ETC: Week 40

Hello friends!

I hope all is well! This past week, we made it to 40 weeks! It’s very bittersweet because I am very happy baby girl is fully cooked, but I’m also very anxious to meet her already!

We had a rather busy week and even had some visitors, but still, no baby!

Our 40-week weekend was beautiful; warm and filled with sunshine! Saturday we ran our weekly errands and Sunday we didn’t move until about 1pm. After relaxing all morning, we decided to go on a long walk. We walked down to the lakefront path and took a stroll through Andersonville on the way home. It was nice to reminisce along my old running path. Once Naomi is here and old enough to be in the jogging stroller, she will quickly become well acquainted with that path as well!

I worked from home this week which was extremely stress relieving. Not having to commute on crowded public transportation or worry about my escape route from downtown to up north if labor were to start was a blessing. Also, not having to try and fit in to office maternity clothes was pretty nice. At this point, a few maternity items still fit because they are stretchy, but are they by no means comfortable.

My mom and sister also came to visit this week. Unfortunately for them, when they booked the trip, they had planned to spend time with the baby since it was technically 2 days passed my due date that they would arrive. Joke was on all of us because, Naomi never made her grand entrance into the world.

It was nice to see them both one last time without a baby though. We went to Homeslice pizza one night and Xoco another night. Two places we wouldn’t have been able to check out with a newborn. We also stopped and walked around Oz park. Did you know, the statues can talk to you?!?! You enter a website on your phone then Dorothy or Tin Man will call you and talk to you for a minute or two. It’s a neat idea and I can’t wait to take Naomi to see them, once she’s old enough to understand the hype.

My mom and sister left at the end of the week but booked another stay the first weekend in May. They will be guaranteed to meet Naomi this next time around!

It was also our precious Pumbaa’s birthday this week! He is 7 and I cannot believe where the time went. I adopted Pumbaa when I moved to Whitewater for college and since then, he’s become such an important part of our family. I hope he loves Naomi as much as he loves us. It may take some getting used to, but he’s a cuddly lover so I have faith in him.

We made it the entire week, everyday asking ourselves ‘is today the day?’ We’ve tried nearly every home remedy people suggest and have answered the “where is she” or “how are you feeling” question at least 55 million times (little to no exaggeration on that estimated number). I’m fully convinced that all of these “at home labor inducing tricks” only work if baby is ready and Naomi is just not ready yet.

It’s definitely bittersweet going past your due date. Yes, I am so happy she’s fully developed in my belly, but we are anxiously awaiting her arrival. There’s a sense of frustration that kicks in when you wake up in the morning and realize it’s time to get up for work but you haven’t had any contractions and today may not be the day. However, it’s a blessing to continue feeling her movements. Soon, she will only be able to kick me from the outside 🙂

Currently, I am 41 weeks and 2 days pregnant. Our next update WILL have a baby update because I will be induced at the end of the week if she doesn’t come out on her own. I personally think she just wanted to wait for the month of May because Te’s birthday is also in May; so we have a serious daddy’s girl on our hands! 🙂

We cannot wait to meet our little bundle and I cannot wait to be done with pregnancy! We’ve got quite an exciting week ahead – Stay tuned!!

Until next time..

ETC: Week 38

Hi friends!
I hope everyone is having a great week! This past week we completed our 38th week of pregnancy. We are coming so close to meeting our little girl and we can NOT wait!

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Olive Park – Chicago, IL

Luckily, no one was sick this week – Thank you, Jesus! 🙂 To start off the 38th week, we took a trip downtown to visit Olive Park. It is a very pretty part of the city and the weather was gorgeous! I started feeling some pains in my lower belly area while walking – they amounted to nothing but it was reassuring that my body seems to be preparing for labor and delivery!

After being sick last week, I took it easy this week. Instead of 5 am wake up calls to go to the gym, I started getting up at 6 and going on a 2 mile walk around my neighborhood. This is definitely a change in pace for me. I am used to HIIT and running workouts followed by weight training, so allowing myself to learn to apprecite walking as a workout has been interesting. It definitely feels good to stay mobile throughout these last couple of weeks, but I cannot wait to get back to running!

Monday at work they threw me a baby shower. We had a delicious Sweet Mandy B’s cake (Chocolate with vanilla frosting – YUM) and the sales team got together and got Te and I an extremely generous gift card to Target. We are very thankful to have so much support from both of our work families in the city! I had a doctor appointment on Monday night (as I do every Monday now days :)) and it was super quick. Everything seems good, we’re just waiting on baby girl to come on out!

Tuesday night we had some friends over, Natalie and Reni, for a taco Tuesday celebration. It was so wonderful to see them and catch up! They just returned from a trip to Japan so we talked all about their travels and caught up on life. We also asked them to be Godparents to our little Naomi and we are so excited they said yes! 🙂 She is so lucky to have such positive influences in her life – they will be such great role models for her growing up!!

The rest of the week, we took it easy as well. We continue to clean the house and prep for baby as much as possible, but we’re pretty much all set. Now, we wait! I am feeling very ready to meet the baby! Also, I only have a few items of clothing that fit me now and I refuse to buy anything new, so dressing for work.. and life, really, is becoming quite a challenge. Also, the swelling I’m experiencing in my feet/ankles/legs/fingers is intense. I am ready to be done with the discomfort that comes along with these last couple of weeks!

Te and I put a fun little bet on Naomi’s birthday. I said April 16th (Which if you’re reading this now, it didn’t happen..) and Te said Thursday, April 20th. We’ll see if either of us are right! I couldn’t care less what day she comes, I just pray she comes before or on her due date. I am not looking forward to 41 weeks of pregnancy – I want to meet you little Naomi!! 

We just started our 39th week of pregnancy this past Saturday and we are hoping it was the last bump photo we have to take! I’ll update you next week with a bumpdate and HOPEFULLY, a baby intro! 🙂

Stay tuned!

Until next time..

ETC: T-30 days

 

We are so close! In less than 30 days we will be Bates, party of 3!

Looking ahead, since we aren’t sure when our little girl will make her grand appearance, I’m going to try and give an update every week. Don’t hold me to it, but I’ll try my best 🙂

For this post, join me as I take a look at back at our 8th month of pregnancy.

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Warning, this was a crazy busy week for us! For our 1 year anniversary, Te bought me tickets to a bread baking class. I was super excited because I’ve always wanted to go to a couple’s cooking class! We learned how to make sourdough bread and once everything came out of the oven, the instructor pointed out a loaf that was ‘perfect’. Low and behold, it was Te’s 🙂 It was also pretty ‘punny’ that we had our bread bun in the oven while I also have a ‘bun in the oven’ 🙂

Next on our list, we drove to Milwaukee to pick up a stroller. Also, I met with my long time friend Jenny and my sister for brunch. It was so nice to catch up!

Another thing we did was attend a home buying class! Redfin hosted a free class where they provided dinner and some tips for first time buyers. It was eye opening and left us feeling optimistic about *someday* buying our own humble abode.

Also this week, we went to our first Chicago Blackhawks game! It was magical 🙂 We have now been to every major Chicago sporting event (yes, including the Chicago Fire and the Chicago Wolves). The atmosphere at the Blackhawks game was unreal – I think it’s my new favorite type of event! We saw some friends at the game and were able to catch up with them a bit, which added to the excitement of the evening!

Believe it or not, we ALSO had a baby shower this week [I warned you, it was a very busy this week!]. Te’s Shred co-workers-turned-family threw us the cutest shower. We got our first diaper cake and Naomi got her first pair of (gold) Nike’s!! We are so thankful for the Shred team who has truly become family for us.

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This week, the city of Chicago celebrated St. Patrick’s Day by dyeing the river green! I’ve never gone to see the green river so we decided this year was the year we would go check it out! I couldn’t believe how truly green it was!

Unfortunately, after our many festivities of week 33, Te came down with the flu during week 34. It was a very tough week because he was VERY sick so I was trying my best to care for him while not getting sick myself.

On top of Te being sick, we scheduled a vet appointment for Pumbaa. It. Was. Awful. Our cat HATES the vet. It’s truly the worst time of year when we have to take him. He gets angry and hisses and is very mean. I understand he’s scared, but jeeze!!! At any rate, we got his shots so he’s ready for baby. However, Te had to clean poop and pee off of Pumbaa’s butt when we got home because they kept him in the kennel to administer the shot, he got scared and let loose. I felt terrible because I couldn’t help since I have to avoid cat poop while pregnant. UGH! What a day it was. We both took a long nap after that event.

After an entire week under the weather (poor babe 😦 ) and an awful vet appointment, we were able to get out of the house that weekend and turn our frowns upside down. We went to see Beauty and the Beast! I’ve been dying to see the movie and for Valentine’s Day, Te ordered tickets for us to go. It was amazing. I cried at least 5 times in the theatre and twice when we left. I also indulged on delicious movie theatre popcorn which was incredible.

All in all, it was a happy ending to a very tough week.

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This week was much easier. Slower pace and no illness! We always wanted to take a photo at this adorable coffee shop and of course, try their coffee. Well when we arrived, unfortunately the coffee shop was closed. 😦 We still took the picture then went back to our car. Before we left, we stopped in to Goddess & the Baker to get a latte and a scone. To our surprise, as we were waiting for our order, a ginormous (tall) guy walked in and right away, Te knew who he was [Paul Zipser from the Bulls]. Te went up to him and showed him a photo that Te took of him while at the Bulls game. They talked briefly and we let him get on his way. I would have had NO idea this guy played for the Bulls but thanks to hubby, we got to briefly meet him.

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9 months pregnant. Woah. In the next 4 weeks (or 5-6.. but hopefully 4 :)) we will meet our little girl! This week was ALL about nesting. We got the changing table we’d been eyeing up and were able to organize everything in Naomi’s space. We gave our apartment a mini makeover and a deep clean since we aren’t sure when we will have time to do that again.

On the way to take our bump pic this week, we decided to stop at Cafe Tola to get an empanada snack. They had chicken mole empanadas which, if you know me, you know I LOVE mole. It was absolutely delicious! We decided to scrap our original photo plan and take our bump pic on the side of the Cafe Tola building because, well.. Hey Kanye! 👋🏽🤣

Also this week, Jaime & Tiffany came to Chicago and spent the day with us! It was so fun seeing them. They brought Naomi some of the most adorable gifts. She’s so blessed to have such thoughtful family! During their visit, we went to HopLeaf because it’s been on our “to-do” list forever. After a couple of drinks for the boys, we went to DMK for dinner and completely indulged in some of the city’s best burgers and fries. We don’t have much planned for the rest of the week so I’m excited for another slow, uneventful couple of days.

We are very close to meeting our princess. I may or may not have a “bumpdate” for you next week – I could possibly have a baby update!

Stay tuned!

Until next time..

ETC: Getting Closer

Hi friends,

I hope all is well! We are getting closer and closer to baby’s due date! We’ve had quite a busy month again but are feeling more prepared for baby girl as the days pass. Take a look at the past month with me and look ahead to my last 8 (ish) weeks!!


At the beginning of the month we had our first baby shower! It was storybook themed and so adorable! We had food that went along with the theme so “Green Eggs and Ham” and cupcakes for “If You Give A Cat A Cupcake”, etc. Friends and family from Wisconsin were there to celebrate this little girl! We left with a full car and full hearts, realizing how loved we are and so is she!! 

We also toured the hospital this week and saw the labor and delivery, as well as the postpartum rooms. The staff was very friendly and I’m excited to be delivering Naomi at Swedish Covenant. 

The next weekend, we went to the auto show! Te and I had never been to an auto show so we figured, why not? Chicago apparently has one of the largest shows! It was awesome to see all of the new cars, the expensive Lamborghini and Rolls Royce’s and of course, my dream car, the mustang! Of all the cars I could have taken a picture in front of, I couldn’t resist my mustang! 

Fun side note: right after this picture a man prayed over my belly; for us as a family and to bless the baby. It was a super sweet random act of kindness and perfect timing. God is so amazing!

This was also the week that we finished up our 10 week baby class. I’m very glad we took the class. It taught us about all things labor, birth and postpartum with a focus on the Bradley method of natural child birth. The coolest part was on the day of our last class, one couple wasn’t there because they had their baby! 

As one class was ending, another was starting up! My first small group meeting was this week. I love that my church offers small groups every semester. It’s such a great way to connect with people from the church throughout the week!

It’s still February in this photo! Don’t let the sleeveless dress fool you!!  This week was Te & I’s one year wedding anniversary! We got married at Barcocina so it was only fitting we took our photo there! Unfortunately, on our wedding day it was not 60° like it was in this photo, however, we had the most epic wedding and I wouldn’t change a thing. I cannot believe it’s already been a year! Seems like time has flown by but I could not be happier!

To celebrate, we pampered ourselves with a mani/pedi day and then went to dinner at Barcocina. We also are planning on going to a breadmaking class (because I’ve been anxiously awaiting a cooking class date!!!!!) and our first Blackhawks game! We also got pizza the night of our actual wedding anniversary (which fell on a Tuesday) because it’s our tradition. Since we barely ate any food at our actual wedding on the way home we stopped for pizza, and so this year, we followed suite. 🙂

Happy anniversary babe! I love you!

Oh baby!! Naomi is so loved!! Our wonderful friends-turned-family in Chicago came out to celebrate baby girl at another baby shower! We had the shower at George’s ice cream shop which is just absolutely delicious!! Friends from all of my chicago communities came together and it was so great to see everyone!! Te and I couldn’t be more thankful for everyone’s generosity – Naomi was spoiled once again with love & gifts. We’re even more prepared now! Just a few more “essentials” on our list and then, we’re set! 

So here I am, 32 weeks pregnant, which is 8 months pregnant.. which is crazy!!! This pregnancy has truly gone by so fast! I feel like just yesterday we were telling people our news and now we’re expecting our little bundle in the next couple months! 

Everyone always wants to know how I’m feeling. Well, to sum up the past couple of weeks I would say that the third trimester tiredness has definitely hit me. I still love getting a workout in 3-5 days per week and I’m trying to keep running so I stay up on my 365 miles in 365 days challenge. My body doesn’t feel too sore (yet) but some nights restless leg syndrome kicks in, which is terrible. Heartburn comes and goes, but when it comes, it comes full force. I basically feel like a fire-breathing dragon or nothing at all. I love feeling her kick and move! The other night she rolled over or something – it was the strangest most amazing feeling ever! So many new feelings as I begin to prepare to meet my little girl! 

February was a busy month filled with love; baby shower love & wedding anniversary love. March should be a bit slower (hopefully) as we wind down and really prepare for our newest addition to make her arrival. We’ve got roughly 8 more weeks and we couldn’t be more excited! 
Stay tuned for future updates!

Until next time..

ETC: It’s the Final Countdown

Hello friends! I hope you’ve had a great couple of weeks!

Since my last bump update, we have come quite a long way! From a scare of gestational diabetes to entering my third trimester which I’m calling,”the final countdown”. We were planning for a quiet month but we ended up doing a lot and it was great! Take a ride down memory lane with me as I look back on month 6 and look ahead towards month 7 and my final trimester of pregnancy!

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Ahhh, the CTA. We had to take a picture on our trusty transportation system. 🙂 Yes, the one where you get asked for money by the needy, stand packed like a sardine on the way home from a long day at work (standing like that 7 months pregnant is super fun…), see people throw up on themselves/the floors of the train, and even get to sit in cars that smell of cigarettes, urine and feces. Who doesn’t love public transportation?!?! 🙂 In all seriousness though, I’m thankful for the CTA because despite the ridiculous things that may happen, it’s a safe way to get from point A to point B without having to pay for gas or sit in rush hour traffic.

Week 25 we celebrated the birthday of a friend’s one year old! It was such a fun party and made me realize that we are in for lots of fun birthday celebrations to come! Mama was feeling a bit cranky this week, and day in particular (sorry papa!) but the party was a fun way to forget about the stress and spend time with close friends. 

We also had brunch with my sissie and her new man at an awesome cereal bar in the city. It was amazing being able to catch up with her and enjoy a delicious breakfast! 

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[I would just like to point out that it’s mid-January in this photo and although chilly, I’m capable of taking a photo outside without a coat – THANK YOU Chicago]. Week 26 started off with a baby registry event at Babies R Us. It was great! Lucky for us, we were the only people who showed up so we “won” a pack of pampers! Woot woot for free diapers 🙂 After the event, we went out with some friends for brunch at Orange in Roscoe Village and it was delicious. It was great to catch up with people we haven’t seen in forever! Papa also had his first paid photography gig after brunch and it went so well! Naomi and I are so proud of you babe!! ❤

During this week I had a couple of different lunch dates with some of my favorite ladies! It’s so fun getting together and hearing about what’s going on in everyone’s lives. I’m so proud of my ambitious friends!! 

Also this week, I found out a close friend of mine from work was leaving so that she could stay home with her daughter. It was so bittersweet because, although I am happy for her, selfishly, I want to keep her at work so we can still hang out! Now our work lunch dates will just transition in to play dates for our girls, so I guess it’s not so bad! 🙂

Lastly, I found out I failed my initial gestational diabetes test this week. It was really hard on me because I felt like my body was failing. I eat pretty clean still and I am still exercising 3-5 days per week. ‘How could this happen’, I thought? After the initial shock and terribly sad feelings, I learned that sometimes it just happens. No matter how healthy you are, sometimes the condition pops up strictly due to hormones and how your body is reacting to them, not necessarily because of what you’re eating or how active you are. That made me feel better. But I was SO scared to take the long gestational diabetes test because I absolutely H A T E getting my blood drawn…
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..This is the look of a 27 week pregnant woman who HATES getting her blood drawn. This same woman who failed her first gestational diabetes test so she had to wake up at 6:30 AM on a Saturday to get her blood drawn FOUR different times; once in an already bruised arm/vein and three times in the other arm, over a three hour span of time. Thanks to God, I have an incredibly supportive and caring husband who sat with me in the hospital from 7 am until nearly 11 am waiting for me to get the blood draws. Thanks again to God for protecting me and Naomi from the condition they were testing for which was gestational diabetes [We passed!]. Despite the morning being one of my least favorite, once the test was over we went outside and it was nearly 50+ degrees! It was absolutely beautiful and it helped bring up my spirits a bit. I mean, can you deny the amazingness of a warm, sunny day in January in Chicago?! 

We also went to a friend’s house this week to watch the Packer game. It was great to see some old friends and catch up, but the Packers played awful and lost, which was very sad. 😦 There’s always next year, I guess! 

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At 28 weeks, Naomi went to her first Bulls game. Although they also lost, it was a great time! [And no, Naomi is not bad luck for sports, if that’s what you’re thinking. Proof: the Cubs won the World Series after 100+ years of losing. It’s not her fault the Packers didn’t want to meet Trump and the Bulls couldn’t pull it together! 😉 ]

Also this past week, Te and I cat sat our second favorite kitty ever, Myko. It was so great to see him because last time we watched him he was SO tiny and now he looks like a big lion. This got me thinking about how I cannot wait for Naomi to meet Pumbaa… and well, #AllTheCats really. I will be converting her to a cat lady immediately. 🙂 

One last thing we did this week was go out to celebrate a friend’s birthday. After seeing her, Te and I went to dinner. We wanted to try this new burger place nearby but when we got there, it was filled with kids. We were contemplating leaving because we wanted an adult date night. I was frantically searching for a new place nearby that we could go even as the hostess was walking us to our table. The hostess laid down our menus at our table and before walking away said “your server, Naomi, will be right with you.” So inevitably we took that as a sign we should stay 🙂 I am glad we did; the burgers were great and the s’mores sundae was even better!

As I look back, month 6 was filled with many ups and downs. All in all, it was a great month with lots of love from friends and family and a few date nights sprinkled in!

As I look ahead to month 7, we’ve got a lot coming up! 

This coming weekend, we have our first baby shower in Wisconsin. I am so excited to see family and close friends who I have not seen in so long!! It’s going to be a great day to celebrate this little lady! 

February 21st is Te and I’s one year wedding anniversary which I am SO excited to celebrate!! This past year went so quickly and was filled with so many wonderful memories. I’m excited for forever with my beau.

At the end of the month we have another shower planned in Chicago and it’s at THEE best ice cream shop in the city. I’m pretty excited I passed my diabetes test so I can indulge a bit 🙂

So, we still have 12 weeks to go!  It’s not the final, final countdown BUT we’re getting close. We are now officially in the third trimester; the final trimester (aka so close). I’m getting more and more excited to meet this little girl every day but for now, I’m ok with waiting roughly 12 more weeks. 

Until next time..

ETC: A 4 Week Nutrition Journey – Part 3

Hi friends! I hope your weeks have been going well! It’s finally feeling like summertime in Chicago with the sunshine, warm temperatures and the return of a classic summertime staple in the grocery stores, Watermelon!

It’s been a couple of weeks since I last followed up on our nutrition journey. How has your journey been going? I hope some of the tips I’ve given have helped save you money and time when it comes to feeding your family. I’d love to hear your success stories (or any questions you might have) in the comments below!

Today, we are going to talk kitchen fundamentals. This post is for those of you truly do not like to cook. If you do not enjoy cooking, it can be due to many things; you might not be great at it, you might not know where to start or you might just think it’s too complicated. No matter what stage of disliking cooking you’re in, have no fear! With a few simple tips, you can get started cooking in no time!

Let’s set the playing field before we get in to it. No one is born a great cook. Everyone has to learn how to cook and in that process, burn something 7 times, but still try an 8th time. I cook often and I believe that I cook pretty well. However, I did not grow up in a kitchen or in a family where we cooked together every night, allowing me to learn cooking skills. Nope. In fact, I pretty much taught myself to cook through the power of google, food magazines and the food network. So let my story be your example if you feel like you’ll never learn to cook. If you have a desire to provide healthy meals to your family by cooking meals, you definitely can do exactly that!

To make cooking something you enjoy, you’ll want to make sure you’re prepared. Have you ever found a recipe online that sounds delicious but when you go look in your pantry, none of the ingredients are to be found? Here are a few items I suggest you stock in your kitchen that will allow you to make a wide variety of recipes:

Essential Tools:

  • Knives: you’ll want a good set of kitchen knives so your cutting and chopping will be quick and easy. You can get a decent chef knife at almost any store. Heck, go to Target! There are plenty of options that range from $17.99 up to $59.99. Just get yourself a few good knives.
  • Cutting board: I would recommend at least 2 cutting boards, one for meat and one for veggies and fruit. Again, these can be found at Target. I use both wood and plastic, wood for meat, plastic for veggies and fruits, but you can choose your preference.
  • Pots and pans: I bought myself the Rachael Ray 15 piece set on Black Friday about a year ago for $89.99 and so far it’s been pretty great. Since we have a few months to go until Black Friday, I would suggest you get at least one pan and at least one large pot. This will give you options to cook meats and saute veggies in the pan as well as boil eggs and veggies in the pot. You can find pots and pans anywhere! Here’s a link to Target’s Rachael Ray Porcelain 12 piece set.
  • Mixing Bowls: You’ll want bowls to mix things in, whether it’s fruit salad or brownies, get yourself a big bowl.
  • Kitchen Utensil Set: Bed, Bath and Beyond has a 7-piece Kitchen Utensil Set for $8. You’ll need these things, go splurge.
    • While you’re there, a non essential, but very handy gadget to have is a Garlic Press. I used to chop garlic piece by piece, but since getting my garlic press, my quality of life has improved.

Essential Pantry Items:

Now that you’ve got the tools to make you a successful cook, I suggest stocking your pantry with a few items that you’ll need for most recipes. Also, some spices can be used on just about anything, whether it’s Mexican or Italian food, these are the must haves in your pantry.

  • Garlic [Powder/Salt]: I actually keep all three stocked in my pantry! Fresh garlic is great to put with chicken or steaks! Garlic powder is my savior when I don’t feel like using the garlic press. I sparingly use garlic salt because I don’t like to use salt much, but if I do, it works great when I’m sauteing veggies or roasting sweet potato fries.
  • Black Pepper: I love my black pepper grinder. I put tons of black pepper on everything, always freshly cracked. Get yourself a nice grinder and some black peppercorns, your taste buds will thank you!
  • Olive Oil: I don’t use this as much now, because I usually use coconut oil. But olive oil is great to have on hand for a variety of recipes.
  • Coconut Oil: I use this to fry up veggies and meat. I always buy the organic, unrefined coconut oil and am not shy with my scoops.
  • Cinnamon: I think this is an essential because I eat oats a few mornings each week and cinnamon is such a great topper for oats!
  • Chili Powder: Everything is better with a kick! I add chili powder to most of my recipes because I enjoy the spice. It has such a great flavor with a mild kick, I’d recommend having it around!

Once you have your kitchen in order with a few of the above listed essentials, you’re still probably thinking, ‘but I still hate cooking, so how will these help?’

A couple of ways the above lists will help you learn to love cooking are:

  1. You’ll now be prepared. You might not be prepared to make every recipe you find, but you can prepare a lot of basic recipes with the above tools.
  2. You’ll have the opportunity to buy tools that you like. If you don’t like cooking because you are using that old pan from your grandma’s kitchen, toss it out and get a pan in your favorite color. Pick kitchen utensils that you enjoy using and that make your cooking process enjoyable (ex: a good knife) and it will really help change your perspective.

If you’re still skeptical because you fear you’ll burn things or you just don’t know what to do when you get in the kitchen, here are a few beginner tips to get you through:

  1. Do not be afraid of ‘ruining’ something. You might burn it, that is OK. You must not let the fear of messing things up prevent you from trying! This rule is rule #1 because it’s most important. Burn something 7 times, you better try for 8! 🙂
  2. Cook things at a lower temp for a bit longer. A prime example is chicken. Warm up your coconut oil in a pan over low-medium heat, place your chicken in the pan and add some seasoning (pepper, garlic, chili powder) then cover. Allow the chicken to cook slowly on the one side for several minutes, uncover, flip the chicken to the other side and recover. By cooking your chicken on a lower temperature, you’re allowing it to cook thoroughly and retain the juiciness! Also, all of the flavors of your spices will surround the chicken by keeping the lid on it. Give it a whirl!
  3. Find simple recipes. You don’t need to make a masterpiece to eat healthy. If salads are all you can handle, start with salads. Perfect the salad then move on to adding chicken breast or steak. Start simple and once you’ve mastered a few meals, start looking for a new challenge.
  4. Get creative! There are plenty of recipes out there that call for a million ingredients. See if you can tweak them and work with what you have. There are plenty of times I’ll mostly follow a recipe but omit a few ingredients because they are either very small parts of the recipe and I don’t have the ingredient or I’ll only plan to use that ingredient for this one recipe so I don’t see use in buying it. When that happens, use the recipe as inspiration; you don’t need to go out and full bottles/jars of spices for one recipe if you don’t plan to use them again. Try to get creative with what you’ve already got and you might surprise yourself!
  5. Have fun! Cooking should be fun. You might not be ‘the best’ cook, but you can learn to enjoy it. Cooking opens up many doors to being healthy. Once you learn to enjoy cooking, you become in control of what your family eats instead of giving that power to Betty Crocker. You’ll pick the ingredients that fuel your body and your family and that is such a positively powerful thing!

In honor of tradition, I’ve added a delicious recipe below that anyone should enjoy cooking because it’s a Brownie recipe!! You’re thinking ‘What? Aren’t we talking about nutrition here? How are you going to give us a brownie recipe?’ Well my friends, this recipe only calls for 3 ingredients, all of which can be purchased and used in other common recipes. Also, these brownies are quick, healthy and delicious. I hope you enjoy!!

3 Ingredient Brownies

Ingredients:

  • 3 Overripe bananas
  • 1/2 cup almond butter (or any nut butter – I used creamy sunflower butter)
  • 1/8 – 1/4 cup of cocoa powder (the more cocoa powder you use, the richer the brownies will be)

Directions:

  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees
  • Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Blend until banana chunks are mostly smooth, like brownie batter
  • Pour batter into a greased 8×8 cake pan and back for 20 minutes, or until cooked through. Remove from the oven and allow your brownies to cool completely before cutting.
  • I topped my brownies with powdered sugar (a very small sprinkle) but additional toppings could include nut butter (as a frosting) nuts or dried fruit!

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I hope today’s tips will help you appreciate cooking! I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. I am looking forward to next week, the last week of our journey, where we get into more detail about how to make food tasty!

Lastly, if you have it in your hearts and your wallets, I’m still on my journey training for the Chicago Marathon and fundraising $1,000 for Girls on the Run as I go! Here is my fundraising link. I would love if you could donate today! http://bit.ly/25PECj1

Stay well this week my friends!

Until next time..

Create: A Goal-pportunity

Hi friends! I hope everyone’s week is going well!

A bit of follow up on Pumbaa from last week, he is doing great! One trip to the ER followed by a visit to the regular vet (and $1100 later) we found out he had a UTI and an infection from dust particles. He’s been on antibiotics for the past week and is back to normal. Thank you for your prayers!

We are smack dab in the middle of our 4 week nutrition journey. How is it going so far?! Week one we looked at ways we can save money while eating healthy and week two we explored how to make healthy quick meals, for those of us on the go. Have you used any of the tips so far?

This week we were going to explore basic cooking tips and tricks which would make cooking more enjoyable for those who may dread having to cook. However, I have some big news that I couldn’t hold in for two more weeks so without further ado, I will now interrupt your regularly scheduled programming to bring you a special announcement and also, I will need your help!!

You might be asking yourself, what the heck is a ‘Goal-pportunity’? A goal-pportunity is a word I created which means a combination of a goal and an opportunity. We all set goals for ourselves and typically, each goal will open up new opportunities. For example, if your goal is to eat healthier, you open up opportunities for yourself to try new recipes that help you achieve that goal.

In the beginning of the year, I wrote down a lot of goals, aka 2016 New Year’s Resolutions, as did many of you. (Speaking of resolutions and goals, how are yours coming along?) A lot of my goals have changed, due to a variety of factors that this year presented to me. Through the whirlwind of things happening, I’ve managed to stay laser focused on fitness and wellness.

Over the past 10 months I’ve gotten more involved in the fitness scene in Chicago. I’ve checked out a variety of classes including Nike+, Shred 415, Aerial Fitness, Yoga and more. By taking these classes I’ve become stronger, faster, more flexible and  more confident. I found that working out is something I passionately enjoy and I am pretty good at it. Lifting heavy weights or running 8 miles gives me the reality check that even if not everything is going right, I am a strong woman who, thanks to Jesus, is healthy and able-bodied and who, through my experience, can inspire others towards making healthier choices in life.

In addition to the classes I attend, I started running more. I went to Nike Run Club for the first time about a month ago and I loved it. Running alone is great, but running with a large group of awesome people motivates me beyond belief. I decided that I liked running so much that I would sign up for the Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle this past weekend. It was my first timed race and it was amazing. Running through the streets of Chicago with 25,000 other people, all fighting for the same thing (to finish 🙂 ) was an incredible feeling. I was so high on adrenaline that I finished the race in personal record time, 7:46 per mile.

Having completed this race, I have been thinking a lot about Girls on the Run (GOTR) which is a charity I volunteered with this past summer. This organization came to mind because they help girls have confidence in themselves, despite all of the negative influences that impact them each day. GOTR helps with confidence and self-esteem through a fitness training plan where the girls prepare to run a 5K. It is such an amazing concept.

Check out this short video about GOTR hereThe Finish Line is Just the Beginning

This year Girls on the Run-Chicago is on track to serve more than 11,000 girls, which is absolutely amazing! But my hope one day is that every girl will grow up possessing the confidence to do whatever she sets her mind to. You can learn even more about Girls on the Run here.

Since completing the Shamrock Shuffle, attending classes and run club and meeting an entire community of fitness-minded people, who are now some of my best friends, I’ve gained a confidence in myself that I CAN do anything I put my mind to. This is what GOTR helps 3rd – 8th grade girls discover at a much earlier age; confidence, community and the importance of health and fitness. It is truly powerful what this program is accomplishing!

With my 2016 resolutions in mind, my new-found confidence in my fitness abilities, my passion for health, fitness and helping others, I made a big decision and deemed it a ‘Goal-pportunity’.

My goal-pportunity is to run the 2016 Chicago Marathon on behalf of Girls on the Run! I officially signed up yesterday and am so excited about my decision. There are really two goals for this goal-pportunity and countless opportunities to come. One goal, I can complete on my own and with my team of runners. But, to complete the second goal, I will need your help!

Goal #1 To complete the marathon without walking.
Goal #2 To raise $1,000 for the Girls on the Run charity.
Endless opportunities will come from the $1,000 donation that we contribute to the GOTR foundation.

My Plan of Action to reach my goals is as follows: 
In order to reach my goal of running all 26.2 miles, I will train 4-5 days per week, running a variety of miles, all leading up to the 26.2. I plan to run with Nike Run Club and CARA, as well as on my own. I started my training this morning with a 7.5 mile run and it felt SO good!

In order to reach my goal of raising $1,000, I need your help!
I created a fundraising page where you can donate here:
https://www.crowdrise.com/gotrchicagomarathon2016/fundraiser/leahbates
Any and every amount will help me get closer to my goal! 

Approximately 85% of all girls request and receive financial assistance to participate in the program which is why all funds that I raise will go to underwrite program scholarships, ensuring that every girl can participate regardless of her family’s financial situation.

Every donation has a huge impact!

  • $10 will cover the cost of one girl’s healthy snacks for a season
  • $25: Covers the cost of 150 bananas for the 5k finish line
  • $44: Covers the cost of 50 tiaras for girls to decorate at the activities tent at the 5k
  • $157: Covers the cost for one girl to participate in GOTRC for one season
  • $260: Covers the cost of water bottles for 400 girls
  • $525: Covers the cost of all curriculum materials and supplies for 6 teams
  • $988: Covers the cost of finisher medals for 650 girls
  • $2,283: Covers the cost to implement the program at one new low-income site

The 26.2 mile marathon is Sunday October 9, 2016. We have until October 2 to turn in our donations. I encourage you, for all of the young women you know who could benefit from a program like this, please donate! Your donations can make such a difference in the lives of these young girls. With so many negative influences impacting young girls, let’s band together and help teach them their worth and the importance of confidence, community and health.

Thank you in advance for your support! Again, you can find my donation page by clicking here.

Next week, we will pick up where we left off on our nutrition journey with Part 3, learning cooking tips and tricks to make it more enjoyable. Also, I will continue to keep you updated on my training and donation progress. Until then, stay well my friends!

Until next time..