Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Feeding a Family: Part 1

This post has been brewing my mind for quite awhile, but I'm finally putting pen to paper cursor to screen to share my thoughts on what I've done to try to make getting (healthy) dinners on the table as efficiently as possible. I've tried a couple of different packaged "solutions" but have landed on a system that I came up with on my own.

I have a lot to say about this topic so I'm breaking it up into 2 posts. The first will focus on the challenges I'm facing and the solutions I've tried. The 2nd post will focus on our solution.


Meal planning/getting dinner on the table is one of those things that shouldn't seem all that hard but it is - especially when you want to eat healthy meals. Here are some of the challenges I face when it comes to meal planning.

1. Time. There's never enough of it, and this has become especially true since having a baby. We get home at 5pm and Paul goes to bed at 6pm and I do not want to spend any of that precious hour in the kitchen. This will change as he gets older and can stay awake longer but I think this is likely our reality for the first year of his life, unless he starts to magically nap better at daycare. But even pre-baby, I had limited time in the evenings to spend making meals as I would go for a run or workout after work. Also, I sit down to pump at 7:30 so that gives me 1.5 hours to make, eat dinner, and do the dishes.

2. I'm the only cook/meal planner in the house. The kitchen is my domain. Phil can take direction and help with things but he's never going to handle meal prep from start to finish. I'm also more particular about what we eat and I have a gluten intolerance which makes me more high maintenance. Phil is also not great about coming up with meal suggestions, even when I explicitly ask for meal ideas. Occasionally he will suggest something but that's the exception, not the norm.

3. We don't like to get take-out/eat out often. Eating out was a treat when I was young and that remains the case for me as an adult. I do let myself eat out one lunch a week but we rarely go out for dinner or order take-out - especially now that we have a baby that goes to bed at 6pm. I find eating out/take-out to be expensive, often unhealthy, and finding GF options that are appealing to me is challenging so it's not something that we do on a regular basis. This is totally a "you do you" type of thing, though, as some people really, really enjoy eating out or get take-out once a week to ease the burden of meal planning. But that's just not a good solution for us.

What I've tried:

1. PrepDish - I was really excited to try PrepDish after hearing countless ads for this service on various podcasts!

How it works: They send you a grocery list and a task list. The idea is that you will spend several hours at some point during the week doing lots of prep work so that meals come together quickly the nights that you make them. The weekly plan gives you 4 dinners, a salad, a breakfast, a snack and a dessert.

Pros: Takes away the mental load of mealing planning, makes grocery shopping easier since the list is already made, and it's gluten free so I didn't have to make any modifications to make the meals safe for me to eat.

Cons:  The recipes were a bit too "fancy" for our style of eating. For example, some of the recipes were for things like scallops or lamb chops. We are just a bit more basic in the Segner household.

Verdict:  Not a good fit for us. I tend to make 4 recipes/week - 3 dinners and 1 thing to pack for lunches - so I would never make all of the recipes which meant I had to go through the shopping list and figure out what to cross out. It's fairly easy to do that as there is a number behind each item on the shopping list to indicate what recipe it's for. But the main reason this wasn't a fit is that it just didn't mesh with our style of eating. We prefer simple dishes that reheat well. However, I really liked the approach of doing prep work ahead of time so week night meals come together super quickly so this is a technique I now try to employ.

2. Plated

How it works:  Plated is one of many meal kit companies. The number of companies has grown since I tried Plated 2 summers ago but at the time, Plated was the only company that I knew of that had gluten free options which is why I chose it. Meal kit services give you several meal options to try from, you select which meals you'd like, and a box shows up with the ingredients and recipes.

Pros:  No grocery shopping (aside from what you'll need outside of the 2-4 meals you receive from the service), no need to search for recipes.

Cons: If you have a dietary restriction like being gluten free, your meal options are limited and I usually found myself picking what was safe for me to eat versus what I really wanted to try/what sounded good. I also found it to be kind of pricey compared to what we would spend on groceries. For example, a box of 3 meals that serve 2 people is $71.70/week. I know I can't compare the cost of the meal service to the cost of making 3 dinners on my own because the meal service takes care of grocery shopping and the mental load of meal planning/searching for recipes but it still felt too pricey for what we were getting. Lastly, Phil thought these meals were not very filling. This is probably due to the fact that we selected GF meals that tended to be light on carbs and were less filling as a result.

Verdict: Obviously given the long list of cons, this wasn't the right fit for us either. It was fun to try this out for a couple of months but it wasn't the right solution for us. I also didn't care for how much waste it generated. All the ingredients were individually packaged and there was so much waste between that and the ice packs and insulation that kept the ingredients cold. Much of it was recyclable but it took some effort to recycle as, for example, you had to remove the gel from the ice packs before you could recycle them.

Next week I'll talk about the solution that's working for us - at least for the time being!

What short cuts or solutions have you tried to make it easier to get meals on the table for yourself/your family?

Friday, September 21, 2018


Woo hoo, it's Friday! I really live for the weekends these days since I miss Paul so much during the week. Here's how my week shaped up.

The high of my week was going out to lunch with 3 other moms that I work with. It was nice to talk with other moms in my industry that can relate to how I am feeling now that I'm back at work. We also have some changes going on related to a reorganization that we are in the midst of so it was nice to talk shop about what is going on.
The low of my week was not getting enough sleep - as usual. Paul's first tooth came in over the weekend and there is a 2nd one coming in and I think the pain of teething has been waking him up at night. He's been up 3-4 times a night for the past week so we are feeling pretty tired.

A recipe I made was Asian noodle bowls from Iowa Girl Eats. We had already dished out our servings when I remembered to snap a photo, so this is about 1/2 of what the recipe yields. It was very good and came together pretty quickly! I'm trying to "automate" meal planning by making "themes" for the ~3 meals I make each week, like tacos, a wok dish, and a curry-type dish. That way it makes it easier for me to find recipes when I have a framework to guide what type of recipes I should be looking for. Wok dishes are great because they tend to cook really fast! This one came together in less than 15 minutes once all the chopping was done.

The best money I spent was on Paul's Halloween costume! He's going to be a hedgehog and I can't wait to see him dressed up in his adorable costume. The best part is that I got it on sale at Target for $12!

My plans this weekend include hosting a friend for dinner tonight. We are going to grill some halibut that a friend brought back from Alaska last summer. I'll top it with a pineapple salsa and serve it with this instant pot indian rice and our friend is bringing another veggie-based side. I'm going to make these maple pumpkin oatmeal bars. They are classified as a "breakfast bar" but I think they will work for dessert. On Saturday afternoon we are getting together with the parents and babies from my mom group. I haven't seen them in person since May! I can't wait to see how much the babies have all grown and changed. On Sunday I'm going to clean out my garden and then in the late afternoon we are getting together with a college friend of Phil's. It's kind of a "busier" weekend for us. I put busier in quotation marks because having 1-2 things/day probably wouldn't have been considered "busy" pre-Paul but my definition of busy has definitely changed since he was born.

Bonus Paul Pics!

Reading with Grandma Joan

My happy boy before work on Thursday morning!

He's getting closer to being able to sit up on his own. He's a bit behind on this skill as babies tend to sit up around 6 months but that big head makes it hard for him to master this skill! He's smiling at daddy in this photo.

What was the high of your week? What are your plans for this weekend?

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Currently: September 2018

Fall has arrived here and I am not sad. Give me cool, crisp temperatures and changing leaves! I love summer, but I really, really love fall. The changing and falling leaves reminds us that there is beauty in letting go. Those are my deep thoughts for a Wednesday morning! Here's what is currently happening in my world.

Reading: Enrique's Journey which is book about a Honduran boy's harrowing journey to reach his mom in the US. I can already tell it's going to be a very heart-breaking read. I also started The Widows of Malabar Hill, which was one of the books in Modern Mrs. Darcy's 2018 summer reading guide. I usually don't read 2 books at the same time but I'm experimenting with having an ebook and physical book going at the same time. I want to see if reading a physical book (Enrique's Journey) at night makes it easier for me to fall asleep as I've been having a harder time falling asleep lately.

Loving:  the stage that Paul is in. He is just so smiley and happy. He LOVES people, too. He's the baby in the stroller that will give the biggest grin to strangers. Maybe he's going to be an extrovert?

He loves taking selfies! This picture really shows how giant his head it. Ha!

Feeling: spread thin. This whole working mom thing is harder than I thought it would be. I mean, I always knew it would be hard but the devil is in the details. I just didn't realize how little time I would get with Paul and for myself. I keep telling myself "this is a season" over and over and over again. Hopefully it starts to feel more manageable. I've only been back to work for 2 months so it's still a very new transition for me. I'm trying to be patient and I'm trying to grant myself lots of grace right now. I've got a 'things that have been surprising about motherhood' post brewing in my head and I'll definitely be talking about the transition back to work when I get around to writing it!

Anticipating: hosting our friend Kyria next weekend! She's coming in from the Bay area to visit us. We haven't seen her since our wedding and a lot has changed since then! I'm hoping that the fall colors are pretty while she is here. We'll go to a state park on Saturday of the weekend she is here. It won't compare to the views she's used to in the San Francisco area but Minnesota in the fall is definitely beautiful!

Grateful: for the sweet ladies who take care of Paul while I'm at work. I can just tell that they genuinely love Paul. Or I should say "Pablito" because that is his nickname at daycare. Phil called him that one day at drop off and it stuck. Now everyone at daycare calls him Pablito and that's what they put on his art projects that they send home (yes, they do art projects even with the little babies - it's always footprint-based but they are adorable!). He's always happy and smiling and you can tell he's totally loved on while we are at work which assuages some of my working-mom guilt.

Working:  on incorporating more exercise into each weekday. My free time is pretty limited during the week as I get home at 5, spend time with Paul until he goes to bed at 6, and then I have until 7:30 to make/eat dinner and get things done around the house before sitting down to pump. But I'm making a conscious effort to try to go for a 30-40 minute walk 2-3 nights a week. I eat first so running is not an option as running with a full stomach is unpleasant. But walking feels good right now and I'm considering it a 'good enough' form of exercise for the time being. Some day I will be a runner again, it's just not going to happen at this stage of life.

Listening: to lots of podcasts as usual. My newest find is "Committed" which is a podcast about relationships. It features a couple who has been through something difficult. The latest episode about a woman who was hospitalized for psychosis was especially interesting.

Wishing: for a nice, long fall. I'm not ready for what comes next (snow and cold). 

What are you loving, anticipating, and wishing for?

Monday, September 17, 2018

Weekend Recap

Gosh it's been a long time since I did a weekend recap, but we actually had plans each day of the weekend so I have something to talk about for a change!

On Friday night we met our realtor at a house that was coming on the market soon. It checked all of our boxes and I really, really loved the location and the layout. But the basement smelled really musty and the seller's disclosure indicated that there had been water damage. The seller said it was remedied but Phil did not think it was properly remedied since it smelled so strongly.

Snuggling with my little man while he drank his pre-bed bottle
After sleeping on it, on Saturday morning we decided not to submit an offer. Water damage can cause major issues and we didn't want to take on the risk of the future repairs that might be needed down the road. Plus the house didn't have a "true" second bathroom with a bathtub/shower. The 2nd shower was in the basement but it wasn't in a closed off area - it was in the laundry room area so it would need work to make it a true second bathroom with a shower. I was disappointed that the house didn't work out because I loved the layout but I know it's better to be patient and wait for the right house to come along.

Later that morning I was supposed to meet up with a former marathon training partner for a walk with our boys who are only 3 days apart. But it was super humid and already in the upper 80s so we opted to meet at a coffee shop instead. Paul does not handle the heat and humidity well so I knew that he would not be happy on a 3-mile walk! It was really fun to catch up and watch the boys interact. Paul looks soooo petite compared to Lochlan, though, as he's 99th percentile for height and has about 5 pounds on Paul.

Future running partners!
On Saturday afternoon, we tried another solid before putting Paul down for his 2nd nap. This time we tried yogurt. As you can see, he was not a fan but he at least swallowed some of it which is more than I can say about the sweet potatoes and oatmeal we tried the previous 2 weekends! I'm thinking/hoping he'll enjoy foods that he can feed himself but he needs to be sitting up on his own before we can let him feed himself bits of food. Hopefully he masters that skill soon as puréed foods or foods that you feed him on a spoon are clearly not a hit.

Must you torture me?

Why, mom, why?
While Paul napped, Phil and I team-cleaned the house. After his nap, he spent a lot of time rolling around and playing with toys on his blanket. He's gotten way more interested in Oscar lately and she's been getting closer and closer to him.

On Sunday morning we got together with some of Phil's high school friends. It was supposed to be a baby shower for a HS friend and her husband, but she ended up having her baby at 35 weeks last week due to preeclampsia. We decided to get together even though the new parents couldn't be there as we hadn't seen this group of friends in quite awhile. It was fun to catch up over a yummy brunch. There were 3 other kids ranging from 1 to 4 years old. Paul had fun watching them as he loves other kids!

On Sunday afternoon Phil went golfing with one of his HS friends and Paul and I hung out at home. We both napped and I watched the Vikings tie with the Packers. Our kicker had a horrible game and missed a 35 yard field goal with seconds left in overtime. Doh!

When Paul got up, he played in his jumper for quite awhile. He loves this toy so much! Our friends lent it to us. We've been so lucky to be on the receiving end of lots of borrowed items which we really appreciate!

We also worked on sitting up as this is a skill Paul has struggled with due to his big head! Ha!

So much personality!
For dinner on Sunday evening, I made this Instant Pot Wild Rice Soup. It may have been 90F and super humid, but it was fall in my kitchen. If you have an instant pot, I highly recommend this recipe as it was super easy. I added 2 chicken breast and left out the mushrooms since Phil doesn't like mushroom (womp womp). The chicken breast fell apart and made the soup extra hearty. I had to add an extra 1.5 cups of broth to thin out the soup since the shredded chicken made it extra thick. It was easy and delicious!

After dinner, I pumped, read for a bit, and went to bed. I was tired after a full but fun weekend!

What did you do this past weekend? Has the weather been unseasonably hot where you are? It's going to cool off this week and I CAN'T WAIT. I'm so over heat and humidity.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Our House Hunt

We've hit the one year mark of house hunting and have yet to find our forever home. In the spring I remember telling Phil that I was sure we'd be in a new house by the fall and he said he highly doubted it. At the time I was kind of crushed by his suggestion that we wouldn't find the right house. But here we are in September, still looking.

That said, we are being very particular and picky. Some might say we are being "too picky" but our next house is going to be what I consider our "forever home." If there is ever a time to be picky, it's when you are buying a home in my opinion. Plus we have plenty of space for the time being in our current home. Yes, it would be nice for Paul to have his own room. Right now his room is a combination nursery/guest room. We sleep in there with him when we have guests and give our guests our bedroom. We don't have guests often so most of the time it's "his" room, but it's a little cramped in there.
I am fascinated by what others are looking for their next home so I thought I'd share what we are looking for!

1.Location. This is the MOST IMPORTANT requirement for us. We are focusing our search in a very particular area of south Minneapolis - about 14 blocks x 14 blocks to be exact. We want to be on a quieter street that doesn't have bus traffic. The area we are focusing on is close to a major freeway that goes into downtown and it's also the freeway we take to get to Phil's mom's house. The neighborhood is great for runs/walks as there are miles upon miles of dedicated bike and run paths along a creek and around a lake. We are also happy with the schools in the neighborhood, which is obviously important now that we have a child. When the time comes to send Paul to school, we will be opting for a public school and the ones in our neighborhood are well-ranked with good reputations.

2. Turn key/no major renovations needed. We are not handy people and do not want to take on a large remodeling project so the space needs to be pretty turn key. We are fine with doing cosmetic changes, like painting, but we aren't willing to remodel a kitchen, for example.

3.  A roomy kitchen. Speaking of kitchens, we (err, I, since I pretty much do all the cooking) want a nice, roomy kitchen with plenty of cupboard and counter space. We sometimes see homes with a tiny galley kitchen and that just doesn't work for me. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen so that is the part of the house I'm most particular about. For example, we are totally fine with small bedrooms since you are mostly only in the bedroom to sleep. But I need a roomy kitchen!

3. More space, but not too much space. Our current home has about 1,300 sq ft. We'd like our next house to have at least 2,000 sq ft but when it gets above 2,800 sq ft, it starts to feel too big for us. Bigger is not always better, in our opinion. We also want the space to be laid out well so that we will use all of the space in the house. For example, we don't want a formal living room and another living room on the same level which is something we commonly see. We just want one living room/family room space on the main floor. One house we looked at had a living room-type space on every floor and there were 3 floors! Who needs that much living room space?? Certainly not us! Another house we looked at had dining rooms on either side of the kitchen. Who needs 2 dining rooms? Again, not us.

Those are the 3 big things guiding our search but we have other requirements like a 2-stall garage, central air and 2 bathrooms with showers and some other "it would be really nice" requirements like having 3 bedrooms on one level.

Sometimes it feels like we are looking for a unicorn but I know that in the long run, it will pay off to be so particular. Barring any unforeseen circumstances that would require us to move, we expect to be in our next house for 20+ years so it is as long term investment. The housing market is definitely cooling off now that school has started so I've given up on finding a home in 2018 but maybe 2019 will be the year that we find our forever home! We will see what the future holds. For the time being, I'm glad that we are happy with our current home and have plenty of space for now!

How long have you lived in your house? Is it your forever home? If you were house hunting, what would be important to you?

Friday, September 7, 2018


The high of my week was playing with Paul during the hour we get with him before he goes to bed. One night Phil was using a laser pointing to play with Oscar. She was darting all over the place. Paul was watching her and giggling - it was the sweetest moment!

The low of my week was some bad nights of sleep. Paul has been getting up 3-4 times/night lately. We think he's teething so are wondering if it's related to that? Who knows. Here's hoping he goes back to waking up 1-2 times a night soon. I've kind of given up on him sleeping through the night anytime soon.

The book I am reading is The Dinner List. This was my August Book of the Month Club selection. It has a fun premise - on the protagonist's 30th birthday she walks into a restaurant for a birthday dinner to find the 5 people, living or dead, that she had told a friend she would want to have dinner with. I think it's going to be a light, easy read. It's making me think about who my 5 people would be!

A recipe I made was One Skillet Cashew Chicken Stir Fry. This is one of favorite stir fry recipes. I make it about once a month. It has a yummy peanut butter sauce. I add some crushed red pepper to the sauce to give it a little bit of heat.

The best money I spent was on my niece's birthday present. I bought her a set of Amelia Bedelia books. I loved these books when I was a little girl so am hoping that she loves them, too!

My plans this weekend include a family wedding tomorrow and a post-wedding family get together on Sunday for the Vikings game. We are hiring our first babysitter for the wedding tomorrow. It's a sitter our friends have used. Plus she works in the infant room of a daycare so she's as qualified as can be! I'm a little sad to miss out on time with Paul but I know the wedding will be lots of fun!

Bonus Paul Pics!

He loves grabbing (and chewing on) his feet!

Passed out in the stroller while we waited to see the urologist (he has to get his kidneys checked every couple of 3-4 months as one is measuring a bit large).

What was the high of your week?

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Baby Paul: 6 months

Baby Paul turned 6 months over the weekend! The first 6 months simultaneously went slow and fast... I think other parents will understand what I mean when I say that. There's been lots to love about the first 6 months of his life but I think we'll like the next 6 months even better as he's so interactive and just plain fun these days! We love seeing his little personality come through. The 6th month was a tough one as he was sick for so much of the month but even though he was sick he was still a happy, smiley baby most of the time.
He looks like such a little boy in this picture!


- We had Paul's 6-month appointment on Friday. He weighs 13 pounds 11 ounces and is 26 inches long. He's hanging on at 1st percentile for weight! I told the doctor how much he eats (32 oz on a "light" day, but as much as 40-42 oz!) and she said he must have a high metabolism. She's totally fine with his weight as he's following his 1st percentile curve.

- His head is up slightly to 99th percentile from 98th percentile. Since he is so small, his head looks especially big but the doctor isn't concerned. He just has a big melon!


- Sleep continues to be a challenge for us. He was sleeping better after we did sleep training in July. He was waking up about 2 times a night. Then he got sick and things kind of regressed. He gets up about 3-4 times a night now, with the first wake up happening before Phil goes to bed (usually). He often drinks a 4-5 oz bottle when he wakes up so he's clearly very hungry. We have a hard time thinking about cutting out those night feeds considering how small he is. Hopefully when he is feeling better we can get back to 1-2 wake-ups/night.


- Bottles of breast milk. This kid loves to eat. I don't know where all the milk goes as he eats quite a bit for his age. I guess he has his daddy's super high metabolism. Sometimes we can get him to hold the bottle but usually he wants us to do all the work!

- Watching his sister. Oscar usually keeps her distance but when he was sick last week she stayed close to him.

- Cuddling with mom when he's not feeling well. It's been tough to see him so sick this month but one silver lining is lots of cuddles. When he's feeling well, he's way too busy wiggling and looking around to cuddle with mom so I savored being able to hold him while he napped when he was sick.

- Looking at himself in a mirror or the camera of my phone! It's sure-fire way to get a smile out of him!

- Being read to. His favorite book is "Little Blue Truck." There's a part of the book where Little Blue Truck goes into some mud to help a dump truck that is stuck and Paul gets the biggest smile when I read that page:   "Into the mud, bump bump bump, came the Little Blue Truck to help the dump." His other favorite books are Jungly Tails, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, and the Dr. Seuss ABC book.

- Making funny faces! He is such an expressive kid! Wait until you see the 'first food' pics below!

- He seems to love daycare. His teachers say that he is such a happy, sweet baby and that he only cries if he is tired or hungry. He doesn't cry at drop off and he's always happy and smiling when I pick him up which makes it slightly easier to be away from him. He doesn't sleep much at daycare - usually just 2 30-40 minute naps. I don't know how he functions on such little sleep during the day as he naps for 3-5 hours total on the weekend but I guess he is too entertained by watching the other kids to nap.


- Unfortunately we found out he had a double ear infection at his appointment on Friday. The doctor thinks his last one likely never cleared. She prescribed a different antibiotic and we'll go back in 2 weeks to make sure the infection has cleared up. He was pretty much sick for the entire month of August which was hard on all of us. :(

- He hates any sort of medicine - Tylenol, ibuprofen, antibiotics, you name it. Even if it's sweetened or bubblegum flavored, he hates it. It's a 2-person job to give him antibiotics, especially the first one he was on as it was a higher volume dose. Luckily the dose of his new drug is much smaller - on 0.6 mL. We all can't wait for him to be done with antibiotics!


- He went on his first car seat-free stroller ride in mid-August. I think he loved facing forward and not being crammed in his car seat. I can't blame him! The stroller felt soooo light without the car seat. I'm looking forward to lots of stroller walks (and maybe some runs eventually) this fall. I just need my body to cooperate and to stop flaring (I'm fighting another flare, this time in my left foot).

His eyes look so blue in natural light!

- On the day he turned 6 months we put his high chair together and tried to give him some oatmeal mixed with breast milk. As you will see from the pictures below, he was NOT A FAN. I really don't think he is ready for solids as he doesn't show much interest in food, he's not sitting up on his own, and he still has a strong tongue thrust (if you put something in his mouth, he pushes it out with his tongue). But we decided to give it a try to see how he reacted. I think we will hold off on giving him more food until he shows more signs of readiness.

This is fun!
He loved sitting in his high chair. That's about all he loved about the experience, though!

Mom tries feeding him

Dad tries feeding him

All in all, we couldn't ask for a sweeter, happier little guy. Yes we could use more sleep, but we tell ourselves that we'll sleep better again someday!