known without Bob-o.

Three Sisters Garden

I scored the largest zucchini I’ve ever seen and two adorable ears of corn. Then we moved onto their other garden.

I was in heaven! Tomatoes, green and red peppers, banana peppers, jalapeños, onions, potatoes, melon, pumpkins, oh my! I know I am forgetting a few, but I was just so excited!

Next best part of my morning? My niece asking me “Annie, do you wana see my shitens?”

My sister and I died laughing and because we are mature like that, we asked how many chickens she has. “Two shitens, wanna see my shitens?”

Bob (and Alissa) also have amazing access to all sorts of farmers (and Amish baked goods)…perhaps because they are their neighbors. Just last year, they started purchasing an entire cow (for slaughter) from a neighbor.

These cows are treated humanely until slaughter, organic grass-fed and finished and located about 10 miles from their home. They are able to save a boat load on their grocery bill, while helping sustain their community and feeding their family safe and healthy protein.

This year, they also raised their own chickens for meat and purchased a pig from a 12-yr-old boy who is part of the local 4H club. So not only are they reaping the benefits mentioned above, but they are also helping other children  stay active and interested in an extracurricular that is vital to their community.

Next on the tour of the Sanders family farm, Bob took me to his supply closet. It was filled with wine making equipment, finished and corked wine as well as enough canned tomatoes and pasta sauce to last them an entire year. He told me they haven’t purchased canned tomatoes or pasta sauce in over 4 years! I wanted to move in.

Originally, I was bummed that I wouldn’t be able to go to the farmer’s market this weekend however after my visit to the Sander’s farm the only thing I missed out on is mushrooms! Thanks Sanders!!

Check out my loot:

Bob – I hope I did you proud with the pictures and background. Thanks again for all the veggies, wine, eggs and pasta sauce, I can’t wait to cook with your ingredients.

Dinner with the ‘Rents

HOLY no self-control BATMAN! I couldn’t stop shoveling chips and guac into my mouth last night! I literally had to remove myself from the food and hang out inside with my brother-in-law. Dinner was a Mexican theme and t’was delicious. My mother-in-law was a kindergarten teacher for 36 years, so the woman loves her themes and she does them so well.

We dined on Mexican salad and Chicken enchiladas with a side of fruit. I had one chicken enchilada, a cup of fruit and some salad.

It was so tasty and I should have stopped there, but my eyes saw the brownie and butter pecan ice cream being served and there was no turning back. Unfortunately, I didn’t snap a picture.

We went to bed at 9:45 and I didn’t wake up until 6:30. Now, that’s a lot of sleep. Unfortunately, I woke up feeling a tad bloated, mostly likely for the rich dairy I consumed so the only thing that sounded good was a GM.  Twist my arm.

GUESS what?! I remember my gym bag FINALLY. Woot.

I also had time to stop and grab some coffee.

Today is going to be a good day!

I’m currently blogging with extremely heavy arms after my first body pump class in over a year. I thought I would be fine, I run, practice yoga and occasionally do some weight training. Um,  I can barely raise my arms but I love the good pain. I think I found a new Wednesday and Friday lunch date.

I’m SO excited for this evening. Super secret adventures. 🙂

Who motivates you?

It’s an important question to ask yourself, because while personal your journey towards health, happiness, or just surviving is never done alone. Our support system plays a huge role in our ability to attain our goals. I’m the youngest child of a VERY tight knit family, so I’ve always looked up to my siblings but recently I’ve found myself looking to them for motivation and support more than ever.

My sister, Alissa (the oldest) has always been the entertainer in our family, her wit and comedy routines can make me smile even after the worst of days. It makes sense that she became a teacher, now she gets to use her talent to inspire our youth.  She is the mother of three beautiful children all under the age of 6 and last year was able to complete her masters. I am fairly certain she is half bionic.

Around the same time that she finished her master program, she embarked on a journey to get healthy and change her lifestyle.  I was excited for her and wanted nothing more than for my sister to be happy. For years, my sister wouldn’t let my dad (aka the paparazzi) to take pictures of her with her girls. This may sound weird, but I didn’t want my nieces to look back someday and wonder why mommy wasn’t in any of their childhood photos.

Fast forward one year and my sister has lost over 7o lbs,  I haven’t seen her this smiley in ages. She is glowing. She never wavered from her commitment to herself or her goals of getting healthy. Throughout the past year she challenged herself (and her new body) in new ways. Her determination has been a huge motivator for me and her journey reminds me that there is enough time to make everything that is truly important work.

My brother, Andrew is the middle child and only boy and has always shared my parents love and passion for music. He also got ALL the natural athletic talent, which was annoying for me…but I digress. It wasn’t until high school that this interest became his life passion. I had never seen my brother more determined than when he wanted to learn to play the guitar and began taking voice lessons. That determination has paid off, he is an amazing musician and his band, TUGG hasn’t stopped pursuing their dream to make it in the music world. By day, he is a marketing professional, husband and an amazing father but at night he is working his butt off to make his dream a reality.  When you see him on stage, you know without a doubt that is where he is meant to be. He is so confident and more importantly content. His love and passion for music, along with his determination to pursue a career that he truly loves even with all the risks inspires me to follow my dreams.

I love my sibling and I don’t know who or where I would be without them. As a celebration of our healthy achievements (my brother has also lost a considerable amount of weight in the past two years) we decided to run a half marathon all together back in May. It was a great day.

Hands down, crossing the finish line with my brother and sister by my side was one of the best days of my life and the memories are unforgettable.

After writing this post, I realized how many wonderful people are in my life that motivate me to be the best version of myself. I feel very lucky. What or who motivates you?

Happy weekend y’all (damn I wish I was southern sometimes), I can’t wait to actually hang out with EJ and try out some new recipes as all.

– Leanne

Update: I wanted to share some before and after (or up-to-date) pics of my sister.