Never Apologize For Doing What Makes You Happy

Hi everyone! Long time, no post. I won’t be apologizing for not posting regularly for the last month(+) because I have been just loving life doing so many things that make me happy. Unfortuantely, choosing to spend so much time in the sun, with family and friends, traveling, and more meant blogging took a backseat.

I love summer and have been enjoying all the things that come with the season. We’ve been busy traveling, playing outside, eating ice cream, celebrating birthdays (mine and Isla’s!), visiting with family, swimming, hiking and so much more. While I thought about posting many times in the last several weeks, my intentions stopped there and were quickly replaced with beautiful memories. I’ll be honest and also admit I’ve been missing some workouts and doing a little bit here and there at home. In fact, I’ve only been to the gym twice in the last two weeks and after one workout I filled out our paperwork to cancel (more on that later).

Living in New England, my thinking is it’s like we wait all year long for summer. However, unlike many New Englanders, while you’ll hear me complain about the cold in the winter (that part is normal), I will NOT complain about the heat or humidity. Instead, I soak up every little bit of it while I can.  Truth: my favorite weather is 85-90 with humid temps and I often feel like winter has arrived here by mid-October. While summer is here, this girl doesn’t mind being sticky and sweaty!

So, to catch everyone up in warp speed on what’s been happening in my world this summer, here’s a quick glimpse in a photo rundown! Since I take tons of photos every day, this is certainly not all encompassing, but it gives an idea of the bigger and more simple moments I’ve been soaking in. It’s been wild and fun and while I’m excited to resume some of our regular routine (like my exercise routine and eating habits), I hope we have lots more hot and fun summer days left in 2018!

My next post will share some details about our fun family vacation. We traveled to Long Island, Maine! Never heard of it? We hadn’t either. With only about 200 people living on the island year-round and no real restaurants or even a grocery store, it was a fun and adventurous (in a different way than we’re used to) so I can’t wait to share about our fun times. Stay tuned!

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Painting. We love using our washable paint outside. This is what baths are for, right?
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Bike riding, errday.
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Cleaning on some rainy (or super hot) days.
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Eating tons of ice cream, much to this girl’s delight!
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Walking laps around the block.
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Our water table is getting lots of use this summer.

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We went on vacation to Long Island, Maine at the end of June. AMAZING. Post coming soon.
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Beach time and family time. Nothing better.
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My brother and his partner came to visit. During their stay we checked out a winery.
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Green smoothies with her uncles!
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Tiny tots means they can both make use of one swing 🙂
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Reading at the park with uncle Charlie.
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Isla turned 2!
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Our garden has been keeping us busy this year.
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I got away for a long weekend to celebrate my cousin’s bachelorette in Newport, RI. So much fun!
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Our girls love blueberries so we definitely went blueberry picking.
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Handfuls of berries.
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Sweet girl with her dad.
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Both girls have wanted “up” a lot lately. ❤

Enter to Win: FREE One Week CSA Full Share at George Hall Farm

Today was the official start of our CSA season and we’re so excited to be getting our favorite summer vegetables from George Hall Farm in Simsbury, CT. The idea of fresh veggies all summer long is so exciting to me that I’m giving away a FREE full share pick up on June 26!

To enter for a chance to win a full share pick up (June 26 only) please enter using the form below. Everyone can enter one time and all entries must be received by Thursday, June 21 at 8 p.m. EST.
The winner MUST be available to pick up their share at the farm (180 Old Farms Rd, Simsbury, CT 06070) on Tuesday, June 26 between 2 and 6 p.m. The winner will be notified via email by Friday, June 22 at 8 p.m.

We’ve been signing up with the Hall family’s CSA for four years now and while it’s not the closest farm proximity wise to our house, it is the farm I hold closest to my heart.

I not only love the fruits and veggies we get, but I love the family that runs the farm, the programming they offer throughout the season (they taught me how to ferment my own foods!), and while picking up we always have the opportunity to visit some of the animals or cut some fresh flowers.

If you haven’t signed up for a CSA share this year, it’s not too late to sign up with George Hall Farm. No, they’re not paying me to advertise. I just truly love their farm!

With the potty training madness in full swing, I opted to pick up our family’s share solo this week after some personal training sessions and before daycare pick up, but I can’t wait to visit with the girls soon.

Here’s a few photos from the first pick up:

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Enter to win one full share pick up (on Tuesday, June 26 between 2 and 6 p.m.) here:

 

Random Ramblings: Potty Training, Sleep Training, and More Podcasts

Hey all! Yet again, I’ve been MIA. This time I’ve been stuck down the rabbit hole that is potty training, something that has literally consumed my life for the last two weeks. But since I am finally writing again, I guess it’s safe to say we’re making progress! Today I’m going to share some of my reflections on all things potty training, plus another thing I couldn’t help compare the potty training experience to: sleep training. Then I’m going to share some new podcasts I’ve been digging lately because they (along with some quick HIIT workouts) have literally kept me sane lately!

Before I get started, I want to share a link to the second piece I wrote for the blog Swaddles n’ Bottles. This is a fertility diet piece I wrote about a diet you can adopt if you’re trying to get pregnant. This isn’t a “diet” so much as a list of recommended foods and nutrients to include in your diet. Food can’t get your pregnant, but if you’re looking to start or expand your family, eating a healthy, well-rounded, balanced diet can help support any impending pregnancies.

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Potty Training

When we decided to tackle potty training, we knew Isla was showing us every “sign” she was ready and she honestly had been for awhile. For quite some time she was telling us whenever she went potty in her diaper, and sometimes she was even upset and crying about a wet diaper or withholding poop or going somewhere private to do #2 because she was ashamed or wanted privacy. For months we’ve been leaving a potty around, “so she could get used to it,” hoping she would just want to use it instead of diapers with as much enthusiasm as she exudes about the idea of ice cream for dinner.

Thankfully a good friend lent me a book that several other mom friends had mentioned to me and all of these preconceived notions (see above) were cleared up and I finally stopped dreading potty training and was looking forward to it. This book has been my Bible lately. Thanks to every single mom who recommended this!

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Fast forward 12ish days. I’ve done more loads of laundry than I can count, used a few extra rolls of paper towels for clean up, and lost my temper way too many times–BUT we are making amazing progress. We even enjoyed a successful day trip with our favorite new accessory in Boston last week and zero accidents on Father’s Day! These are our happy faces in Boston:

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Buuuut, back to the beginning. Literally, the first weekend we started potty training was like a slap in the face. The first day Isla did awesome. But then she came down with the worst virus we’ve ever seen in her (with high fevers and no other symptoms–we even had her tested for Lyme disease because she was so sick) AND her two year old molars cut through.

Some of the “highlights?” Isla didn’t want to poop in the potty. I made her these fun, calming bottles of glitter which she hated disliked very much.

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We had to give her a stool softener per our pediatrician’s recommendation and it backfired. Thankfully I’m not sharing any photos of that. Yes, some moments have been rough and literally shitty. Potty training is not for the faint of heart, yet trusting that Isla was ready and capable, we are supporting her in her learning and I’m glad we’ve trucked on.

That being said, for anyone else climbing this mountain, potty training is really testing my patience so if it’s testing yours, you’re not alone! For those really close to me, it’s probably more accurate to say potty training is teaching me patience. Patience is not a virtue that comes naturally to me. I really have to work at it. And sometimes, parenting requires more patience than I have which is why I make a point to surround myself with respectful parenting reminders (like reading, podcasts, friends with similar parenting philosophies). When it’s come to potty training, I find myself losing my temper, yelling more than I’d like and then spending my post-bedtime time making a plan for how I can do better the next day.

It’s not even the accidents themselves that are tough for me. I expect messes. More than helping her learn how to pee and poop in a socially acceptable receptacle, reflecting on the last week and a half, potty training has been a struggle as it’s magnified some of Isla’s most challenging behaviors. Though developmentally normal, behavior like testing boundaries and not listening have been magnified through this process and it’s been so incredibly hard. Isla is a strong and independent almost two year old. She honestly doesn’t like being told what to do, or needing help (she definitely gets these traits from mom…). Naturally, power struggles happen and it hasn’t been easy for anyone, but we’re all getting there. At least she’ll use the toilet when we tell her now vs. breaking down into a giant temper tantrum of tears (most of the time).

Sleep Training

Processing potty training, I can’t help but compare it to another parenting experience on my list of not-so-fun things: sleep training.

Every parent has their own personal preference and philosophy about sleep training. For us, we have adopted a version of Dr. Ferber’s methods, though I do prefer to think about the process of sleep training as teaching your child a life skill of self soothing vs. just labeling the method, “cry it out.”

Sleep training wasn’t fun with Isla, but it wasn’t difficult either. Isla slept through the night from week 2, self soothed fairly naturally, and responded quickly to our sleep training. 3 nights of encouraging self soothing and she had it down, only needing to reinforce at regular sleep regression times.

Josie was born and EVERYTHING we did with Isla didnt’ matter. Josie was the complete opposite.

When Josie was born, I had to hold her for 2+ hours to get her to go to sleep and stay asleep until she was 3 months old, when I quickly started trying to help her self soothe. She woke up several times a night when she would nurse, but more than anything–to just be held. The only prop that could stand in for this mommy sleepytime magic was the swing. We used the swing sparingly with Josie, but by the time she was old enough to learn how to self soothe (she didn’t want to be swaddled, could bring her hands to her mouth, etc.).

I love baby snuggles, but I also love to feel well rested and I was eager to get a little time back in my evenings with my husband and to pick up the house before my tiny toddler tornado woke the next morning.

To sleep train Josie we had to take the swing away completely. Josie was almost 6 months old when she started to sleep through the night and really self soothe regularly, but as soon as she figured it out she was so much happier during the day–and so was I! I wasn’t a walking zombie anymore!

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Here’s our happy, well-rested girl.

It’s hard to hear our babies cry, so while in the trenches of those first few days of learning to self soothe where I was inundated with mom guilt, I reminded myself of these key things:

  • Babies cry. It’s literally one of the only ways they can communicate with us in the first year. When Josie was crying, I reminded myself she was in a safe place in between reassuring her, I watched on the camera to reassure myself too.
  • Sleep is key for everyone! I’ve had many a chat about this with both of our kids and I swear it helps. Our kids are capable and understand so much more than we may think. A solid night of sleep can be a regular thing and is so important for all of us.

We’re still struggling with some spotty early wake ups with Josie and tackling room sharing, but we’ve stuck with a method that works for us with no regrets.

I share all of this to remind myself that I can sleep again if we have any more kids AND to say that yet again, as parents we’re all working through a lot of the same stuff, and we’re all just trying to do what’s best for our kids. I commend each and every parent who can co-sleep with their children or soothe their kids into toddlerhood, but that method just doesn’t work for our family. Josie helped us reconsider our parenting choices with and tested our philosophies. If you’re sleep training your little one, I encourage you to trust your gut and do what works best for your family. What every child needs can be different so keep surrounding yourself with people and materials that support your philosophies and remember with all things parenting: it’s just a phase of life and it will pass!

Podcasts

Lastly, I’ve been listening to some awesome podcasts lately so I want to give them a quick shout out.

The first is directly related to sleep training. I’ve been loving the quick episodes of Little Z’s Sleep Podcast. Becca Campbell is a pediatric sleep consultant and I found her page when I was looking for answers after yet another early morning wake up. I’ve basically binged on her podcasts and gathered lots of tips and tricks on how to help our kids get the sleep they so desperately need. They say “happy wife, happy life.” And I seriously struggle to be my happiest and enjoy life when my kids are overtired and cranky so supporting their sleep is one of my #1 priorities.

The other podcast I’ve really been enjoying is Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard. I loved Shepard in the TV show Parenthood and I’m really enjoying his sitdown chats with friends and various “experts.” I saw this podcast in my podcast app’s “featured” list and had to check it out. While there is one episode that features parenting advice from Wendy Mogul–author of Blessings of a Skinned Knee and clinical psychologist–I actually love that most of the episodes I’ve listened to are about nothing parenting related. I’ve enjoyed taking a break from all topics parenting and learning about different topics from Scientology and addiction, and I loved listening to the marital banter between Dax and his wife Kristen Bell (this is the episode that actually sucked me in). If you have some time, check it out!

For now, that’s all folks. Tell me, what are you up to these days? Share in the comments section below. 

5 Exercises to Heal Diastisis Recti and/or Umbilical Hernias

One thing I’m passionate about is women’s health. I could get on my soapbox of hours and go on about how I think if men had to deal with half the “female” stuff we do, the care we currently receive would be so much different. Instead, I’m going to write a very long, and very informative blog post 🙂

Currently, moms don’t get a lot of extra love and attention after birth in the United States, and as a pre- and post-natal trainer this infuriates me.

I have worked with women 8 weeks after birth and 30+ years after birth who are “just dealing with” the aftermath pregnancy and birth. Most of the questions I ask are brand new to them. I mention things they’ve never learned about and that seriously concerns me, while also exciting me.

Sure, we all have a 6 week check up after birth, but the depth of care we often receive is lacking. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I understand this is a huge blanket statement. Some doctors are awesome, however the majority of women are not receiving the full care they deserve.

While most women could benefit from a session with a pelvic floor specialist, we instead think it’s “normal” to deal with peeing our pants a little when we jump, laugh, or sneeze for the rest of our lives. A lot of women don’t realize they have hernias after pregnancy or birth and instead of trying to heal them, they just become worse and may eventually need surgery. And doctors rarely check for diastisis recti, or an abnormally large separation of the abdominal wall so this too can become much worse and can lead to things like hernias, a belly pooch, back pain, and more.

However, instead of just riding the negative train into the ground, I’ve decided to do something about this current trend: I’m going to help change it! The great news is there is information out there and I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to help other women feel empowered as they learn how to help themselves too.

Identifying Diastisis Recti

Separation of the abs is a completely normal part of pregnancy and can also occur when someone is overweight or has undergone a major abdominal surgery. In the case of pregnancy, the abdominal wall loosens and separates to make room for a growing baby. There’s a lot you can do to minimize this separation while pregnant, or even heal diastisis recti during pregnancy, but wherever you are in the journey–maintaining this separation after childbirth can be downright uncomfortable and dangerous. So, how do you identify if you have a gap that is considered “too wide” (ie. diastisis recti)? And if you have diastisis recti, how do you fix it?

Diastisis recti is identified by observing a gap in your rectus abdominal muscles, or the “6 pack” layer of your core. This is the top most layer of your abs. To measure your abdominal separation you will do two quick tests (and don’t worry–you don’t have to be able to “see” a 6 pack to do this test!).

First, observe the separation of your abs above your belly button.

Lie on your back and bend your knees. Gently place a hand behind your head for support and lift up off the ground. As you settle into this slight “crunch” position, use your fingers to palpate and measure the distance between your upper abs. Measure finger widths. Anything more than 2 fingers width of separation between your ab wall (more than your pointer finger + middle finger) is considered diastisis recti.

Next, observe the separation of your abs below your bellybutton. Lie on your back and bend your knees. Keep your head down on the ground this time and instead gently lift your feet off the floor. Palpate below the belly button and measure the distance between your lower abs. Anything more than 2 fingers width of separation between your ab wall (more than your pointer finger + middle finger) is considered diastisis recti.

A third test can be done around your bellybutton to observe for an umbilical hernia, another common issue to follow pregnancy. Hernias can be accompanied by other symptoms like bulging or pain, but you can still check for a hernia like you check for DR. Go back to the first test, but this time palpate around your bellybutton. More than 2 fingers width can indicate a hernia. Or you may notice you have a larger, hollow “hole” that your belly button fall into as you pick your head up.

Healing Diastisis Recti and/or an Umbilical Hernia

Now, if you have DR or a hernia, there is loads you can do to help yourself before things get worse. And even if things have already gotten worse, you can still make major improvements!

True story: I had DR after I had my first daughter. Despite having my pre- and post-natal corrective exercise certification, after lots of miscarriages I exercised more cautiously during my full term pregnancy and was afraid to try some of my training. I also thought i was doing some things correctly, and I wasn’t. Once my core was separated I really understood how I needed to improve a few things and add to my routine. Postpartum, I had 3 fingers of separation, but within a few weeks of doing a few exercises, I closed my gap to just 1 finger. After having my second daughter I had 1 finger gap when I checked 3 weeks postpartum (though I did experience an umbilical hernia so worked hard to close it as much as possible again using a few key exercises. My doctor was impressed at my 6 month check up!).

Both DR and umbilical hernias are the result of a weakening of the connective tissues in your core. So, while you can identify DR in your upper most layer of your abs, you want to heal the condition by strengthening the deepest layers of your abs like your transverse abdominis, obliques, and your pelvic floor.

Truthfully, every single person–man or woman (and women who have had kids and haven’t) can benefit from training their core in the way I’m going to show. It literally strengthens the deepest layers of your core and therefore provides tons of strength, stability, and stamina.

One last VERY important note before I show you some great exercises: train your pelvic floor as part of your core! This is perhaps the most important part of your healing process. Kegels alone aren’t going to strengthen or heal your issues, despite this being the only remedy many doctors recommend. Instead, you want to learn to use your pelvic floor, engaging it as part of your deep core unit.

Too often, people are holding their bellies and pelvic floor “tight” all the time. But a tight belly or pelvic floor doesn’t mean it’s strong. It’s just tight! So, when doing the exercises below, be sure to activate your pelvic floor. To find your pelvic floor, do try to stop the flow of urine when peeing, but then when your bladder is empty just try to relax that muscle. Then try to lift or “flex” the muscle and then return it to a resting position. I’ll admit, this takes serious practice but it is life changing! Your pelvic floor helps you pee and move your bowels, because both types of waste exit through a passage in the pelvic floor, but your PF is also responsible for supporting (or holding up) your bladder, uterus, and bowels so learning how to use this muscle properly is critical and can help you avoid serious issues like prolapse in the future.

5 Exercises to Heal Diastisis Recti and/or an Umbilical Hernia

1. Belly wrapping, belly pumping, or transverse abdominal breathing

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  • This exercise can be called so many things, but regardless of what it’s called, in this exercise you are literally trying to wrap your abs together and close the gap.  By learning to do this you are strengthening the weakest connective tissue and healing your problem for good! And perhaps the best news: this is an exercise you can do before, during, and after pregnancy! It is helpful all the time and can be nearly anywhere, even when you’re driving in the car!
  • You can and should try and eventually succeed at this movement lying down, sitting, and standing because you want to be able to apply it to all types of movement. The ultimate goal is being able to belly pump when doing all exercises.
  • If difficult, you can assist this movement by using your hands, a towel or a band to help pull your muscles closed.
  • To do this exercise: Breathe into your belly. This alone can be challenging since many people are accustomed to breathing into their chest. Fill your belly with air, relaxing your stomach muscles and letting your belly expand out. when you exhale lift your pelvic floor (the most important step!) and then wrap your abs together. If you’re looking in the mirror you should see your belly button lift a little and then tuck in. The lift is coming from the activation and engagement of your PF. Repeat.

2. Foot slides

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  • While doing this exercise, try to keep doing your belly pumping.
  • Exhale with your leg extension, wrapping your abs as your extend your leg straight. Inhale as you bring your foot back in, pumping your belly out.
  • Eventually you can try this exercise with both legs or use gliders.

3. Hand/Quad Pressure Pushes

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  • No, this is not a technical name, but this is an excellent exercise to strengthen the deepest stabilizers in your abs.
  • While doing this exercise, try to keep doing your belly pumping.
  • Exhale as you gently lift your head and one leg off the floor, supporting your head with one hand. At the top, push your other hand into your leg (on the same side) and your leg into your hand, creating “pressure” on both your hand and leg. Exhale all the way through and wrap your abs here as much as possible. Inhale as you return your head and leg back down.

4. Overhead band reaches

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  • While doing this exercise, try to keep doing your belly pumping.
  • Exhale as you pull your band straight up over your head. Inhale as you bring your arms back toward your belly button (though be sure to maintain some resistance in the band when you return to “center”)
  • Eventually you can try this exercise with your head lifted off the ground

5. Side planks with oblique “twist”

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  • While doing this exercise, try to keep doing your belly pumping.
  • Inhale as you extend your arm straight up, looking up at your hand as you extend your arm.  Exhale as you wrap your arm under your body, literally wrapping your abs together though try not to drop either of your hips down toward the ground. Make your core wrap together and do the work instead of putting the work into your hips and lower body

Happy healing and exercising! Leave questions or concerns in the comments section below. No one should ever have to struggle with these kinds of issues postpartum, or ever and I’d love to help!

Featured Blog Guest Posts: I’ve Been Cheating on My Blog!

While I met my “two posts per week” goal last week, I was totally MIA a couple weeks ago because I was writing two posts for another blog and this week I’m excited to start sharing them with you here!

Yes, I’ve been cheating on my own blog, but I’m not ashamed in the least. In fact, I’m totally flattered. If you’re in a mom and a Pinterest user (like me!), maybe you’re familiar with some of the awesome posts on your feed from the mommy blog, Swaddles n’ Bottles. Some of my go-to pins from Swaddles n’Bottles include indoor activities for toddlers, what to expect before a csection, and lots of tips, tricks, and encouragement about pumping and breastfeeding. Caroline (Swaddles n’ Bottles’ author) asked for interested writers to apply for some upcoming guest post opportunities and I was so excited to be chosen as a contributor.

This month I shared two posts. For now, one has been published. And when the second is posted, I’ll be sure to share that one with you too. Happy reading!

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Six Things I Wish I Knew About IVF – While not fitness related, I’ve shared about our infertility struggles on my blog and I am so excited to be sharing a bit about this experience on a blog with a much larger readership than my little start-up blog. My hope is that pouring some of my love and truth into this piece can offer literal peace, comfort, and feeling of solidarity to another couple struggling in a similar way.

I look forward to sharing more feature opportunities like this in the future!

In the meantime, what would you like to learn more about? Share in the comments below!

If you have a blog and are looking for a guest post, I’d love to learn more! Please send me a message. 

Random Ramblings: 15 Year Anniversary, Alcohol & More Podcasts

My last “Random Ramblings” post has been so popular, that I’m going to try doing them a little more regularly. I think it’s a fun way to get some of my thoughts out, and for all of you to learn more about me!

Some fun, happy, and random (of course!) things have been on my mind lately.

Things like:

In the last few weeks, Chris and I celebrated 15 years together. Oh em gee. I’m 30 and I’ve officially spent half my life with my best friend. Okay, I’m almost 31, so it’s not quite half, but it’s still a long time. We didn’t do anything to really celebrate the milestone. Just sat down on the couch post-baby bedtime and enjoyed a drink together. But in my mind and heart it still feels like a big deal. We’ve come a long way!

From then…

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To now…there’s no one I’d rather be on this wild ride with. It sounds trite, but it’s so true.

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Speaking of celebrating our anniversary with a drink, I’m sharing a little about my take on alcohol and drinking as a parent around our kids. I’ve shared in the past that we like visiting vineyards and breweries and that hobby hasn’t changed since we had kids. Some may think it’s a little inappropriate with our kids in tow, but we haven’t seen it as an issue at all. We have never have much to drink and go for more for the atmosphere and change of scenery. Every parent knows sitting at the house and playing with the same toys day and in and day out can get old and all of the breweries and vineyards we visit have some awesome family-friendly vibes. Has anyone else had this experience? I’ve literally Googled “family-friendly breweries” to find some of our favorite places who even advertise how kids are welcome. Some of the breweries we visit have board games or open areas for kids to run around and play with new friends. Plus, there’s often live music and we never go without a bag of toys and snacks. After all, we want to have a good time!

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However, as much as we include our kids in our visits, we also fully appreciate an opportunity to go without them sometimes too. This past weekend we had that exact opportunity and it was wonderful. I love spending time with our girls, but soak up and appreciate the little bits of time we spend without them too. Chasing after your little ones with a drink in hand is much different than sitting and catching up with your spouse. And we actually talked about some non-kid stuff (sometimes). That could be a whole other tangent.

Lastly, I’ve been enjoying some more awesome podcasts and wanted to share them here. I love sending a little podcast shout out of love to some of my favorite shows. I’ve still been listening to the mindbodygreen podcast, but I’ve also added in some episodes of Well-Fed Women, which is a niche podcast hosted by two women whose fun banter focuses on “health, nutrition, fitness, mindset, and body image.” One host is a certified personal trainer and the other a nutritional therapy practitioner All of their podcasts refresh my memory about topics I’ve already learned about, or give me new topics to research. I love driving, listening, and learning.

How about you? What have you been up to lately? Are you loving any podcasts? I’d love to hear about them and add them to my playlist! Share in the comments below! 

Planning and Planting a Garden

Spring is in full swing and we’re finally planting our garden for the season. While we plant window boxes and an herb garden with everything from thyme, oregano, basil, lemon balm, and more, it’s our vegetable garden that takes the most work and today I’m sharing a big post about our 2018 garden and how we come up with what we plant.

We have a 16’x16′ raised garden bed that we built five years ago. Initially we used pallets to create the border, but upgraded to stones last year when the pallets were too rotten/stopped working as a border. After buying seeds our first year and failing miserably, we now buy our veggies from a local nursery who is only open from the end of April to the first or second week of June! They kill it, their plants are the best around, and their veggies are in line with our organic preferences.

To say we’ve had our fair share of trials and errors would be an understatement. And every year, we know something may do well and another thing will do poorly. Sometimes it’s our fault, and other times it’s just nature–too much or too little rain, cooler temps, or something else. Who knows! But, that’s gardening.

Growing our own veggies is essential in our home and helps us save a ton of money during the New England growing season. I’ll never forget a woman once remarked at how many vegetables were on the belt at the grocery store when I was checking out. Yes, vegetables have a leading role on our dinner plates most nights. But eating so many organic vegetables can be very expensive when we’re buying them at the grocery store year round.

I have fond memories of picking veggies in my grandparents’ garden growing up and eating them after wiping any dirt on my shirt. And Chris’s parents still grow a huge garden every year. So, starting our own garden–while a lot of work–isnatural. This means on top of participating in a local CSA where we get a full share, this year marks our 5th garden season and thankfully we have a pretty great plan. But how did we come up with this plan?

When planning our garden and picking what we’ll grow, we consider the following:

  • What do we get a ton of in our local CSA share? And/or, what do they grow better than we do (either because they just do or they may have more space for a particular veggie)? We get a lot of all different vegetables from our local farm, some of which includes broccoli, cabbage, corn, and garlic. So we choose to fill our garden with other produce we may not get as much of in our weekly farm pick-up. Plus, they’re way better at growing some of these veggies than me. Or something like corn or potatoes would take up a lot of space that we can better use to grow something different.
  • What can I buy for less money at the grocery store? I can literally buy 10 pounds of carrots for $10. So, I save the space carrots could take up in our garden and opt to buy them from the grocery store (plus we get some of the best carrots in our CSA share too!)
  • What can I grow and freeze? We eat as organic as possible in our home, but year round, some organic veggies are very expensive. So, we plant 20 pepper plants. I opt to grow a ton of our own and freeze them either on their own to cook with later, or already cooked into recipes (who wants chili? My freezer is often full of it by football season in the fall!). We plant tons of zucchini for the same reason. Conventional zucchini is laden with pesticides (hello, dirty dozen item!) and organic zucchini is expensive, so we plant 6 plants and harvest all we can–either freezing it as is, or cooking it.
  • What does our family really like to eat? Or not? Last year Isla loved picking fresh cherry tomatoes from the garden, so I made sure I picked out 3 cherry tomato plants this year. I also got 3 larger sized tomato plants for salads, making sauce, etc. In the past we grew larger cucumbers, but I opted for the smaller pickling size this year because we love homemade pickles, and they’re easier for the girls to eat when reaching for a fresh snack.

Once you’ve figured our what you want to grow, it takes some practice to lay it all out and make everything fit. Truthfully, we overfill our garden. But I’ve never regreted it! We end up with so much of everything and nothing tastes better than fresh vegetables, literally picked minutes before dinner. We or the ducks eat it so I never feel wasteful. Eventually, I’d love to tackle growing things like sweet potatoes and onions. But for now, I think we have another great garden to look forward to!

Here’s what we put in our garden, and how we lay it out:

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We normally need two trips to buy everything we need, but for about $150 we get all the veggies, herbs, and flowers we’ll need for the year. Seriously, you can’t beat that!

The first time I went solo with the girls and tandem wore them for the first time. My selfie attempt was a fail, but thankfully our trip was a success. So many people commented that I was a super mom, but honestly I just felt like a mom doing what she had to do. I was just so happy the girls behaved!

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The second time we went, Chris joined and it was definitely easier. We both wore a baby.

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Side note: Does anyone else’s toddler scoff at the camera? This girl does not like having her picture taken lately!

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And both times we bribed Isla with a donut treat if she behaved. Yes, I’m definitely not above bribery. With an almost 2 year old, it works. Our favorite donut shop is down the road from the nursery. Who doesn’t love an Elmo donut?

Once we have our veggies, they typically hang around until we have the time to plant them. This year we really waited to make sure the weather wouldn’t be freezing again.

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Here’s a before photo of the garden, full of weeds (plus a cameo by a couple of our ducks):

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And an after. We still have to place newspaper and shredded straw to block weeds, but we can’t wait until we can start harvesting some of these veggies in a few more weeks!

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Tell me, do you have a garden? What do you plant? Happy spring all!