Monday, March 19, 2018

What I'm Loving Lately

Hi There!
    It's been a while since I've done a "What I'm Loving Lately" post. There's a lot to love these days starting with....the first day of spring this week! Holllllller! Even though it snowed last week, I'm totally embracing spring with a floral mani and enjoying the long days.

By the wonderful Dainty Digits
1. Date Nights: I've mentioned before how crucial I think date nights are. It helps that we have wonderful family close by who can watch Hank. Saturday evening we went to a Utah Jazz game. My family got the tickets for AJ for Christmas and it honestly seemed so far away at the time and then boom! It was here. We had a fun time walking around the new arena (so nice), cheering on the Jazz, and just enjoying being together. We have a few more date nights planned in the next few months. I love dating my husband. And while ya'll read in my 20 random facts post that I only went to two Gonzaga games while I was there, I was super excited that they won Saturday's game. Go Zags!

2. Tazo Lemon Loaf Tea: Confession: I have a bad habit of snacking at night so earlier this month I began a new resolution for after dinner munching. I can have either a mug of tea or a mini bag of Skinny Pop popcorn (sometimes both, I'm not perfect here, people!). Well. I discovered Tazo makes a line of dessert inspired teas. Sign me up! I love the lemon loaf tastes exactly like the lemon loaf at Starbucks. I've bought the caramel blondie kind too and they also make a vanilla macaroon one. Tea that tastes like treats? What a time to be alive!

3. Tieks! Guys. I've been wanting Tieks for a sweet forever and my in laws bought me a pair for my birthday! For those of you who think they're just regular ballet flats, they are oh so much more. One, they are well made and all the reviews say they last a long time (as opposed to the $15 shoes I normally purchase) and they are SO comfy. I am a Tieks believer. To top it off, I am a huge fan of companies that have amazing customer service and cute details. Along with the shoes came a handwritten note that said, "We can't wait to see where you're blue prints take you" (the soles of Tieks are bright blue) and a set of seasonal notecards with cute shoe art. I mean, really.
4. Hank is 3 months old: This. boy. I cannot with his cuteness. This stage (like, you know, having an awake baby during the day---I'm looking at you, snoozy first month) is so so so fun. He gets cuter everyday and he is such a sweet little man. He loves looking at lights, going for walks, kicking his legs like crazy, and drinking each bottle with gusto. We've been trying to spend more time lately in his room and it's so fun to chill in there in the evenings looking at books and AJ often gets out his guitar and Hank listens and looks mesmerized. I don't even mind it when he pees through outfits because it's just a chance to showcase another one of his many fashion choices. He's a delight and I adore him.

 Sidenote: Any Brandi Carlile fans? Her song, "Mother" is the best representation of motherhood I've heard so far. (Her new album is totes another favorite thing).

5. The Bible Binge: I am loving this new podcast! I discovered this gem through one of my other favorite podcasts, The Big Boo cast. Basically it's like a hilarious talk show recapping bible stories. The current season is all about the lineage of Jesus and it's full of super interesting biblical insight and puts a relatable spin on bible stories. Plus the hosts (Knox and Jamie...who are so perfect together), "cast" each story with a modern celebrity. Think Tony Danza as Noah and Dax Shepherd as Lot. It's perfect for my drive to and from school.

6. Big Post-its: Nerd alert! It's no secret I'm a list maker and I'm just now discovering the beauty of big post it notes! I can make a whole list and stick these guys in my teacher plan book or right on my desk. I picked up a pack of cute colored ones. Those and my Flair Pens.....bring on the long lists!

7. Family Visits: One of the neatest parts about becoming a parent has been watching our parents become grandparents, my sister become an aunt and my brother in law become an uncle. I love all the love and joy they give Hank and that he gives them. My mother in law is staying with us for two weeks and during that time my brother in law, Matt will be visiting from Denver to meet Hank and my father in law will be visiting during his spring break as well. My sister arrives in just a few weeks for a visit and my family makes an effort to see Hankers at least every week. I do not take it for granted. Hank is surrounded by love and that makes my momma heart so full.

I'm working on my March book review so look for that soon. Have a happy week, everyone!

Savor Your Sparkle,

Monday, March 12, 2018


We had a super fun filled weekend celebrating my birthday and relaxing together. On Friday I had the day off (Teacher work day!) and relaxed by having a hair appointment and chilling with my Hank man. Friday evening we watched "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri" and I really liked it. We decided to celebrate my birthday on Saturday and we kicked it off with coffee, donuts, and Clicklist grocery pick up. The weather was absolutely gorgeous so we packed up the stroller and took a beautiful long walk.

That afternoon my parents came over and kept an eye on Hank while we went to visit Hadley and run some errands. I wanted to go to Target and Hobby Lobby (we got some goodies for Hank's Easter basket) and AJ wanted to buy an office chair. He ended up finding a floor model one he liked so we rolled that thing out and I hung out with it at the front while AJ got the car (super exciting times here, people). We picked up dinner at one of my favorite places, Pizzeria Limone and enjoyed pizza, gift opening, and cake ("The Husband" cake from The Chocolate, of course!) and some quality family time. A perfect evening! 
AJ was mortified that we were in matching red plaid! 

My girl 

My sister got me this awesome set of Lush bath goodies. It was so artfully wrapped and packaged! 3 cheers for Lush!
Hank wore his first ever pair of shoes! We were gifted these and what better time to style up those feet than momma's birthday? 

Also in red plaid. Cause we're nerdy like that. 

Caprese love 
On Sunday (my actual birthday) we slept in (as best we could with the time change) and I did some meal prepping and went to a friend's baby shower. All in all, it was an awesome weekend. This week at school is sort of funky with me at a workshop Monday and Tuesday then parent teacher conferences. I cannot believe we're already into March. But the sunshine till later today made me so happy and so excited for spring and summer!

Savor Your Sparkle,

Friday, March 9, 2018

Feeding Hank

I tried to think of a clever title for this post but nothing felt quite right. I don't want to be awkward so if reading about feeding a baby may offend you, please stop reading now (and get with 2018, ahem).

I feel like this topic gets really sensitive for people and I get it. But overall, I'm all about "you do you" when it comes to parenting. It's YOUR child and you know what's best for your baby AND your family dynamic. Breastfed or bottle fed, whatever, man. I've taught kids who were vegan, gluten free, ate McDonald's 5 times a week, lived on Lunchables and Little Debbies and every variation in between. The common denominator for success that I've witnessed in my teaching career has nothing to do with whether kids were breastfed or bottle fed. It's about parents who love their children and engage with them. So don't ever be ashamed or worried about your feeding choices (steps off soap box).

When I was pregnant with Hadley I was pretty "meh" about breastfeeding. I didn't know much about it but I knew I wanted to at least try. If it worked cool, if not, hand me some Similac, but I overall wasn't too concerned. When she was born and went to the NICU, she couldn't exactly feed like a healthy baby. My doctor did encourage me to pump, however, and said if I wanted to take some breast milk and put it in a syringe or on a q tip, I could put it in her mouth and it might provide her with some nutrients. So I did. I pumped in a hospital room and produced the tiniest smidgen of milk to put on the cheek of my baby who was struggling for her very life down in the NICU. It was weird and tough and not exactly a blissful introduction to breastfeeding. But I will say.....I proudly took that smidgen down to the NICU in a tiny plastic container feeling like I was delivering her the nectar of the gods. It sounds dramatic, but you have to understand, I could do nothing to help my baby, not even hold her, so I felt like by pumping a tiny bit, I was at least useful. A few days into it, when we learned her prognosis, I immediately stopped pumping and was glad I did. I didn't want to dive too deep into something I knew would abruptly end.

With Hank, I read a bit about breastfeeding and was determined to try it, but I didn't want to pressure myself if it wasn't working for us or if it was too frustrating. I bought bottles, got a breast pump through insurance, and was planning on visiting a local store called "The Lactation Station" (but Hank showed up on the scene before I went!). I wanted to be prepared either way. Once Hank was born, he ended up being bottle fed in the hospital. I didn't really have much milk the first day and a half or so after he was born. The nurses were absolutely amazing helping me and teaching me about pumping and helping me get Hank to latch. He latched for a little bit but he just wasn't really into it. I could tell he was getting frustrated so he primarily had bottles in the hospital. Once we got home I started pumping and was able to produce about half of the food Hank needed. We supplemented the rest with formula.

As my maternity leave went on I started pumping about 6-7 times a day. I tried a few more times to have Hank latch but he absolutely did not like it. He was used to the bottle and latching was just too much work. He would cry and get so mad trying to eat. So a few weeks in, I just let it go. I was able to save up a bunch of milk during my leave to freeze and I still have a stash of 20 or so bags in the freezer. I'm not freezing any now that I'm back at work, though.

I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I had kept trying with nursing. I wish I could have had that precious bonding that I hear comes with nursing. I think it'd be something special for Hank and I to share. But I also liked being able to go on date nights and things and leave Hank with a bottle and not worry if I had to go somewhere that he'd be hungry. I'll be totally real with ya'll: I didn't try that hard with breastfeeding. I didn't read books about it, I didn't visit the baby store for nursing supplies or tools that might make it easier. I didn't consult a lactation specialist. I know I could have kept pushing and trying but I didn't. And I'm truly at peace with that. The exclusive pumping with formula supplementation worked well for us (and it still does). I will never judge a mom who really puts forth lots of effort to nurse. I think that's truly admirable. Just like I will never judge a woman who doesn't want to nurse. It's admirable to make a choice that works for a mom and her family.

 I'm still pumping 2-3 times a day (down from 6 or 7) and have begun the slow weaning process.  I'd ideally like him to still be getting fresh (not frozen) breast milk for at least another month or so. We'll see how it goes. What I do know is that Hank is getting fed. And he's developing delightful thigh rolls and an impressive double chin so I'd say it's all good.

Savor Your Sparkle,

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

20 Random Facts

I thought it'd be fun to do a post of 20 random facts about me. Here we go!

1. I have my bachelors degree in History and my Masters degree in Elementary Education.

2. I love taking evening walks....especially now with a stroller and my guys (around "Daybreak Lake" is my favorite path).

3. I did pretty much all my lesson planning my first two years of teaching at Starbucks on Sundays.

4. I love having my nails done and a great shiny gel mani makes me happy.

5. I've never read a single Harry Potter book or seen one of the movies.

6. My first concert was Janet Jackson with opening act Usher.

7. A significant portion of my wardrobe is from Target.

8. I only went to two basketball games when I was at Gonzaga. I'm all about supporting the Zags but I'm just not much of a sports girl.

9. I love breakfast and eat a pretty hearty one every day (I also love going out for breakfast).

10. I began my teaching journey thinking I wanted to do upper grades social studies. I landed in 1st grade and have loved it. I married a social studies teacher instead!

11. I make a school to do list and a home to do list every day.

12. I used to love to craft and make cards but I haven't done it much lately.

13. I try to make a new recipe at least a few times a month.

14. I love buffalo sauce in any form. I got into it during my first pregnancy and I've loved it ever since. #Bdubs

15. If Hank was a girl we would have named her Hope.

16. I love the library app and am on usually on at least ten wait lists for books at any given time.

17. I love my teacher friends. We've gotten together for a meal every month for about 4 years and we've never had a restaurant repeat.

18. Writing (specifically creative writing)  is my favorite thing to teach. If I could make a career out of teaching elementary creative writing, I'd do it in a heartbeat.

19. My favorite colors are coral and tiffany blue (my wedding color palette!)

20. I've never visited Paris and it's my dream to go there.

How's that for some random?!

Saturday, March 3, 2018

This & That

Today's post is super duper random.....a bunch of this & that!

Future OSU Beaver?! 

I am 3 weeks into this working mom gig and things are going well. It's a bit of a shuffle in the morning getting AJ and I out the door pretty early, but we are finding a groove. We are so thankful that my mom comes over to watch Hank. He gets grandma snuggles and he gets to stay home snug and warm. In a few weeks, his Grandma Steele will be reporting for Hank duty for a bit. This boy is never without love, kisses, and attention. I can hardly believe he's approaching 3 months. My goodness! He is such a little snuggler and loves to be held, rocked, and talked to. He loves his little floor piano and is now strong enough to kick it and make music! He's still a champion sleeper and every night that this mama does not see 1, 2, 3, or 4 a.m., I consider it a blessing! We still basically keep him at home with the flu season and the cold air. He's been to the doctor's, my family's house, and on walks. I'm looking forward to the warmer days where the three of us can go out together.

I captured this moment of working mom life. I was in the middle of flat ironing my hair and doing my makeup when this little man just needed some snuggles. Mama to the rescue! 
 Sometimes I look at Hank and think, "Yep, you were so obviously sent to us from your big sister." It's been interesting to note how child loss grief evolves when you're a parent again. Hadley is still (and always!) a part of me, but I do find myself sort of in a daze about it all. There are definitely times that I look at AJ and say, "Did that really happen to us?" It seems like so long ago but also just like yesterday too. We speak of her often and want Hank to grow up knowing Hadley. There has been some guilt, I'll admit, about not visiting her grave as often as I used to or as often as I'd like. I'll feel bad that in the midst of bottles, diapers, rocking and reading to my little guy, that a few hours or even days will go by and I won't have thought of her. I remind myself often (and AJ and I tell each other) that the way to honor Hadley and love her from afar is to love Hank with all we've got. We can't parent her, but what we can do is be faithful stewards of her memory and the endless love and grace that poured from her story and be the best we can for Hank. I just know they'd love each other so much.

We are back on the meal prep train with some modifications  (full disclosure: Friday I had corn dog nuggets for lunch,  I'm an open book here, people). I've discovered some awesome little tricks that can streamline the process because #momlife. I am a big fan of the prepackaged Kroger salads. The chicken apple walnut one is delish. Also last week I cooked up a sheet pan dinner, inspired by this recipe.  It was so easy and yummy (I chopped all the veggies the night before). I bought some ingredients to make chicken taco bowls (chicken, brown rice, beans, cheese, pico, shredded lettuce, guac) and have discovered the joy of mint chocolate Lara Bars and Barbara's brand "Better Than Granola" dark chocolate cranberry flavor. I posted an easy yummy dinner last week, too, that you should check out.

In other news, the DVR has been blowing up lately. I've been watching: Teen Mom OG, The Bachelor (do not even get me started on Arie. ABC, step it up.), The Good Doctor, Counting On, Married At First Sight, Shark Tank, Sister Wives, Seeking Sister Wives, Superstore, Will & Grace, and I am loving the show Crashing on HBO! There's two seasons and it's great. I have also been watching the reboot of Queer Eye on Netflix. This show!! Not only is it a good old fashioned makeover show (plus cooking and decor makeovers!), but this show is truly building bridges between communities of people. Don't believe me? Watch the police officer episode, I dare you to not get misty eyed.

I've been interested in skin care lately (Is this 30?!) and developing a good "regimen." I still love my Clinique sonic spin brush and I've always been a pore strip girl. I've been using Rosehip oil as my moisturizer morning and night (heard about it from Big Mama) and it's wonderful! It's super light and makes my skin feel great. And at $10 for a bottle that will probably last me about a year it's a steal.

A friend and I were talking emojis the other day and sent each other our most used ones. This is so interesting to me. What emojis are your favorites? Also, at the request of my mom and sister, I finally got a Bitmoji. I swore I never would, but it's hilarious!

I wanted your opinion on this one: I was thinking of doing a post about breastfeeding/pumping and my experience. Would readers be interested or is it TMI?

We're just gearing up for springtime in the Steele household. I put out some springy/Easter decorations this weekend and after parent/teacher conferences are behind me I'm looking forward to a visits from family and spring break, it's only a few weeks away! Now if only that sunshine would get with the program!

I leave you with this hilariousness: You know I love me some Starbucks. Howard Schultz is one of my personal heroes. Well, I've been cracking up over their social media posts lately because Starbucks will respond to every. single. one. (Yes, even rude ones). So once a post about their new drink, Honey Citrus Mint Tea (referred to as a "Medicine Ball," I've been meaning to try one) was posted, I commented, they wrote back, and I had a fan girl moment. It takes so little to delight me! Have a great week, everyone!

Savor Your Sparkle,

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Beef Tamale Skillet

I have a new recipe for you today! This was a bit of a "clear out the pantry/fridge" recipe that actually turned out great. I got inspiration from a recipe on the back of a tomato soup can and changed some things around to create this dish. It was super easy and yummy and we'd definitely have it again.

Beef Tamale Skillet

Cast of Characters:

1 lb ground beef
1 can black beans drained
1/2 cup salsa
1/2 cup water
1 can tomato soup OR 1 can mild enchilada sauce
1/2 tbs taco seasoning (love the Penzey's kind!)
15 small corn tortillas (about half a bag) cut in small pieces
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

1. Brown your ground beef and drain.
2. Add all ingredients except cheese to the skillet and cook for about 10-15 minutes.
3. Stir in cheese and serve with your favorite taco toppings. We used shredded lettuce, guac, and sour cream.

Chopped green chiles and olives would be delish with this too! Or some frozen corn thrown in? Rotel would give it some nice heat and you could always try another bean like pinto. There are lots of possibilities with a beefy, cheesy, Mexican flavored base. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 25, 2018

February Reads

It's time for my monthly book round up! If you want to see last month's books, click here

I read 6 great books this month. Isn't there just something about curling up with a warm mug under blankets and reading? But I also can't wait for a cool glass of lemonade and patio reading too (Come on, spring!). Ok....let's get to the books. By the way, I spent part of the month on maternity leave so I don't expect to read as many books in March. A girl can try, "want to read" list is long!

1. The Third Wife by Lisa Jewell: This was an awesome book! If you are a Liane Moriarty fan you will enjoy this one. I read a Lisa Jewell book last year and liked it. This one is about a man and his three wives (not at the same time, this is NOT a polygamist story), and the fall out that impacts his family from his divorces and marriages. It is a great look at a family trying to balance it all and the dramatic and.....deadly (!) consequences. This is a suspenseful yet thoughtful read.

2. Parent Hacks by Asha Dornfest: This was a super fast read with numbered tips for parents with kids from babyhood, to toodlerhood and beyond. I really enjoyed this one, it would make a great gift for a new mama. My fave tip? Wrap up spare outfits in an elastic band in the diaper bag. When you use the outfit, the elastic band on your wrist will remind you to update the diaper bag. This book is like a condensed version of hours of pinterest scrolling.
3. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion: This one has been on my "to read" list for months and maybe it should have stayed there. This book was just ok. It features a nerdy autistic narrator (portrayed pretty much like the lead character in the Good Doctor) and his quest for love. This one did not live up to the hype for me. It was cute, it was sort of good, but it was not great. It took me longer to finish than most books because I had a hard time getting into it.

4. The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan: I really enjoyed this love story! It's basically a Lifetime movie meets the story of Megan Markle and Prince Harry meets classic chick lit. I love me a story that spans time and this one follows the American Rebecca Porter on her journey from college dorm days to her transformation to sophisticated royal wife....with lots of ups and downs in between. It was heartfelt, cute, funny and.....long (about 500 pages). About 100 pages too long in my opinion, but overall, I was glad I read it.

5. Sisters First by Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush: I really enjoyed this book written by the Bush twins about their life story. I think Jenna is just adorable on The Today Show and life inside The White House fascinates me (I wrote my senior thesis on First Ladies). I love how this story isn't told chronologically but rather through anecdotes about dating life, being a college student with a secret service team in tow, their awesome humanitarian work, what it's like to hear your dad bashed in the media, and more. I had no idea both Laura Bush's family as well as George Bush 41's were plagued by baby loss. This was a quick, interesting read.

6. Look Again by Lisa Scottoline: This book was a recommendation from my mom and I really enjoyed it. It follows a woman who discovers her adopted son's picture on a Missing Children sign. She investigates and uncovers all sorts of drama and deception. This one reminds me a lot of Jodi Piccoult's books. I highly recommend this one if you're looking for a juicy novel to get lost in.

I'm ready to dive into my March reads!