Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Gift Guide - Affordable Ladies Edition

I wish I knew how/cared enough to put my pictures into a fancy little organized and numbered thingy like some fancy bloggers do. But I don't. Really, I just don't care. Here are some super sweet gifts on the smallish side for the ladies. Feel free to buy me any of these items!

C'est La Vie mug via Urban Outfitters

Owl Cookie Jar via Anthropologie

Fingerless Gloves via Etsy - lots of other colors and styles!
Butterfly pillow via Etsy
Boatneck Tee via GAP
Velvet cosmetic bags via Pottery Barn p.s. The Bear gave me these last year and I LOVE them!


Thermal pj set via Victoria's Secret
I don't think my gift choices are especially exciting but then I'm a stay at home mama on a budget so I guess I feel like this stuff is more, uh, realistic? I can't tell you how many times I hear people say, "oh we're not doing gifts for each other this year", we are totally saying that this time around. But the truth is if we can swing it we'd all love to get something for the person we love the most. Or, you are doing gifts and want to keep is low profile. These are all something I'd get for my sisters, mothers, aunts, or friends and only the cute owl cookie jar exceeds $50.

Anyway, good luck if you are Christmas shopping this year! Happy hunting!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Bye Bye Boobies

As the title might suggest this post is about breastfeeding, specifically about saying goodbye to breastfeeding *crie sob*. Kidding, I've been pretty much ready to wean my Mad for a few months now but she has not been a willing participant in the weaning process. Right now we're at this strange point where she will try to nurse in the night or mornings when she is sleeping on top of me anyway and I quickly wake up and offer her water or a binky (what did I say we got rid of that? Not so much).

My ultimate breastfeeding goal was 2 years, or whenever Mad was ready to be done if it was before that. When I first started nursing her as a newborn it was so difficult. During all those times I shed tears, and for a lot of moments at about 9 months, I never imagined we'd hit two years if it was always going to be so frustrating. Obviously we did, and then some.

Since her birthday The Bear has been asking, politely, about when I might wean her. Although I was soooo ready Mad made it pretty clear to the whole world that she was not about to get on board with weaning just yet. When I cut out her bedtime nursing session she took to falling asleep with her hands shoved down my shirt; not exactly the most gracious of alternatives. The less she breastfed the more attached she got to being skin to skin with me.
My snuggle bug happy to be in my arms
These days I wrangle her to sleep around 7:30 and somewhere between midnight and 2AM she crawls in bed with The Bear and I. It begins with a little hand, soft and cold, placed on my chest. Slowly she fidgets her way down into my shirt and she scratches and abuses my skin as she tries to find a comfy place for her hand. If I move it away and tell her "no hands" (my polite way of saying please don't squeeze mama's boobs!) she cries at me and rolls her whole body sideways trying to get her arms down my shirt while securing a spot on my chest to rest her head. If enough skin isn't exposed to fit her whole head she'll pull my top down until she has a resting spot. Pretty much the rest of the night is her rolling around trying to get comfortable, which she never really does, and kicking Mr. Bear in the head with her freezing cold toes.
What she USED to look like while sleeping with us
The good news is that I am REALLY close to having her totally weaned and she asks only when she is extra sleepy in the early early mornings. The bad news is that we are now stuck trying to figure out the whole sleeping space situation. It's a mess. If my previous paragraph doesn't convey that accurately enough let me assure you that IT IS A MESS!!! I am not rested and my body is sore and exhausted from wrestling my "cuddly" baby all night. The Bear, who was enjoying having her in bed with us for a while, is getting tired of being kicked with ice cold toes and getting no snuggles to show for it. Mad has this idea that she owns our bed and my body, which was kind of the opposite effect I was hoping for after the weaning process was done. Her desire to be close to me is so strong that she can't even watch morning television without being wrapped around me.

So, I'm stuck. I love my girl so so much and I want to find a way to respect her need to be near me (I love it too, really) without feeling beat on after a night of hardly sleeping. Somehow my thought was that age 2 would bring all kinds of physical space and restful nights, boy was I wrong!
Took this picture with my phone as I was editing this post and HAD to add it. I don't usually allow the binky unless she's asleep but she was crabby and I suck at saying no, OBVIOUSLY!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Sargent Pepper - holiday drink recipe

While we were in New Orleans (how many posts will I write that start like that?) we found a number of delicious drinks that were all, inevitably, the most amazing we'd ever had. They are extremely creative with their drink recipes! Maybe it's just because we're from Utah or maybe we're just not drinking at the right places? Either way The Bear came home from that trip inspired to try something new and that is where this drink recipe came from. Technically this is not the drink he's my recipe that was inspired by his recipe that was inspired by New Orleans. But I let him name it (Sargent Pepper) as a nod to his creativity (aka he was extremely put off by my desire to claim this recipe as my own). The truth is I wouldn't be shocked if there is some official drink out there with similar ingredients but I've never seen a recipe so I'm claiming it as my own.

This drink calls for pepper infused vodka which, to my knowledge, you cannot just pick up at any ol' liquor store. It is REALLY simple to make, aside from the wait time. Which is kind of a bummer if you are reading this and want to drink it tonight. At the very least you have to wait 1 week, at the very most 3 weeks, but please hear me when I say it is SOOOO worth it. You can use it with a lot of drinks as a flavoring, a spicy Bloody Mary is my personal second favorite. Here is the recipe we used for the vodka but there are a lot of different recipes out there, perhaps one that doesn't require so much wait time? The instructions say 2-3 weeks but we felt like 1 week would have been enough if you're impatient. Also, use a mini food processor to grind the peppercorns (or a coffee bean grinder if you have one) to save yourself a lot of time.

So, after that lengthy introduction (you had 3 weeks to read it while your vodka infused so what's the big deal?) here we go with the drink that you most definitely need at this point! What you need : Vodka, the regular kind (any brand will do but I highly recommend at least mid shelf as the vodka flavor is a big highlight to your drink), pepper infused vodka, 100% cranberry juice....NOT cran-apple, fresh limes, tonic water.

Drinks taste better if you make them with holiday decor as a backdrop
Fill your glass with ice and then add 2 shots/ounces of regular vodka, a generous splash of tonic water, and fill with cranberry juice leaving room for another ounce of liquid without spilling over.

Squeeze a generous wedge of fresh lime and throw the remaining lime in the glass.

Don't be like Mr. Bear and use bottled lime juice, don't do it!!!
 Add 1/2 ounce/shot glass of the pepper infused vodka....stir, taste, and add more if desired.

Don't let the muddy pepper vodka scare you....
2 oz. vodka
1/2 oz. pepper vodka (I use closer to 1 oz but start with 1/2 and work your way up)
cranberry juice
generous splash of tonic water
1 lime
Add ingredients to glass, stir, drink. Winning!

Please try this and when you do I'm totally fine with you silently thanking me in your mind. If you make some adjustments feel free to totally re-name the drink and post it as your own on your blog. The Bear would be offended but no one plans on telling him. Speaking of my Mr. is his version of the drink. I'm unsure on the quantity of each ingredient so I'll just list them all.
  • Cranberry juice (still no cran-apple please)
  • Tonic water
  • Lime juice from a bottle
  • Sweet and sour mixer
  • Pepper infused vodka
So, you are switching fresh lime for bottled lime juice and adding the sweet and sour mixer.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Admitting the Good

How do you feel about holidays? Me, well, I've always been a little been angsty and ornery about events where whole families are all supposed to gather in one house and then be happy about it. You can see my past sufferings of holidays here, here & here. Although the reasons have changed since finding Mr. Bear and birthing my sweet daughter I still don't especially love the idea of being sequestered in a house with too many people (too many is more than just The Bear The Baby & myself) for several hours but I always end up enjoying myself.

And the thing is? I have SO much to be grateful for. Why, right this very moment I'm feeling thankful for french press coffee & Winnie the Pooh on dvd. Other things I'm so very thankful for?

♥ Mr. Bear. He brings so much good to my life. He is my rock and my best friend and he always seems to know just the right things to say when I'm feeling down. Plus he cleans up the dead mice.
♥ Mad Maddie. Her love and near constant affection (seriously, she can't sleep unless her head is placed right next to mine and her arms are wrapped around me) make me feel like I've done something right in this life.
♥  My parents & Mr. Bear's parents. We are SO grateful to have our families near us and even more grateful that we love and enjoy their company.
♥ A warm comfortable home that I love. Many are lucky to have basic shelter and I never want to take for granted the amazing place I get to call home. If we lost everything and I still had my family it would be enough but the thought that people all over the country have lost their homes this year makes me even more grateful that I have mine right now. 

I could go on. But I won't. I know there was nothing overly deep or introspective but right now I'm just feeling so grateful for this life and all the people that come with it.

My mama with my Mad on her first Thanksgiving

Monday, November 21, 2011


♥ that my house will turn to shit 5 minutes after I clean it.....but I keep (sort of) doing it anyway.
♥that my kitties will want to snuggle for the first time all day when I finally decide I need to leave my comfy chair and get things done.
Begging for scratches just this morning
♥that as soon as laundry is all the way completed it will need to be done again.
♥that my baby will sneak into my bed around 1AM and I won't even notice because that's how it is.
♥that there will always be a dish waiting line to get in the dishwasher.
♥ that Mr. Bear will wake up and proclaim how tired he is even if he slept in later than me.
♥that I will think I'm too fat just one short day after feeling like I might be ok with the way I am.
♥that if I don't have a baby sleeping on me I have a cat sleeping, purrrrrring, and shedding on me and eventually deciding that my legs aren't good enough, a face is a much more comfy and attentive sleeping spot.
My other OTHER bed companion
♥that holidays will come, I will dread them, and then I will be happy and grateful to have them.

One of my two reasons every bah humbug holiday is happy
♥that family will make us laugh.......and cry.

p.s. Mad decided she could count to six today. It was so cute. I can't upload my funny video because I don't know how to move vid's from my phone to the computer. Dash it all to hell!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Wedding News Clip

After our ceremony in New Orleans a local news channel caught up with us for a little chat. Here's a link to the page featuring our video clip. It was soooo uncomfortable, I won't lie, but kind of fun to watch now that it's over with.

Friday, November 18, 2011

11-11-11 An Event

I really really love Mr. Bear. We have a beautiful daughter and have built a wonderful life together. So this happened.......
Terrible self portrait our first night in New Orleans

Jackson Square
Our hotel room before the ceremony. OUR ceremony. I'm stressing big time
Beautiful last minute floral arrangement

Handsome last minute fly in guest/witness, my BIL
I couldn't have imagined a more perfect day for Mr. Bear and I. We've waited a long time to do this so it could be easy to sneak away from our Baby Bear for a while and not feel too guilty. I did anyway. Especially after the trip had an accidental surprise miscalculation of dates and I was a wreck for several hours. But this day, it was absolutely perfect.

Some people like big weddings. I had a beautiful big wedding the first time around, as did Mr. Bear. Unfortunately the ending to that wasn't quite as beautiful. So we opted for a somewhat spontaneous elopement ceremony in New Orleans. About a month before we arranged plane tickets, hotel rooms, minister, photographer, and bought a dress and suit. Ok, the clothing ended up being really last minute but worked out perfectly despite my stress. The afternoon before the ceremony I called up a local floral shop, Nola-Flora, and ordered a small arrangement put together from some of the extra flowers they had from other weddings. The Bear's brother flew in last minute to be there with us, our only guest aside from strangers walking down the street. We met the photographer and minister in Pirates Alley on the afternoon of 11-11-11 and in 5 minutes we were married. The only thing I would have loved is to have my Mad there with us but we couldn't take her along and have a romantic trip alone at the same time. I missed her but this was exactly what we needed.

In a few weeks I'll have pictures from the photographer, these are just uploaded from my phone......I couldn't wait to share.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Gift Guide Introduction

Now the Halloween is over and we are pretending that Christmas is the next big holiday (J/K guys, not at my house, I just put up the 3 Autumn decorations I had in storage and, not to toot my own horn but I really made those things stretch with my new Autumn friendly paint job. Even if The Bear doesn't consider yarn balls to be legit decor....) I've been thinking about gifts for the loves in my life. Obviously the kitties will be getting treats galore, or lumps o' coal if they have any accidents in the house while I'm MIA in New Orleans this month....more on that later.......and anything infused with cat nip, crazy cats, but I really want to make my dollars count for Mad this year and of course the most difficult person to shop for....Mr. AngryBear himself.

I'd been searching for ideas online and then, after Mr. Bear started talking about finding time to go to the gym without missing out on family time or sleep, I suggested we put our couples Christmas money towards some primo exercise equipment instead. We've been wanting to do this for a long time, but it's a big investment just any old time of the year. So, although I insist we still need a Christmas outfit and a stocking, he and I will be getting in shape for each other this year (I have a head start on him, another post for another day, hey oh!). Luckily for me the easiest stuff to buy for men fits in a stocking! Kind of like my "Melissa's Must Have's - Summer Edition" I'm going to throw some posts together throughout this month based on gift giving. Hopefully I'll have at least one for each of the following, men, women, toddlers, babies (just for fun, cause baby stuff is so extra cute), and female family (cause women who aren't me might like something other than what I put in my women section....mostly thinking mother's and younger sister siblings).

I haven't really had time to pull together all of my Men's Items just yet but I wanted to leave you with this little guy.....

{Fishscape Fish Bowl via The Conran Shop}
I love this fish bowl! Fish have that relaxing effect on people who aren't creeped out by them (ME!) and don't underestimate the power of a little fish when it comes to company at a lonely desk. If you don't have children yet this is a great way to introduce responsibility without having a dog to care for when he stops doing it a few weeks after Christmas....

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Happy Halloween!!!

Today we woke up to snow. Thanks November 1st for being the exact opposite of the month of October from the very start. It makes me appreciate how perfect October was, more than I already did.

Now for my Halloween photo dump. It was a perfect night in Utah for Trick or Treating. There were loads of kids and we got rid of almost all of our candy. I wish every year was like this. So. Much. Fun.

Last year as Tinkerbell. OMG she was so teeny tiny!!!

Snow White was actually a blonde

"Mo Canny!!!"

Escape from the mama

Scary daddy, impatient Maddie

A little nervous going to the first house

Tired eyes on my sweet girl

Monday, October 31, 2011

French Press Coffee - an informational post for the best coffee you'll ever make in your own kitchen

Coffee is my survival and I don't believe in settling for just an average cup o' joe in the mornings. This is why, for a while now, I've been wanting to share how I brew the yummiest french press coffee every morning in the comfort of my own kitchen. I'd like to take credit for all of this but I have to say that my dad taught me everything I know about french press, so I guess technically this post is courtesy of him....but I'm pretty much an expert myself by now.

Obviously you need a few things to start the process aside from the regular coffee ingredients. Namely a french press. I use a bodum like the one I linked to because it is easy to clean and pretty durable but you can get them at any kitchen store or even your local Starbucks or other coffee chain in a variety of shapes, sizes, and brands. You also need a teapot to boil water, and a coffee bean grinder. I do not recommend making coffee this way if you don't want to grind your own beans. There is a significant difference in taste from freshly ground to pre-ground.....the latter being inferior of course (let's be honest, I think you should grind your own beans no matter how you make your coffee, it's the coffee snob in me). So just do yourself a favor and invest in a good bean grinder (burr grinder NOT a blade grinder), you'll see mine, a hand me down from my dad that has been going for years and years.

Ok, now that I'm done blathering on about the details of equipment I'll get started. I've seen a few french press tutorials around the internet but they are all pretty similar to what the instructions tell you and for me that results in over brewed coffee.

Get your water boiling while you pull out the rest of your coffee equipment.
Water boiling, bodum french press, stir stick, and coffee grinder
When the water is ready turn off the burner and while you let it cool down from a boil grind the beans. This part is up to interpretation and preference really and can take a little bit of experimenting to get it to your taste. I don't even measure my grinds I just give the dial a full turn and that is the perfect amount. I'd say 2 T. per cup, less if you are using a darker coffee, more if you use light. Dump your beans in the french press and give it a shake to even them out. I didn't take a picture of this so hopefully you get the idea.

Now pour a small amount off water on your grinds, just covering them so that they foam up a bit. Let this sit for 20 seconds or so. This step supposedly releases the fumes so your coffee tastes better. I did it for years without this step and I swear to you it started tasting better than ever after I added it in. So I guess you could not let it foam, but I don't recommend it.
A good foam shot
Once the 20 seconds is up fill the remainder of your press while stirring with the end of a wooden spoon. I use the handle from a broken spatula, as long as it's wood it doesn't matter. Do not use a metal or plastic spoon! Continue to stir the water and grinds for a  full minute.
I once asked my dad if I could skip the full minute of stirring. I still do it so you can guess what the answer was.
 After that minute is up continue to let it brew, untouched, for another 2 minutes. Any longer and it is over brewed so I recommend getting an egg timer because 2 minutes goes a lot faster then you would think. So, that is 3 minutes and 20 seconds of total brewing time.
Isn't it beautiful?
Adjust the lid on the coffee (I think I'm the only person that leaves the lid off while it brews, I think it tastes better this way) and slowly press the handle down until the filter reaches the bottom. This is when you will know if you used too many grinds. The handle should go down with a little resistance. If it is hard to push down or if water squirts out the top you have too many grinds or are using too fine or too coarse of grinds (take that as a lesson and adjust your settings next time, remember which setting works best as every grinder is different).
Coffee is messy, I use a towel unless my kitchen needs to be cleaned anyway...because I'm lazy.
Pour your coffee and add your cream, sugar, honey, whatever you like in coffee....or leave it naked if that's your style. I love the Organic Farms vanilla flavored half and half. It's so much better than your average coffee creamer but I know my dad would say that a good cup of coffee doesn't need anything more than half and half. To each their own I suppose.
I personally feel like my morning coffee mug is a reflection of how I feel that day. It's a very important choice.

Flavored half and half means no extra sugar and that makes me feel like I'm being healthy haha
Here are bulleted instructions for those who do not want to read all my excessive details.

What you need :
  • Wooden stir stick
  • Whole coffee beans
  • French Press coffee maker
  • Burr coffee bean grinder
  • Tea Pot
  • Coffee mug
  • Cream and sugar (optional)
  1. Bring water to a boil
  2. Grind beans while water cools (1 1/2 -2 T. per cup with a coarse grind)
  3. Add grinds to press
  4. Barely cover grinds with water and allow to foam for 20 seconds
  5. Fill remaining press with while stirring with a wooden spoon handle and continue to stir for 1 minute
  6. Leave coffee to brew for 2 additional minutes, untouched
  7. Adjust lid and press handle down into the brewed coffee
  8. Drink coffee!!!
 French press coffee is much stronger than your average cup of coffee so if you are usually a 2 or 3 cup drinker you should think about cutting back. I have one cup in the morning and sometimes 2 around lunch time or I save the extra for the next day and reheat it. Yep, I'm fancy like that.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Happy 2 Years

Dear Madeleine,

Today is your birthday. Two years ago I was holding you in my arms in a hospital bed, looking at you, knowing you, loving you. I thought you were beautiful then but, oh, I had no idea how beautiful you would become. How much my heart would melt when you looked at me with those beautiful blue eyes and called me "mama". How big my smile would be when I watched you play with your daddy, his little twin. How peaceful I would feel when you curled into my arms for a snuggle and I could breathe in the scent of your soft hair.
Mama and Mad a few hours after birth

Life with you is never, ever, boring. You have a million things to say and get so frustrated when I ask you to repeat yourself until I can actually figure what you are talking about. Everything is GO and RUN from the moment you wake up. I treasure the moments you decide you need to come to me for a "mama hug" and I can bundle you up in my arms and squeeze you tightly.
My one year old Mad
Happy Birthday my angel girl. Mama loves you to the moon, and back.

My great big piggy tailed 2 year old Mad
*more Mad heavy posts to come during the week ahead......

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Back, with balance

I realize I've been MIA for that last month. I'm pretty sure I've missed you (this blog and my reader aka my mom) more than you've missed me.
We have a bit of a drama queen on our hands
 The truth; I was getting a little distracted by technology and, added to the fact that there was A LOT going on in our lives that was causing both The Bear and I a lot of heartache, I just felt like I wasn't being the wife and mama that I should be. The overwhelming sadness, anger, & frustration of things combined with the distractions of the internet that I used to avoid doing what I needed/wanted to do, had put me far behind. So, I gave some of it up for a while. For over a day I gave all of it up but when I was out with my sister dropping cars off and she got lost and couldn't call me....well, let's just say my AngryBear wasn't too pleased with me and insisted I take my phone with me going forward. That day without caring about anything else but what was right in front of me? It felt really good.

Now The Bear and I feel a little more calm and content, and I think it's safe to say we are stronger and loving each other more than ever, I feel a little more capable to handle distractions without letting them take over. Time management isn't my best trait and so as long and I somehow manage to keep a healthy balance there is no reason I shouldn't do the things I really enjoying doing for myself. Like being a blob on the computer!
And finding time to pamper my "Queena", as she calls herself
Life is crazy around here, with or without the extra distractions.Our home is full of love and chaos and the end of every day leaves me completely spent. I haven't felt so in need of a regular mama break since Mad was just a little newborn crying, pooping, and throwing up all the time. The last few weeks I've been choosing to work on my own schedule, doing things that make me happy instead of the things that always have to get done every day no matter how many times I do them (ie. dishes, laundry, bed making, picking up toys etc). I've reorganized pantries, worked on some projects, thrown away or donated the excess in our life, and attempted to keep the throw pillows on the couch more tidy than they usually are, although you'd never know it since everyone else seems to be working against me. Priorities amirite? It's safe to say that if you walked into my house at any given moment there would still be a play room full of baskets turned upside down, a sink full of dishes, and a baby still in jammies. But, I'm finding peace (don't I always say that?) with the way things are.
Somehow while eliminating things I also acquired others. This is Callie, she adds to the chaos for sure.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Finding Balance During Changes

For the last week and a half I've been volunteering at the Breastfeeding Cafe (coordinated with World Breastfeeding Week for the first week). That has kept me pretty busy and seeing that I'm giving about 4 hours a day, between driving and volunteer time, it's safe to say that I have a new appreciation for mama's who work out of the home, even part time. Whew! I'm tired and cranky at the end of the day and I have had no desire to do any of my usual chores. Add to that the fact that there are several OTHER reasons I have been a little bit down and lacking the energy and desire to do my duties and you can only imagine what a wreck my life is right now.

Volunteering has been wonderful and I'm so glad that I took the time this year to do it. It's bittersweet because I'm fairly certain that this will be the last year, possibly one of the last months, I'll be breastfeeding my sweet Mad. I know I WANT another baby, deep down anyway, but there is no guarantee that when the time comes we'll decide to go for another or that we'll even be able to have another. We were lucky with Mad and I know so many people struggle with infertility everyday so I don't want to count my eggs before they hatch (eggs before they fertilize??? Overshare??????). So, in my mind I have to imagine the possibility that I am close to being done with breastfeeding forever. Cry. Seriously.

I love breastfeeding. I love the beauty of it, the bond, the closeness, I love the incredible rush I STILL get from being so close to my baby even after almost 2 years. People talk about the oxytocin you produce when you are breastfeeding your newborn but no one ever told me that 2 years later the feel of her little hand on my skin, her breath on my neck while she sleeps, would still give me such a physical reaction. It's the reason I think I'm so completely obsessed with her, why I hate to leave her for long, she's my drug.

All this aside I know that emotionally I am ready to hang up my breastfeeding badge for a while. It might be some time before I convince Mad that she is done as well but I know it will be a peaceful movement eventually and it will be at a time that is right for both of us. I doubt this is the last I will write of it because as of today she is still nursing SEVERAL times a day and loving every minute of it. We aren't even close to me being able to politely tell her no without a mini breakdown (but it is getting better). I guess I'm her drug too.

I can promise that even when we are done with our breastfeeding relationship we will continue on with our attached life. Just now I snuggled her down for a nap (in her big girl bed, which is a story for another day) peacefully, her legs wrapped around me, her head snugged right into my shoulder where she likes to fall asleep, until she was silent and ready, and warm enough, to roll into her own space for the next two hours. I think toddlers are even more clingy (in a good way) at bed time than infants. I'm positive that I rock her more now that I ever did as an infant and I'm ok with that. This is one of the reasons I didn't want to have babies close together. I don't want to sacrifice my snuggle time with her to rock and cuddle a fussy newborn. I want it all dammit!!!

The clock is ticking as I write this and there are a million things (literally) to do before she wakes and we head up for another volunteer shift. So that is that.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Where I Overshare About Meal Planning

I fail at a great many things when it comes to being the perfect stay at home mom/wife and if I think about it too much, as I usually do 10 minutes before climbing into bed, I start to feel overwhelmed and guilty. I know there are women out there who do it all, who have time for it all, who never seem to worry about picking one thing over another but I'm not that woman. If I have a clean kitchen you can bet my master bathroom hasn't been deep cleaned in a great while. If the kitchen is messy? You can DEFINITELY assume my bathroom is even worse condition.  I am always behind on laundry, honestly I want to know how everyone doesn't feel that way, and I dread the day I have to mop the wood floors. Beautiful? Yes, but so exhausting for such a temporary feeling (thank you toddlers!).

However, I really enjoy cooking. I'm not always great at it but I know I've gotten better. Because I don't eat meat and I love fresh food that doesn't come in a box, meal planning can be tiring and expensive. Hence the spoiled veggies sitting around my kitchen. Long complicated meals do not work with a toddler underfoot and days when I hardly have time to shower. Likewise cooking 3 different versions, baby meal, veggie meal, and meat hearty meal, made me hate dinner. Mr. Bear and I would argue about what to eat and when he just stopped wanting to eat dinner with us I was so ANGRY! I felt like I was failing at the one thing that was vital to my family's health. This year it has been my goal to really focus on meals, dinner specifically. If I fail at all other forms of good housekeeping cooking a dinner for everyone is the least I can do right?

Well I've found my meal groove and I can specifically say that a few cookbooks and websites get (almost) all the credit. I know I'm not the only mama/wife/lover of a good meal that struggles with what to cook so I thought I'd share my inspiration. I'll just say, in case you haven't heard this before, that everyone should really consider reducing the amount of meat they eat every week for the health of our bodies and our environment. Most of the recipes I use are easily adjusted to be vegetarian or are vegetarian to begin with. Food can still be satisfying without meat! Also, I'm not a main course with tons of sides type of gal. That means too many dirty dishes and keeping the kitchen while I cook is another part of my goal.

Great Food Fast is a cookbook I inherited when I met Mr. Bear. I'm sure it was purchased, and then left, by his ex and I'm totally ok with that. The whole situation was a win win for me! "From the kitchens of Martha Stewart Living" is always a good sign. We use this book more than any other and will likely continue to do so for a long time. When The Bear cooks he almost always picks this book up. Fast and easy is good for encouraging men to cook.

How to Cook Everything Vegetarian was a gift from The Bear. It's huge and seems overwhelming but the longer I cook the more useful it becomes. I'll probably never become a totally bake from scratch chef but it's so helpful for the things that I do want to make fresh in my kitchen. It's definitely a staple book for a vegetarian or veg-friendly kitchen. I use a lot of the information as a base for different meals which encourages me to uses my own brain more often in the kitchen. Still working on that.
{photo source : A Couple Cooks}
Ree Drummond is The Pionner Woman and if you don't have her site bookmarked you need to do it, like yesterday (or several years ago!). She has books out too but I love the personal feeling her blog offers. She funny and real and loves the beauty of food which I really appreciate. There are some more complicated recipes but it's easy to pick out the simple/budget friendly meals. The first recipe I ever made from her site was the Marlboro Man Sandwich. I made it recently for a family dinner and did a veggie version for myself. Her recipe plus veggies is great for meat eaters too!
{Photo: © Courtesy of The Pioneer Woman Cooks}
Last, for today anyway, is Pinterest. It might not make sense right away but most other users on Pinterest are searching for the same thing you are, simple, cheap, good in the belly, and unlike some of the crazy expensive dream shoe pins I see so often, meals get pinned and actually MADE. I've found some recipes from my friends (if it has the words ranch chicken in it I likely won't be re-pinning) that have all been great and I also will think of an idea that sounds it....and find a recipe that is exactly what I was hoping for. All it takes is a little imagination and some foodie friends. P.S. Follow me!

I'm far from an expert in the kitchen but I'm not ashamed to admit that I've improved greatly by cooking often and learning how to find recipes that work for my budget, skill level, and food requirements. There are few things that give me more satisfaction than creating a meal for my family, call me crazy but it means a lot to me.

Any favorite recipes, cook books or cooking sites you'd like to share with this aspiring chef?


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