(LOWER SUGAR) BANANA BREAD

IMG_5250

I really love the slow weekends that always happen in the winter, with not as many plans made and a willingness to just hang out at home all weekend avoiding the cold and snow. Having an active 3 year old can make that tough to do sometimes, and after feeling like we’d far surpassed any healthy amount of screen time I went searching for something for us to do together.

IMG_5249

I had recently read Anne’s post about making banana bread and because we had the quickly browning bananas and a new Star Wars apron from Grammy and Grandpa to try out I ran with that idea. Except we had the opposite situation as Anne – plenty of bananas to use up instead of only one!

So to Pinterest I went, looking for lower sugar recipes while I was at it because this sugar junky needed to reign it in after a holiday season of forgetting how to tell myself no. I found this recipe – making it held his attention for maybe 15 minutes of mashing bananas and stirring ingredients and then he wouldn’t even try it. But as I always remember my Aunt Kathy telling us when we were kids and wouldn’t try anything, “oh well, more for me!”.

Advertisements

LOVING LATELY

IMG_5369

Well hello there! It’s been awhile, hasn’t it? I feel like I’m finally recovered from the cycle of the hustle of the holiday season and then the quiet and rest that follows, and maybe kind of ready for the fresh start of a new year.

– Pale pink everything. I usually consider it such a spring color, but I can’t get enough right now. When I tried these shoes on last weekend, they were so comfortable I couldn’t help but buy them. I wore them every single day to work last week, just threw on my boots for the commute (I buy cheap ones like these every couple of years) and changed into them once I got to work. Like work slippers! Although now I want these for work slippers too – it’s a good thing I can’t find them in stock just to stop me from owning more pink shoes than any one person should have. But in addition to the shoes, I bought this pink backpack with a Christmas gift card I had (thanks boss!) and I almost bought this sweater too.

– Justin Timberlake’s new song and Taylor Swift’s entire album. I wasn’t a fan of either of these two back in the day, so this is new territory for me. But Justin just gets better with age in my opinion and I am here for it!

Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations podcast. She has such an interesting and impressive list of guests (would we expect any less?) and every one I’ve listed to I’ve loved. I just listened to the episode with Gretchen Rubin this week – we’ve all heard of her, right? The author of The Happiness Project fame? Such a good listen. I’ve already embraced two small changes she’s mentioned (I talk about one here) and I swear it’s making a difference.

– Fuzzy sweaters, like this.  Except I was Christmas shopping for my niece in Justice and found her a similar white cardigan for half that price when I realized that I could fit into their plus sizes. We now match. 🙂

– Age 3. I realize the tides could turn at any moment and I swear I’ve said this at every age along the way, but man do I love right where we are now. It feels like the best of both worlds – getting old enough to hold a really fun conversation with, but still young enough that he still wants to snuggle up with us and never denies us a hug or kiss.

JACOB IS 3! + AN EASY BIRTHDAY TREAT TO SHARE

IMG_4232 IMG_4231

IMG_4230

Somehow we’ve found ourselves with another year of parenting under our belts and earlier this month Jacob turned 3 – I can still hardly believe we’re parents to a 3 year old. Truly, where does the time go? This year my husband and I had a wedding to go to out of state that was on Jacob’s actual birthday. I was so conflicted about going and only being able to spend a few hours with him the morning of his birthday, but in the end it gave my parents the opportunity for some one on one time with him and I’m convinced that his attitude was all “mom and dad who” the second we walked out the door and it ended up being very nice to have a night away to ourselves. We left with enough time for a stop before the wedding and I got to enjoy a beer! In a brew pub! Without chasing after a toddler!

We were back by lunch the next day and spent the rest of the weekend celebrating by spending more time with family, eating cake and opening presents. Before we headed out of town for the weekend though, I decided to put together a birthday treat for Jacob to take into his class at daycare. They have a strict policy about no homemade goodies due to food allergies and I’m thankful for that on two fronts – baking abilities (or lack thereof) on my part and the fact that our child is one of the ones with some food allergies to contend with.

IMG_4240

IMG_4242

Feeling inspired by the simplicity of Anne’s idea for her son’s birthday treat, I decided to make cute little stickers with his picture on them and then grabbed some little party favor bags to fill – think like these, cheap and plenty of colors so I could let him choose his favorite. We threw in some of his current favorite things that right now includes Cheez Its (or essentially Cheez Its, just whatever brand I managed to find in single serving bags), those little dum dum suckers, fruit snacks, and little sheets of stickers. We also had these cute little toys my friend gave us since they were leftover from their trick or treat stash, but those were gone by the time I got around to taking a photo (thanks Rob!). And side note – Party City is definitely a place I plan to return to for stocking stuffers this year. Things like fun bouncy balls and sticker or coloring for only $1!

So easy to put together and pretty much foolproof. Just maybe make sure you buy everything in advance so you don’t find yourself going to the store the morning of to buy the fruit snacks you thought you already had, then having to sit in the backseat and have your kid help you put the bags together last minute. In no way can I say that from experience…. 😉

THINGS & THOUGHTS, THOUGHTS & THINGS

IMG_4133

Peppermint mocha coffee creamer found it’s way into our grocery cart, I bought a boxwood wreath from Trader Joe’s, and new Christmas decor has been bought in the form of this vintage ceramic tree my husband and I both felt nostalgic about and this cute little door mat. The pumpkins head to the curb with the trash and the Christmas tree goes up tomorrow so I think it’s official – it’s time for the holidays!! But before I go into full on Christmas prep mode, a few things for that other fun holiday that’s coming up tomorrow…

This week I’m thankful for: co-workers that rock and can make any rough day/week bearable; finding a necklace from my favorite brand on sale at a shop I just happened to wander into over my lunch hour; and long weekends right on the horizon that include enough time to see both sides of the family.

If you’re responsible for cooking anything at all this weekend and are like me in that what to make is always a last minute decision then get the ingredients for this stuffing recipe, make it, and thank me later. I made it for Friendsgiving last weekend and even my husband kept talking about how good it was. We both loved it enough that I’m making it again for dinner with my family this weekend. This recipe has been a long time favorite in our house too if mac and cheese is on your menu.

Our holidays are always a laid back family affair but while the guys enjoy their craft beer I can enjoy a fancier drink, right?! This one looks good, just with a little adjustment to knock it down to the effort level I’m looking for – maybe some ginger beer instead of homemade simple syrup?

I inadvertently found a pair of elastic waist denim leggings (pictured above, similar to these) over the weekend and am feeling like they’ll be the perfect way to avoid real pants while still looking cute for the holiday weekend. Diet starts Monday? I have mixed feelings about elastic waist pants like this, but they fooled me! I didn’t even notice they didn’t have a zipper and button until I got into the dressing room.

Our version of Black Friday shopping has always been that my husband and I head to the mall by his parents house mid-morning, meet up with his family who has been shopping since some really early morning hour and maybe go to a few stores, then talk them into heading to Buffalo Wild Wings for lunch and a Great Lakes Christmas Ale with brown sugar on the rim. I do plan on doing a little online shopping though, in the form of supporting two local to me businesses – The Jones Market and Geo Supply Company. A little bit of presents for other people + sneaking in a little something for myself too is pretty much guaranteed!

Happy Thanksgiving!

MY FAVORITE WAY TO AVOID WATCHING FOOTBALL

I married a huge sports fan which is something I actually really love about him. Over our years together we’ve spent winters and springs headed north to Cleveland for basketball games, college football game days tailgating down on campus at Ohio State, and Sundays at our favorite bar watching his beloved Browns even though they lose again and again. Once we became parents though, those things have gotten harder and harder to do so now I very willingly sacrifice watching the Browns and use it as a chance to get out of the house for some one on one time with Jacob.

So what does that look like when the weather has turned cold and everything you do needs to be indoors?! We went to the library the previous weekend so I don’t feel bad that my answer was shopping! A little bit for me, a little bit for him, and a little bit for us.

First order of business was to find me some new pants. Time for a refresh and some new options to choose from. Express jeans have been a long time favorite for me now, but only at Discount Fashion Warehouse prices – a local discount store that carries them for typically $14 or $16 a pair. I’ve been loyal to them for years! At that price I didn’t feel too guilty about coming home with four pairs: black denim leggings, black distressed denim leggings, distressed girlfriend jeans, and distressed denim leggings.   I live in their black denim leggings during the work week so I almost never pass a new pair up when I find them. They stretch out or fade over time so it’s always nice to have a fresh pair waiting for me rather than going to search them when I need them because that’s when my luck always seems the worst. The black distressed denim leggings are a duplicate of a pair I just found this fall (see them here). I had been on the hunt for the perfect pair of black distressed jeans and these were it! High waisted and distressed just at the knees, no holes on my thighs were apparently my criteria.

IMG_4089
hat / necklace is my favorite piece from a past collection from The Jones market

While the black denim are both established favorites, these light wash distressed girlfriend jeans add a different option to my closet. They’ll probably get plenty of use in the near future, but something about light wash denim makes me think of warmer weather. After reading Dallas Shaw’s book and thinking of your wardrobe in seasons I just want all the light colored distressed denim, white tees, and turquoise jewelry for summer and these will be perfect. I also found a pair of distressed jean leggings that are different in that they have no zipper and no button but they look so much like real jeans that I didn’t even realize they weren’t until I was in the dressing room pulling them off the hanger. I’m calling it fate that I found them four days before Thanksgiving…bring on the extra turkey and stuffing!

IMG_4090

Then it was on to my favorite thing to shop for – big cozy sweaters. I found this gem and it is so incredibly soft and while I really really wanted it, it was a large (I’m usually a medium) and since it was already an oversized style I thought it just looked too sloppy. I scoured the racks for a medium, well as best as I could while also keeping one eye on my toddler companion who wanted to run up and down the aisles and hide in the middle of the clothing racks, then even a small because they’re so oversized I thought I could size down but no such luck. Is it possible to be heartbroken over a sweater? Because I might be. I did find another one oversized sweater though that came home with me, just not anywhere near as soft.

IMG_4091

And then Jacob found this “farmer hat”, grabbed it and tried it on. Proof that shopping with toddlers can be fun. 🙂

Jacob humored me and hung in there for over an hour so his reward was to get to choose where to go next. He wanted the store with “lights and cars” – so Target was naturally what I came up with. I still love Target, but have gotten to a point where I can usually shrug off the clothing and accessories sections but still can’t shake the shoes. These were on clearance in store for $10 and I actually thought they were pretty cute, but came to my senses and realized I have plenty of sneakers already and do not need another pair – not even for $10.

IMG_4092

We spent the rest of the time picking out a few new Hot Wheels to add to the ever growing collection and then heading to the Christmas section, hoping Christmas lights would work for the “lights” portion of his request. We got distracted by the obnoxiously loud decor but how cute is this kid?! This phone would ring and then when you picked it up it’d go through different characters saying things, like Santa’s reindeer and then Santa himself. He actually thought he was talking on the phone to them and it was so cute to see him listen intently to them saying something and then nodding his head like he was following along with their story. Telling Santa he wants “10 cars!” (although it started at 5 cars) has been a consistent thing lately, and he was sure to tell him that again when he thought he had made it through to Santa’s voicemail. Man do I love this stage – old enough engage with this type of fun, but young enough that when he finds something he insists he wants I can tell him he’ll just have to go home and write a letter to Santa and ask for it, knowing full well he’ll probably forget about it by the time we get out of the store. At least that’s what I was banking on because we have absolutely no need for this in our home…

SEVEN THINGS

IMG_3668

1. Feeling grateful for: lots of family time this weekend, it had been too long!; an extra vacation day that allowed for a lunch date complete with a drink before heading home to an afternoon of watching Stranger Things together; the feeling of walking back into your home after a loooong (but fun!) weekend away from it.

2. My little buddy is officially 3!! Part of the weekend long birthday celebration was talking him to his first basketball game and it didn’t quite go as planned. He loved watching the team warm up, but all the noise during the team’s intro (think fireworks shooting off the scoreboard) scared him and then he was so scared he wouldn’t sit in his seat for the whole game. But he happily wandered around the arena with me and talked me into buying him a basketball in the team shop so I can’t complain. 🙂

3. Halloween feels like it was ages ago so it feels strange to still be talking about it, but this year it was such a good one. Jacob picked out our costumes and I loved scrolling through Facebook the next day and seeing everyone’s pictures. My favorite was the baby scuba diver, exactly like this costume!

4. And maybe it feels like so long ago because the second Halloween was over there was an immediate shift to everything Christmas. As much as I’m looking forward to it, it may take me until Thanksgiving passes to really be ready but my husband is already re-organizing the living room to make space for the Christmas tree, wanting to go shopping for decorations, and talking about it being time for Christmas music soon so their may be no fighting it.

5. A stop at Dick’s Sporting Goods at the request of my husband was a part of the vacation day lunchtime outing I mentioned, and walking it around it made me want pretty much one of every sweatshirt Nike had out there. One of each please! 1/2/3

6. “People get into nonprofit work and they think they’re going to save the world in six months and then think of something else to do. You find out that there are all kinds of blocks to doing that. The yield is very low in terms of souls that you save, so to speak. But the ones that you do its really heartwarming.” – Stephen Garland, The Hardy Center.

I’m such a feelings person that it usually doesn’t make much to make me cry so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when I read this article about a local man who is a program director at a local organization here in Columbus, Ohio. I spent about 6 years working at organizations supported by grant funded programming, spending time working with both ex-offenders and at-risk older youth, and this just hits home so much. The work is completely worth it for the ones whose lives are impacted for the better as a result, but it’s really hard to not get down about the ones who aren’t ready for change.

7. And speaking of work, I love the work I currently do (Academic Advisor) but I can’t say I’m looking forward to going back in after treating myself to a 4 day weekend during one of our busy seasons so to cope I’m convincing my husband to agree to one more episode of the Stranger Things binge before talking myself into re-joining the real world. 🙂

Linking up

CURRENTLY

IMG_3503 (1)

How is it November?! Back at it with another Currently post, linking up with Anne and Julie

Realizing

That I do this weird thing that when I find myself in a specific place I haven’t been in years and years that I can’t help but think to myself how past Jess’s mind would be blown if she saw current Jess’s life. Hang with me, I know this post is starting off weird but this picture for example – I had class in this building spring quarter my sophomore year year of college so 13 and a half years ago (side note: how?!?!) and I would’ve called bullshit if you would’ve walked out of class by my side and told me that some day I’d be hanging out on these steps forcing my 2 year old to take pictures with me. I’m just not forward focused, to a fault, and was never one to have a very specific vision of what I wanted my life to look like. And now hopefully on to less philosophical thoughts…. 🙂

Stirring

The very first thing that comes to mind is cooking with Jacob. The pretty much one and only dinner I’m responsible for each week is making pizza on Friday nights and I’ve recently talked Jacob into helping. He loves to stir the dough once I add the water to the dough mix, use a spoon to spread around the sauce, and sprinkle cheese all over it. I just have to go back and redistribute it a little more evenly, but a small price to pay for getting to cook with my little helper!

Appreciating

After a training a positivity training a couple months ago our department put one of our big dry erase boards to use as a gratitude board, complete with little pieces of paper to write daily gratitudes. While I regularly contribute to the board, I appreciate the practice and have started doing this weekly and just including it when I do my Seven Things post. It’s been a nice little practice to reflect each week on all the things I appreciate!

Investigating

Toddler class treat ideas – Jacob turns 3 this week and I wanted to have him take a treat in to celebrate with his classmates. After seeing Anne’s post I did a little bit of searching and landed on a cute idea that involves her great idea with stickers. Thinking I’ll do a post soon to show you and also brag because it made me feel like a real crafty Mom and I’m feeling pretty proud of myself. 🙂

Following

I’m still having a hard time forcing myself to do it, but really trying hard to follow through with a good skincare routine. My face and I had a rough summer (so many breakouts!) and almost 2 months ago I decided to try a few new products. My skin has been better, with break outs now just typically being about once a month (ahem, throwing some serious side eye at my body there) – no idea if it’s the products or not, but I’m going to keep it going. Trying to keep it simple with this Evan Healy cleanser, this toner when I remember at night which sadly isn’t very often, and then a rotation of about every 4 days using either this exfoliator or this mask. (Cleanser and mask bought at Fresh Thyme, which seems to be a store only located here in the midwest, but looks like Evan Healy has a store locator tool on their site)