Thursday, June 30, 2016

Avocado Tomato and Feta Dip #CookOutWeek

Welcome to day 4 of #CookOutWeek! 

 Click here to checkout my welcome post and read all about #CookOutWeek and our amazing giveaway!  I started off #CookOutWeek with a delicious recipe for Strawberry Margarita Popsicles  to start and Veracha Feta Burger yesterday. Today I am sharing another recipe perfect for patio sitting with friends. 

I love having dips for an appetizer or a mid-afternoon snack. I made Avocado Tomato and Feta Dip for a cookout with friends and we enjoyed it on a warm evening on their patio while the kids played. I wanted to share my recipe for this dip because it is soooooo easy and absolutely delicious. The recipe just requires a bit of chopping and a quick stir and you have an amazing dip to enjoy- perfect to bring last minute to a party. I love the combination of feta and avocado together because the avocado is nice and rich but the cheese and tomatoes bring a fresh flavor to the dip. I serve my dip with tortilla chips, but potato chips, crackers or veggies would all be yummy alternatives to tortilla chips. 

I hope everyone is enjoying the all of these delicious recipes for #CookOutWeek! It has been such a blast participating so far and I am loving all the different recipes to add to my summer menus! 

Tonight we are heading out to a local cookout! Our State Senator is having a brat fry fundraiser and it is hard for anyone in this household to turn down a brat on a summer evening! 

Check back the tomorrow for the final #CookOutWeek recipes (this week has flown by!), don't forget to enter the Rafflecopter in the link above and checkout the link-up below!


3 ripe avocados, sliced and cubed
1 1/3 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
4 oz crumbled feta
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
salt and pepper, to taste


Combine avocado, tomatoes, feta and lemon juice in a medium bowl. Stir till all ingredients are well mixed. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with tortilla chips.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Veracha Feta Burger with Bacon #CookOutWeek

Welcome to Day 3 of #CookOutWeek!

 Click here to checkout my welcome post and read all about #cookoutweek and our amazing giveaway!  I started off #CookOutWeek with a delicious recipe for Strawberry Margarita Popsicles and today I am sharing a fantastic burger recipe using one of our sponsored items from True Made Foods

True Made Foods sent me three of their delicious products: Ketchup, BBQ Sauce and Veracha Sauce. True Made Foods was founded by veterans and focuses on using fresh vegetables to sweeten their products and cuts the sugar in half, but maintaining great flavor. True Made Foods strives to make American food more nutritious by uses real whole foods and creating delicious products. I was especially excited to try their Veracha Sauce. The Veracha Sauce is a hot sauce uses a base of tomato, spinach, carrots and butternut squash. They bring the heat with a healthy dose of jalapeno and cayenne pepper to create an amazing and flavorful sauce. 

I wanted to create a unique burger that hit all my favorite flavors combos. I have had a chicken sandwich locally that mixes feta with a buffalo wing style hot sauce for a topping and I thought this would be a fantastic topper for my burger. I loved the flavor of the Veracha with the feta because the earthy and spicy vegetable flavors were perfect next to the briny salty cheese. I also opted to top my burger with a a few slices of bacon because I couldn't resist. The verdict on the burger in my house was an A+! My husband and I loved the spicy feta Veracha spread- it was a little hot for Kellen so I modified his with a a thin layer on the top of his burger. I love that Kellen is willing to experiment with foods that have a little heat- he usually likes them! 

Thank you True Made Foods for sharing your product with us! I love the concept of this company and their products are delicious! 

Check back the rest of the week for more amazing #CookOutWeek recipes, don't forget to enter the Rafflecopter in the link above and checkout the link-up below!


1 1/2 lb lean ground beef
Salt and Pepper
6 oz crumbled feta
1/2 cup Veracha Hot Sauce
12 slices of bacon, cooked crisp
6 hamburger buns


In a medium bowl, mix together Veracha and feta and set aside. 

Pat the burgers together and season with salt and pepper. 

Heat grill to medium high and grill 3-4 minutes per side or until thermometer reads 160 degrees F at the thickest part of the burger. After you flip the burgers the first time scoop desired amount of Veracha feta spread on the burger. I divided my spread between 6 burgers. 

Remove from grill and place on a bun. Top with bacon and enjoy!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Strawberry Margarita Popsicles #CookOutWeek

Welcome to Day 2 of #CookOutWeek! 

I have a few delicious recipes coming up featuring recipes from our generous sponsors! Click here to checkout my welcome post and read all about #cookoutweek and our amazing giveaway!  I wanted to kick off this summer themed recipe challenge to share a recipe that combines two of my favorite things to enjoy at a cookout- margaritas and popsicles. 

It is strawberry season in Wisconsin and what better way to enjoy a margarita than to add fresh delicious strawberries? For this recipe I use a homemade margarita base, but limeade would also work perfectly. Add a few muddled strawberries and a pinch of salt to each pop and you have a perfect hot weather treat. I actually like to a bit of silver tequila in a glass the place my popsicle right in the glass.... perfect way to adapt this non-alcoholic treat for adults.

I bought a popsicle mold last summer and this is my first time using it! For some reason I thought it was going to be difficult to use....lucky for me I found pour liquid into a mold. Ha. I opted to mash my fresh berries because I like have pieces of frozen fruit, but if you prefer a smoother texture you can puree your fruit.  These frozen treats are a perfect way to start summer and if you serve them with a little tequila your guests be thrilled. I had a little additional salt on the side to sprinkle as well and it was perfect to essentially create a margarita on a stick! My popsicle mold makes 6 popsicles, but you can adjust your recipe depending on how many you make and the size of the molds.

I can't wait to enjoy one of these babies with a bit of tequila on my patio with my husband after the kiddos are down for the night! Check back the rest of the week for more amazing #CookOutWeek recipes, don't forget to enter the Rafflecopter and checkout the link-up below!


1 1/2 cups margarita mix or limeade 
6 strawberries, mashed (enough for just over a Tablespoon per pop)
sprinkle of salt
(optional tequila and additional salt for sprinkling)


Evenly divide the mashed strawberries between the popsicle molds. Sprinkle a small pinch of salt over strawberries. Top with margarita mix to the popsicle molds fill line. Freeze according to product recommendations (mine was 8 hours). Once frozen enjoy on it's own or in a small glass of tequila with a bit of salt for sprinkling. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway 

Monday, June 27, 2016

Welcome to #CookOutWeek 2016!

Summer is finally here and this year, I am ringing it in with a special celebration! 

I have joined forces with 50 fellow bloggers to bring you #CookoutWeek!

#CookOutWeek is an entire week filled with yummy summer recipes perfect for your next cookout and an amazing giveaway courtesy of some awesome sponsors! One lucky winner will receive a prize pack worth over $300 (Rafflecopter entry is below):
Bigs thanks go to all of our wonderful sponsors for making  #CookoutWeek possible!  

Here's the full list of fabulous participating bloggers: 

Thank you again to our fantastic sponsors and to The PinterTest Kitchen  for beings our fearless organizers!

Check out some of the delicious recipes shared today!
An InLinkz Link-up

Don't forget to enter the giveaway: a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Weekly Meal Plan 6/27 - 7/3

Good evening friends! 

Check back tomorrow on details for a new giveaway/ recipe roundup for #cookoutweek! 

This weekend was so nice and relaxing. I was off work on Friday and had a great time spending time with my boys. Ron went golfing in the evening and we finished off the night by ordering subs, playing outside and relaxing with a movie.  Look at these sweet faces:

On Saturday, Kellen and I headed up to Door County with my friends Emily and Kayla for a trip to The Farm and beach time. Rowan stayed home with Ron for a little 1:1 with his Dad. Ron was in school when Kellen was born and had a lot more time with him and I think he misses being able to spend large portions of his day with the kids as much as their mother does! The Farm was fantastic, as usual, and the kids loved feeding and playing with the animals. My mom also met us to join the fun! I was my normal non-dorky self and practically face-planted after tripping over a small hole.... thankfully everyone was there to sure I was ok... I literally laid on the ground face down laughing before I could get back on my feet. I aim to entertain. After The Farm we headed to Culver's for lunch and then to the beach! The water was cool, but not freezing and the sand was warm.... it was a perfect afternoon with friends. 

We finished off the evening with pizza before the kids went to bed. Ron and I finally got to watch the movie Everest...I can't remember the last time we actually watched a movie and weren't sleeping 10 minutes in! 

We were awoken with a start early Sunday morning when the warning sirens and weather alerts were going off with tornado warnings! We woke the boys and headed to the basement. Thankfully, everything was fine. Rowan nursed back to sleep in about 10 minutes, but Kellen was afraid of the storm that was brewing away outside his window so he crawled into bed to snuggle his mom. Ron stayed awake the remainder of the evening and was  little too nervous to go to bed. Needless to say- we had some tired people today (besides Rowan and the cats). We relaxed most of the day and finished up grocery shopping for the week. Target had a sale on pools and sporting goods today and I scored a good sized pool (my criteria was that I wanted to sit in it with Kellen!) and a slip and slide for Kellen for under $30! I also grabbed a new umbrella for our patio set- I can't wait to get outside this week! Tonight we grilled burgers and I worked on a few recipes for #CookOutWeek starting tomorrow. 

This week we have a few fun things going on! I am taking a PureBarre class tomorrow and am looking forward to that. On Wednesday I am having a backyard day with the boys and heading to Bay Beach with co-workers in the evening and Thursday we are attending a brat fry fundraiser for our State Senator. After this week is over we will be in is the summer moving so fast!? 

Here is what is on tap this week:

Monday: Grilled Italian Marinated Pork Chops, Parmesan Tomato Basil Orzo, and Grilled Asparagus
Tuesday: Dan Dan Noodles and Egg Rolls
Wednesday: Subs at Bay Beach
Thursday: Brat Fry Fundraiser
Friday: Thai Red Curry Risotto with Grilled Shrimp
Saturday: Door County
Sunday: Door County

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Weekend Chats: Confessions of a Former Exclusive Pumper

Exclusive pumping is something near and dear to my heart since I did it for a year with my older son, Kellen. 

What does it mean to exclusively pump? When a mother exclusively pumps she is pumping breast milk with an electric or manual pump to feed her baby by bottle and not her breast. The next question many may naturally wonder is, why?  There are many reasons and really they are only important to the mother because none are more important another. Some mothers struggle to get their baby to feed at breast due to latch or other anatomical issues with baby or mom, some are not able to put baby to breast due to medical conditions (commonly in the NICU with a premie or unable to handle a feeding), and some prefer pumping and bottle feeding. These are just a few scenarios, but are the more common reasons a mother/family might opt to pump over feed from the breast. In this post, I will refer to a baby put to breast as nipple fed and a baby whose mother is pumping as bottle fed s times. I will never classify the nipple fed baby as breastfed and infer that the other is not. In my opinion, the mother is breastfeeding in both of these scenarios, but the delivery system is different. I find it insulting to ever infer that a pumping mother is not breastfeeding her child. 

As I previously stated, I pumped milk for Kellen for a year. It was a choice I made after his NICU stay and feeling particularity helpless. It is amazing to me how different the NICU in the short period of time between Kellen and Rowan. In 2013, I shared a note on my pumping journey with Kellen after he turned 1 on Facebook and will share it here with you (it is a little long):

I want to start off by say that I am going to talk about my preferences and beliefs in this story.  I in no way wish to offend anyone who decided to take a different path with their family.   You are not any less or more of a parent than I am because we made different choices.   Also, I am going to talk about breasts, babies, nipples and breast milk- consider yourself warned.  I wanted to share this because it has been such a big part of my life and I haven’t really put it into writing till now.

These are my opinions, my experiences, my beliefs, my values and my family’s journey.

Before my boy was born I knew that I would breast feed. It is the best for baby. Hands down.  You can make arguments either way, but when the chips are down it gives baby the best start in life…. After I read the back of a formula can it makes me cringe to see Kellen get anything but breast milk.  I think breast feeding is beautiful and milk is made just for my baby by me.

My son Kellen was born on 12/11/12 at Bellin Hospital at 42 weeks 2 days. My husband Ron and my Doula & friend Emily were by my side.  The birth went great, but the following day we were told Kellen had pneumonia and was admitted to the NICU for treatment.  

I was discharged on 12/13/12 and Ron and I went immediately to pick up my Madela PISA breast pump (free- thank you insurance!). 

Ron and I really liked Bellin and felt very comfortable with the nurses and the staff.  We had gotten to know them and I was able to pump and nurse him within the NICU.  I was also asked if he could be given some formula since I was not always there to feed.  I consented to this but was troubled because I wanted Kellen to primarily get breast milk. Problems came when Kellen (the little stinker) kept pulling out his IV.  Ron and I received a call from Dr. Rock (Kellen’s NICU Doctor) at 12:30 am on 12/13/12 informing us that Kellen was being moved to St. Vincent Hospital. 

At this time Ron was already back at work and I made the trip to St. Vincent Hospital early the next morning.  Kellen was alone in a room and looked so small. The first nurse we met will stay with me forever.  She looked kind, but her demeanor changed when I asked to nurse my baby. She acted as if I was an imposition.  I asked for a more comfortable chair like I had seen in other NICU rooms. She told me they did not have a chair and gestured for me to use a tall computer chair.  Kellen was 10 lb 4 oz when he was born….needless to say I say on a boppy for a little while after he was born and a tall computer chair was not going to work for me.   I was feeling defeated already.  I thought to myself, “you are strong you need to make this work…no failing!”.   The final straw came when I tried to find the bathroom.  Apparently, there is not one close to the NICU… was on the other side of the hall way…  I remember walking down the hallway crying because I felt so alone (and at the start of a post birth UTI…yay).  When I came back my mom was had come to be with me (she was there every day- thank goodness).   I tried to nurse Kellen again and he would not latch. I asked to speak with the LC on staff and the nurse told me that he could just be given formula and implied that I was starving him.  I consented and allowed him to be given formula.  Shortly after the LC came and gave me a nipple shield.  She showed me how to use it, but did not offer very much help to me with our latch issues.  It was also at that time that the nurse mentioned that Kellen may have to stay for 10 days…..Excuse me?  Dr. Rock was not in the NICU and my mom and I went to grab something to eat.  At lunch I made a list of questions and concerns.  After the nurse's comment practically accusing me of starving my baby because I wanted to breast feed I was done with their shit.  Fuck you, I wanted to say, and bring my baby home.  However, being a lawyer’s daughter I decided to use a different approach.  When returning to the NICU I was pleased to see Dr. Rock.  I discussed with him what the nurse had said about the formula and Kellen’s stay.  I was diplomatic, but I wasn’t about to take anyone’s crap anymore.  It was my baby and my show to run.

After our discussion, a comfortable chair was placed in Kellen’s room and I did not see that nurse the rest of Kellen’s stay.

The remainder of the NICU stay was a combination of running to the hospital, sleeping and pumping.  I remember being at my family Christmas, in my parents room, pumping.  It was the beginning of a very long journey.  My family was kind enough to come to the hospital to visit Kellen since he was not able to attend the festivities.

Kellen was discharged on 12/16/12 at 6 pm.  Ron and I were banging down the door to get him out and never look back.  As we left I said goodbye to the other families whose babies were not coming home soon. I still think about them and hope this holiday season everyone is home, healthy and happy.  We even got home in time for the Packer Game.

Over the next few weeks we struggled with latching. I tried the nipple shield and went back to the LC twice.  I was pumping the entire time and bottle feeding as well.

There came a time when Kellen was about a month old that I decided that I was going to pump.  My mom said to me, “what is your goal? If it is breast milk you are getting him breast milk”.  She was right.  At that was when I made the decision to pump exclusively for Kellen.  I figured that since I had to back to work anyways it would work well for Ron and I and help with feeding responsibilities.  I thought hard about goals for how long I wanted to pump.  I decided that my first goal was 6 months and my long term would be a year.  At the time I remember thinking…it’s just a year…little did I know.

In the beginning, I supplemented with a few formula bottles here and there.  Kellen was a big baby and my supply had to catch up with his demand.  It was not until later that I learned about donor milk as an option…. 

Anyone who says breastfeeding and/or pumping are easy is lying or has no other responsibilities besides their child.  I could have bought stock in bread pads in the early months because my body was all over the place. I truly learned what the word letdown meant and it was all over my tank top when I would wake up in the morning.  In addition to the leaking I needed to pump every three hours not only to build my supply but to make sure my boobs did not explode (I know they wouldn’t have, but it seemed like it).   When you first start pumping, like breast feeding, it hurts! I quickly learned that lanolin was my best friend. My world was rather swampy…..  From 1 month -3 months I was pumping for 20 minutes 7 times a day.  To put into practical terms, the time I was pumping would be the same if I drove to Madison, WI every day.  That, along with work and other responsibilities- even to a girls weekend, was taxing.   By the end of 3 months I was pumping about 30 oz a day.  
4 months came a challenge, a family trip to Key West, FL, while exclusively pumping.  I knew that I had a battery pack and an adaptor for my pump so pumping in the car or at the airport was completely doable.  Ron and I pack bottles, pumping part, water free cleaning (these are awesome for work!) cloths, ice packs, breast pads and lanolin.  Getting there was a challenge….I practically dove into our rental car to pump after the flight.  We made it! The week followed me pumping about 5 times a day and resulted in some supply issues when we returned home.   When we returned home I ate a tone of lactation cooking and more milk supplements. Thankfully I was able to get my supply back up.

5-6 months in was where I felt myself start to want to give up.  I developed thrush on my left side.   I have never felt pain like I did with thrush. It felt like someone was stabbing me in the chest and kept me up at night in tears.  I said something to my doctor at Kellen’s 6 month appointment and she gave me a cream to try. Thankfully it worked and the pain went away.

Pumping, sorry if it is TMI…you were forewarned, beats the hell out of your nipples.  After the thrush stopped, I started to develop blisters.  I tried changing the size of my pump parts, but it did not seem to help.  I had two in my left side and one on my right.  When they finally popped it was horribly painful (toe curling deep breathing painful).  I remember sitting in the living room pumping milk that looked like pepto because I was cracking and bleeding because of the blisters.  I sat and cried and my poor husband tried to find a way he could help me.   After struggling with the blisters, the thrush returned.  After the thrush left, the blisters returned.  I almost quit. I almost walked away because it was so much to deal with.  I felt alone and drained.  I wasn’t technically a breast feeder and wasn’t comfortable reaching out on the group Facebook page.  I was tired of having my life revolve around a pump and I was tired of the pain. I just wanted to go to sleep, I just wanted to have a glass of wine and not worry about timing in order to have another and I wanted to be able to be spontaneous again.  I have since heard from other EP mom’s of their struggles to fit in with breast feeding and formula.

At about 7 months, I reached out to my doula and friend, Emily and my good friend Kayla.  I don’t think they know, but they saved me from quitting.  Kayla’s son was born a few weeks after Kellen and we love getting the boys together.  I could also talk with her about my struggles because she understood.  Emily pushed me to complete my goals. She knew how important this was to me and even found me a Facebook group of other EP moms.  Ron also gave me so much encouragement. He never failed to tell me how proud he was (or tell anyone else).   I had hit pumping rock bottom….I cried each time I had to pump because it hurt and I wanted to have my life back.  After talking with my friends it gave me a shot back to my goals. I could do this.   At this point I was pumping 6 times a day and making about 45 oz.

By month 9 my thrush had gone away and blisters had healed. I think this is when things got better for me. I was making about 40 oz a day and pumping 5 times a day.  My supply had dropped slightly, but it was ok.
Around month 10 my supply dropped dramatically when my period returned.  I dropped from 40 oz to 30 oz within a few weeks and I could not make it jump…it just kept dropping.  After talking with Emily and with Ron I decided to seek out a donor.

The first person I went to was my friend Kayla. I knew that she had extra and had donated in the past.  Being the wonderful person she is she donated about 250 oz to Kellen.  I continued to trudge along pumping, but my supply kept sinking. Thankfully Kellen was taking solids and his needs were not as great.  I started to consider the weaning process since I was getting close to 12 months.

At 11 months I was pumping 3-4 times a day and getting 20-22 oz.  After cutting to 3 pumps a day I tanked again and was circling around 10 oz a day.  Thankfully, Kayla was looking to donate and Kellen received another 100 oz. 

Month 12.  I made it….. Kellen has been transitioning to dairy over the past few weeks with his breast milk and has been doing great.   I am writing this on the eve of his first birthday with tears in my eyes remembering how hard my family worked to make this goal.   It feels bittersweet to put away my pump.  It had become such a big part of my life I have to re-learn how to live without pumping multiple times a day. 

I think about how much those words from that nurse in the NICU changed how I decided I was going be for my child. I was going to fight for what I wanted and what I thought was best.  Emily and I went to a tree lighting a few weeks ago and were talking about breast feeding and pumping.  I think I am a harder person from this experience, but I think I have learned so much about myself.   I truly learned what it is to advocate for you.  I learned how important a natural approach is to me. I learned that with the right planning I can could still do on vacation, girls weekends, nights out, camping and weddings!  I learned that surrounding yourself with support is important.  I learned that the off-handed comments people make, while annoying, about breast feeding/ pumping are because they do not know better.

I will never be able to thank Emily for her support.  She is a rock to me and I will never have another child without her by my side.  I will never be able to truly thank Kayla  for sharing her milk and friendship with Kellen.  Kayla gave Kellen 350 oz of milk! 

My family was so supportive to me. They never acted as if it was an imposition to them and always supported Ron and I. 

To Ron, you are the best person I could have asked for to support me. Thank you for not getting grossed out, annoyed or mad because I always got to sit in the recliner to pump.  You never doubted me and you never gave up. Thank you for making this as important to you as it was to me.

People told me I was crazy and that I couldn’t do it, but I did it. Since December 2012, I have done almost 2,200 pumps. At 20 minutes that is 733 hours and, if calculated to days, about 31 days.

It was worth every second.

  Anyone out there who wants to breast feed or pump, do it because you will never regret it.   It is the hardest thing I have ever done, but one of the best.

So that was 2 1/2 years ago. I read it now and it makes me cry because I wish I could tell the woman who wrote that post that it was going to be better next time and to thank her for doing the things she did because she allowed the person I am now to learn so much. I wish I could explain the NICU to her and why certain things were done because after a longer stay with Rowan I learned so much more (I would also assure her that Dr. Rock would be there again because he is an exceptional doctor). I feel like I sound so angry in that note and maybe I was.  I wrote about how I was a harder person, but I am not sure that is true anymore. I think in 2013, I was still reeling from everything and think what I became was a smarter and more compassionate person. I really leaned to appreciate the medical field and the professionals in it- there are very few like the one I encountered out there. I learned to be part of a team the next time around- that experience taught me how to be a better mom, a better advocate, and better patient. 

As you read above, I had a schedule for my pumping and I think that is one of the more common questions I hear from people interested in pumping exclusively is how you create a schedule. From what I have learned is that the beginning is the most important and to get up and do the middle of the night pump even thought it is a giant pain in the butt! You will be saved months of worrying about your supply by working to boost it in the first few months versus trying to boost your supply when coming up a little short. The first 12 weeks are the best time to build a supply, but it can still be done after that but takes a bit more work and who likes to get up in the middle of the night after baby has started to let you sleep!?  My point is- put in the work in the beginning and you will be happy you did. Aside from the middle of the night pump what does the schedule look like for an pumping mom? A good rule of thumb, for me, was 3-4 hours while supply building (7-10 times a day). This will change some days because  life happens, but it is important not to make a habit of spaced pumping in the beginning. Once you develop your supply spacing the pumps or dropping a few will not create big problems, but this can vary from person to person. 

So what do you need to pump? First you need a pump and since the passage of the Affordable Care Act it should be covered by your insurance. Before you have your baby call your insurance company to get a list of their providers and many times it is as simple as ordering online and the company will bill your insurance. 

I used the Madela Pump In-Style exclusively pump and what I use to pump in between feedings with Rowan:
I have the different accessories shown above, but had 2 additional sets of breast shields and a bunch of extra bottles in the 5 oz and 8 oz sizes. If you are and exclusive pumper you may want to have extra membranes and tubing because your pump may have a bit more wear and tear because of the frequent use.  I have not tried other pump brands, but can say that my Madela was good to go after tubing and membrane changes when I started pumping with Kellen. I did order a new one as well and keep one at work since it was free for me to order one. The cooler was a big draw for me as a pumper because it was nice to have the ability to keep the milk cold if I was pumping away from home (which happened often).  The pump bag is nice as well because I often needed to bring multiple bottles with me. Another accessory that is not shown is lanolin- but stock in that.....seriously. Another helpful accessory is the water free wipes to clean the pump if you do not have immediate access to soap and water. If you are a part-time pumper many of these things you will have to pump when you are away from baby, but maybe not the larger quantities. I also recommend getting the car adapter and the battery pack for the traveling or when you forget to grab your plug off the wall! 

Another area to touch on is supply. As a former EP mom I know how obsessive the numbers game can get with pumping- any EPers do a spreadsheet *raises hand*.... Will I make enough today? Can I freeze some? How often is baby eating and how much do I need before I can leave for X number of hours? Exclusive pumping is not for the weak of heart my friends. Supply issues are sticky because there are many reasons for supply issues to become problems. Many time supply issues are rooted in the mom not pumping enough. Pumping is a big commitment and if you aren't doing it, especially in the beginning, your body does not know to keep increasing milk production. Another big supply reducing culprit is getting enough liquids and calories. I am sorry, but 3 weeks postpartum is not time to go on a diet to loose all the baby weight if you are breastfeeding. I do not mean that you should go hogwild, but your body needs the calories. Your body also needs liquids, lots of liquids. The amount you should drink is different from person to person, but my daily water goal was/is 100 oz. There are other ways to increase supply with baked lactation goods, teas and essential oils, but a calorie and water boost does the trick many times. Supply issues with pumping moms can trigger stress (big for me with Kellen) and that can also impact milk production.... the worst part for me was my stress from supply impacted my supply....sigh.  If you are having these issues bounce some ideas other breastfeeding moms and there is always lots of good advice out there. If you do not have any friends breastfeeding turning to the local breastfeeding Facebook groups is another good option. 

What about the bad times? If you decide to EP there will be hard times like what I described above. Really hard times. Lancing a blister off my nipple was not the highlight of my life that is for sure and at the time I almost quit. Looking back I am so happy I didn't and have gotten blisters since then with Rowan and have been able to take it in stride much easier than with Kellen. My only words of wisdom are to keep truckin' without guilt as best you can. It is really easy to feel guilted  or to have someone try to guilt you when you are pumping. One story that sticks out to me was when I was about 10 months into my pumping journey with Kellen. I was a member of a local breastfeeding mom's group on Facebook and a girl posted a photo of a mom pumping while bottle feeding her baby. The poster said, "this makes me so sad and it is lazy". She got he ass, rightfully, handed to her by the pumping moms in the group. However, it really hurt me when I actually sat and thought about the judgement she had passed. She did not know the woman's story in the picture, assumed it was because the woman was somehow lazy, and didn't even consider that is was a viable choice. I consider myself lucky because I only ran into a handful of people like that and the majority of people in my life were very supportive. I stated before that I find it insulting to ever infer that a pumping mother is not breastfeeding her child and that interaction was what really spurred my opinion about that to be as passionate as I am about it. I truly feel that it is no one's job to marginalize and judge another mother who chooses to have a different type of breastfeeding relationship with her child. I have learned how to brush off people like that, but it is something that took me a long time, but now I could really care less what another person thinks when it comes to feeding my baby. 

There were some funny times as well! Dragging my pump through security at the airport, pumping in the parking lot before a Packer game, and spilling the (empty) bottles and killing Ron's car battery while pumping when we went camping! 

I also have so many bittersweet feelings about exclusively pumping. It certainly has it's perks and well as it's pits. One perk is that you are not always the feeder and Kellen was very laid back about who fed him. Another perk was that I got to get away a little more often and have time to myself or with Ron and I. I was also able to rely on a feeding schedule and longer times in between feedings. I think it is important to explained that there were great advantages to it, but it did come with additional work of pumping and planning.  Currently, I am breastfeeding Rowan and pump about 3-4 times a day depending on my schedule or what milk I need for daycare. I am blessed this time to have a great supply due to more aggressive pumping while Rowan was in the NICU and pumping after because of some of the issues I outlined in my breastfeeding post NICU post (I almost went back to exclusive pumping again). I think I probably pump more often that an average breastfeeding mom due to some of Rowan's issues and frankly out of habit from being a former exclusive pumper- old habits die hard.  A perk of this great supply was that I was able to donate milk to a mom who uses donor milk for her son. I used donor milk with Kellen and it was on my breastfeeding bucket list to donate if I was able. I was so excited that my body gave me the opportunity to payback what was given.

To summarize, exclusive pumping is hard work. You are a breastfeeding mom and do not let anyone tell you otherwise. You are giving your child the best nourishment you possible can. If you are pumping and want to be feeding at breast do not be afraid to try again with the next baby or, if you are able, when the baby is older because you will learn so much from this experience. If it is your personal preference to pump- you go girl and get pumping. 

If you want to talk with me about pumping I am all ears and it is a topic I enjoy discussing (I know I am a giant weirdo). E-mail me at or leave a comment below. 

Next week I am diving into another side of pumping:  Breastfeeding, Pumping, and Working- The Juggle. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Slowcooker Pierogies and Kielbasa Casserole

Thank goodness for my slowcooker. Seriously. That kitchen gadget saves my butt on  weekly basis and makes my crazy nights way better..... I have a three year old so my nights are just crazy by default, but the slowcooker makes it that much easier. My tricky nights are always when we have swim class. I have become very efficient getting us in and out, but it never fails that Kellen is becoming and angry hungry monster before we leave the parking lot and we needed dinner, like, yesterday.  I occasionally will make a stop at the golden arches for special dinner treat, but normally like to have something waiting at home. 

I came across this recipe and knew it was a perfect swim night meal for the family. It is a little bit of a shorter cook time in the crockpot world, but I can make it on a day I am on leave and it was a perfect thing to thrown in during the afternoon and it was ready to eat when we walked in the door. Ron will throw in a steamer bag of green beans and we called it a day! The recipe is really simple and only had a few ingredients, but is very tasty. It is a pretty rich meal and I really enjoyed have a green veggie on the side. Kellen loved the sausage and green beans, but he is still not crazy about pierogies.....probably the mashed potato filling since he can be hit or miss on that. However, Ron and I really liked it and it made tasty leftovers for work the following day.

The weather in my area has gotten hot! I am usually not a hot weather person (except for swimming!), but it has been so nice getting to play outside with Kellen everyday. We started our summer garden and have been enjoying watching our plants grown. We planted a few herbs on the deck, as well as ground cherries, baby tomatoes and celery. In our larger garden in the yard we have zucchini, cucumbers, onions, radishes, carrots, and Kellen's requested pumpkin. He is so excited to grow his own jack-o-lantern and I hope it grows well for us!  I am also really enjoying my FMLA day once a week to spend with my littlest boy. It is so nice to break up the week and have the additional time to bond with him and enjoy Kellen at the same time.  This past week I took the boys to see Thomas the Train at the Railroad Museum!  I will be sad when the FMLA hours are over in mid-September! I would love to work 4 days a week, but not sure that is in the cards at my job right now.... maybe someday!

This week I am at a conference for work and have had to pump milk for the baby on the fly! I am lucky to have my own office at work and was in my car yesterday- thank goodness for air conditioning! The place where the training is held can accommodate space for pumping, but it is a bit far from the room and it is faster for me to run to the car to make the most of my time before I need to get back for the presentations- life of a working mom! It really is not that bad, but it certainly makes me miss my baby when I am away!


2 boxes frozen Pierogies (I use Mrs. T’s Cheddar Onion Pierogies)
3 cups chicken broth
6oz cream cheese, cut into chunks
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 pound kielbasa, sliced
salt & pepper, to taste


Place pierogies on the bottom of the crockpot. Tops with cream cheese and sausage. Layer cheddar over the sausage and pour over the broth. Cook on high 3-4 hours, or on low for 6 hours. Season with salt and pepper if desired. 

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Strawberry Crumb Bars #WhatsBaking

Welcome to June's What's Baking! 

The theme for this challenge was Bars and was selected by our host, Nicole of Cookies on Friday.  I was thrilled because, as a proper Midwestern girl,  I absolutely love bars of all kinds. 

Strawberry season is hot and heavy right now in Wisconsin. The fields just opened this week and the berries are, as usual, out of this world. I normally do not eat strawberries out of season because they are always a big disappointment and nothing like the bounty in June.  I like to pick a bunch and usually make make freezer jam, a bunch of desserts, a few bags of whole frozen berries (I freeze on parchment paper on a cookie sheet and store in freezer bag for easy measuring) and plenty to be eaten as is. Kellen and I headed out yesterday to get fresh berries and there is nothing like a sun warmed berry right off the vine. Lucky Kellen is even going back tomorrow to pick more with his Grandma! For the What's Baking challenge I decided to make a delicious bar featuring my favorite seasonal fruit of the moment- strawberries. I set this bar up with a similar crust to these bars and made a very simply sweet strawberry filling. These bars are so easy they are baked and cooling in under just over a half hour. However, they do require sometime to cool and set up, so plan accordingly if you are making them to share the same day. 

These bars are delicious and a fantastic way to use this summer fruit. I also love how easy they are and the clean up is so minimal- important factor with two little kids! I am still deciding if I want to hog the pan by keeping it at home or share and send it with Ron for his co-workers to enjoy....decisions, decisions. I am also thinking that I am going to give these a try with blueberries in a few weeks for a different twist. 

I hope everyone had/ is having a lively Father's Day with the dads in your life! I am off to enjoy Game of Thrones and a Strawberry Crumb Bar with my guy!


3 sticks unsalted butter, melted 
1 cup brown sugar 
2 cups all-purpose flour 
2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
 1 tsp baking soda
 1 tsp salt
 1 tsp vanilla
 3 cups chopped strawberries
2 1/2 tsp cornstarch
1/4 cup granulated sugar


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a 13x9 pan with foil. Grease with cooking spray or butter and set aside.

Add in the brown sugar, flour, oats, soda, salt, and vanilla  to melted butter and stir until combined.  Press half the oat mixture into the pan and bake for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl mix together strawberries, cornstarch and sugar and spread evenly over the base of the bars once removed from the oven. Crumble the remaining oat mixture on top.

Bake for an additional 25 minutes. Cool on the counter for about 45 minutes. Cover and chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours before cutting and serving. 

Weekend Chat: Transitioning to Cloth Diapers

Ahhhh ...... cloth diapers. I get asked about cloth a lot because it can be a bit of a intimidating undertaking- especially when adjusting to a new baby. 

Cloth is not for everyone because it truly is a commitment and a bit more work than disposable diapers ('sposies in the cloth world). I have heard probably every question or remark in the book when it come to our choice to do majority cloth with our kids.  I would never deny that disposables are, many times, more convenient, but cloth has many perks as well and we love it.  I wanted to do a post about how and why we transitioned to cloth, our methods/ routine, and letting people know that, yes we use disposables too! Cloth is not scary. Is it extra work? Sure. Is the work difficult? Nah. 

So how did we start? With Kellen, I knew about half way into my pregnancy that I wanted to cloth diaper. This is my soapbox moment, but hang with me because it was part of my decision making for cloth. From what I had read a child from birth to when they are potty trained will use around 7,000 diapers. Considering that we were planning to have multiple children and the amount of diapers from my children alone seemed steep to me. Add in the fact that it takes approximately 500 years for a diaper to decompose I felt that this was something I needed to try. I also considered the cost of diapers and, while the initial purchase of the cloth diapers seems like a lot, cloth is generally much cheaper than disposables especially since we were planning  for more than one child.  My other consideration for cloth was reduced chemical exposure to our kids. Disposable diapers contain chlorine, polyacrylate, and other chemicals that haven’t been proven safe for prolonged use. I liked that since the diapers were more natural the chances of diaper rashes were greatly reduced as well. I realize that the explanation of why we started with cloth is a bit preachy, but I assure you it is not intended to be that way. Like I said, cloth is not the right choice for everyone and we use disposables too- no sancimommy business here! 

So what did I buy to create our "stash"?  I decided on Bumgerius 4.0 (I think it is 5.0 now, but same idea) for our primary diaper. I also bought a few Best Bottoms, but ultimately liked the Bumgenius 4.0 better. Bumgenius 4.0 is a pocket diaper. It has a waterproof shell and a microfiber insert that is in the pocket and very absorbent. Pockets versus no pockets have a multitude of opinions in the cloth world, and both have negative and positives. I like pockets because the absorbency can be customized and I did not have loose inserts all over the place. The Best Bottom diaper is a bit of a hybrid diaper and the only reason I did not continue to use it was that it did not fit Kellen well and we have many leaks. However, I have other friends that absolutely love this brand. I think that Bumgernius diapers are very durable and very well made. I also liked the elastic around the waistband (bonus of cloth- BIG blowout reduction due to this feature) and adjustable rise of the diaper to accommodate birth to potty training as the child gets bigger.  To create out stash, I purchased 20 diapers over the course of my pregnancy starting from about 20 weeks in (1 diaper per week). I found that this method of purchase eliminated one big purchase and made the investment feel very easy.  I opted to buy 20 because planned on about 10 diaper changes a day and that meant washing about every other day in the evening. I will tell you that over time I have accumulated about 30 diapers (I can't resist the cute prints), but I still do the wash every other day but we have a little more a buffer in our stash. 

So what else do you need for cloth diapering besides diapers? The answer to this really depends on you. Some moms are cool with a big jar of coconut oil and calling it a day. I have a big jar of coconut oil, but am not one of those moms that puts coconut oil on everything and claims an instant cure.

Here is a list of my essentials:

1) 2 diaper good diaper pails. I like these, but size and style will depend on your needs. We had one upstairs and one in the downstairs bathroom. Once the kids started sleeping though the night we brought both downstairs. 

2) Diaper pail liners. I went with reusable liners and love it. I liked that I can transport dirty diapers easily or use it for clean diaper storage as well. I would bring the whole thing to the laundry room and loved that the liner could go right in with the diapers and once they were clean and dry I could load it up- no clothes basket needed. My liner of choice is Planet Wise. These liners are amazing and I especially love my cow print one. I found having 4 of these was good for a rotation, but you could get away with 3. 

3) Wet bags. Went bags are used for diaper receptacles when I am not at home or the baby is at daycare (most daycares allow cloth diapers)/ with Grandparents.  They are also great for wet swimming suits and towels! I have 1 large wet bag for overnights, 2 medium and 2 small. I do not think you need that many, but I like a variety to choose from. I also buy my wet bags from Planet Wise (check out Amazon- especially if you have Prime for great deals). 

4) Diaper cream. The drawback of cloth is that you can't use regular diaper cream with them because it can impact the ability of the diaper to absorb (I could always tell when a well meaning grandparent used diaper cream on the baby and I got to scrub my diaper...). I loved CJ's BUTTer and LuSa while the kids wear cloth. I also used regular coconut oil as well. However, if they happened to get a really bad rash I put on a disposable and painted their butt with Triple Paste because I have equal love for that stuff and it's ability to clear up a diaper rash in a flash! 

5) Diaper liners. The exception to the rule above is diaper liners. They protect the diapers and you could use a little more heavy duty cream with them. They are also great when the baby starts to eat solids and the poop is not able to be tossed in the washer like it is when baby is getting breastmilk only.  We did not use liners often, but I liked having them as an option. We actually plan on using them more often with Rowan than we did with Kellen.

6) Extra inserts. Bumgenius gives a standard and a newborn insert with each diaper. In the beginning this is perfect, but as the child gets older or at night extra inserts might be needed. I purchased additional microfiber, but I also purchased hemp and bamboo because they were much trimmer than micro fiber for nighttime. Again, it is really up to you and what you prefer. 

7) Diaper sprayer. I had this diaper sprayer and loved it. 

We have one each primary toilet (2), but you can easily get away with one in the main bathroom you intend to do your cleaning. This is something you will use a few months in because dirty diapers from babies that exclusively get breastmilk can go right into the wash. If you are supplementing with formula, feeding totally with formula or baby has started solids you will want to rinse. I kept one diaper pail right by the sprayer so it was easy to drop the wet diaper into the bucket after rinsing. 

So, that is a list of my favorite things. Like I said before, cloth is an investment and while is looks like a lot it really is not and many things you would already be purchasing for a baby anyways. 

I think it's important to explain our transition to cloth now that I went over all the details of the things we bought. We started with Kellen around 4 weeks and Rowan at 6 weeks. I did not do newborn diapers with either of the boys and waited till the regular Bumgenius diapers fit them. The packaging says 8 lbs, but I found the fit was best around 12 lbs. I also used disposables at night until I was able to get a good idea of how long it took to wet though a diaper and what additional inserts were needed. Unlike, disposables cloth is not meant for a 10 hour night and it can depend on the child and what type and how many inserts are used. I found myself changing the boys every 3 hours (sometimes more, sometimes less). Once I started using cloth at night (about 6 months) I added an additional hemp insert and those diapers were set aside as "nighttime diapers". The only advise I can offer with figuring out what will work at night is trail and error. There are a lot of group for cloth mamas on social media and it is a great place to get advice and troubleshoot. We used disposals for a long time will we got brave enough to figure out what worked for Kellen (Rowan is still in a disposable at night). I always kept disposables in the house in case there was a need for something fast or if someone got sick and changing was happening very frequently.  Thankfully, our family members were very open to cloth and were happy to use it when the kids would visit. However, I know that is not always the case and keeping some disposables on hand for that reason is a good idea too. 

I found the transition to cloth very easy with both kids. I think slightly easier with Kellen because we had more time because it was only 1 child, but with Rowan we already had a process and there was less to figure out as we went. I think Rowan is in cloth slightly less than Kellen was at this time because sometimes we just forget to stuff the diapers, but I would say he is in cloth 70% of his awake time. 

I get asked a lot about the washing process for cloth. I will say that it is recommended that you hang dry the diapers..... I don't do that very often. I spray off the diapers as I go (if needed), pull them apart, and thrown them all into a hot wash. I will sometimes throw a little tea tree oil in or some vinegar to help if there is a smell or build-up. Sometimes cloth can smell a bit "barn yardy" and that might be a good indication it is time to "strip" your inserts. I have done this by hand with blue Dawn dish soap or it can be done (faster) with bleach. I found us doing that every 1-2 months. After I do a normal wash (I use Tide Free & Gentle or Rockin' Green for soap), I thrown them into the dryer to dry on low. I am committing a cloth diapering sin and it feels good. Plus, I live in Wisconsin and line drying is not an option the majority of the year. However, there is a good reason for line drying. The diaper shells are lined and waterproofed. The dryer can cause them to breakdown and leak quicker than line drying- shortening your diapers life. However, the convenience factor for me trumped that. I have been doing this for 3 years and now with a second child and my diapers have not leaked at this point (not to say they won't, but they haven't yet). I do like to get them in the sun during the summer because it is great for getting out stains and smells. I think I line dry 3-4 times a month during the summertime. Once diapers are dry the go into the wet bag for Ron and I to fold while we watch t.v. after the kids are in bed (couple bonding at it's best). After they are folded we divide them up between the different changing areas in our house and them some go to daycare. 

That is my experience with cloth in a nutshell. Yes, it is a little more work, but I love never worrying about buying diapers and I feel good that we are reducing waste from our family. Plus, the prints and colors are absolutely adorable- here are some cloth snaps:

If you are interested in cloth I would see if there is someone that will sit down and show you their process in their house. We did that with two friends and it was awesome to see how things worked and made cloth feel very easy and something we were excited about!  Once you make a decision, join a few of the groups on Facebook to find great deals on diapers and advice on all kinds of cloth questions. As always, if you have questions for me and want to talk my e-mail is: or leave a comment!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Weekly Meal Plan 6/13 - 6/19

Sometimes I wonder what I did with my weekends before I had children.... Normally, I was in some state of a hangover and played Mario Kart on my couch with Ron. I still had piles of laundry around and a sink full of dishes.....It amazes me now, especially with two little ones, that I felt so busy in those days. I suppose a person's level of busy is all relative to their lifestyle, but it still baffles me.... and it makes me miss Sunday morning hangovers, pizza and bloody mary's..... However, my two smiley morning boys are amazing and these days they are the people I want to spend my weekends times change. I often find myself creating little habits that make my life easier and seem less busy- like meal planning- so there is more fun on my weekends. 

This weekend was a blast and we had lots crammed into our two short days. On Friday, I was off to be with Rowan and Kellen. We took a trip with my friends Emily and Nakita (and their littles) to the DeYoung Family Zoo to enjoy the day and escape some of the 90+ degree weather in Green Bay. We fit 3 adults, 1 baby and 3 three-year olds in the car with a bit of room to spare! Kellen has never been there before and, while a bit of a rustic zoo, it gives kids amazing up close encounters with the animals. Kellen's highlight was getting to hold a baby money and feed a hippo! I forgot to sunscreen my back and have this crazy V shaped tan line.... After the zoo, we had pizza for dinner and relaxed at home. 

On Saturday, Ron had to work and we did a quick grocery store run before heading to my friend Kayla's for water slides and a margarita on their patio. The children also loves ganging up on the adults with buckets of water! The crew grabbed burgers and ice cream after at a local favorite, Zesty's. Kellen and I love their burgers and fresh custard. The flavor of the day was vanilla with swirls of salted caramel and salted pretzels for crunch- yum! 

On Sunday, we headed to my friend Maggie's little boy's birthday party. The boys are close in age and it was adorable to watch them enjoy the rides together and Kellen was so proud to pick out his birthday gift all by himself- Star Wars for the win! After rides, the boys enjoyed lunch and delicious soft serve ice cream! Next, we headed home for a nap before heading to my friend Emily's daughter's pony party. The party was at a minature horse farm and the kids got to meet the animals (a 2 week old miniature horse...omg!!), have a cart ride, lead and groom the horse and enjoy pizza and cake. Kellen loved leading the horse and brushing him. His horse was named Peanut and he can't stop talking about him. My family has always owned and showed Quarter Horses with the exception of the past few years when we put one of our favorites down after a sudden and serious medical problem. I have always hoped my children would love horses as much as I do and, as you can imagine, I  was thrilled to see how much he enjoyed being around the horses.  

Kellen brushing Peanut:

After the party we had a few photos taken of the boys for a mini session. I should have knows better that I was pushing it....thank goodness for Photoshop and a photographer that has a toddler and a very understanding personality! I tell myself to keep my expectations low, but I always hope that there will be a good picture in there of Kellen during his "I hate pictures" phase. 

Whew....busy weekend indeed, but very fun. I am so happy that we have so many friends with kids the same age. Kellen is a lucky guy to have a group of nice friends. Lucky for Rowan, he has a crop of babies born recently/due in the next few months to have a few special friends of his own!

This past week was also my first full week back. I missed my baby so much, but am happy to report that mornings are going really well. I am actually thankful for my anxiety driven post because it helped me look at my morning routine and adjust and plan. I only had one wet hair in a bun day and I am calling that a major victory because I was thinking it would be everyday.  Work has been nice to go back to- crazy of course. I love my co-workers and am happy to spend time with them again because they are such fun and sweet people. There are even a few new ones that joined while I was out, and a few that announced that they are expecting little ones this year! As much as I am getting in the swing of things, I am very thankful to have the additional day off thanks to FMLA to be with Rowan. This has been a hard transition for him. He is so easy going, but I can tell he is so tired when he gets home and napping have been a challenge for him at daycare. We swaddle him at home at night and I am going to bring in his swaddle with hopes it allows him to have a little longer naps. 

This week is very calm and we are going to see Thomas the Train this week- Kellen is so pumped (Rowan is but doesn't know it yet!)!

Here is what is on tap:

Monday: Spicy Beef Tacos
Tuesday:  Grilled Herb Pork Chops, Cous Cous and Peas
Wednesday: Scalloped Potatoes and Ham with Corn
Thursday: Chicken Tamale Casserole and Salad
Friday: Out
Saturday: TBD....something on the grill
Sunday: Out for Father's Day