Pumpkin Spice Protein Bites

First things first: updates!! 

1.  It’s been a crazy-busy last few weeks of summer. My brother AND my sister both got married within 6 weeks of each other, Hubby started his cross country season (assistant coaching), and I worked the last day of my job, which means that The Modern Homemaker is now officially a stay at home mom!! I’m so excited!! 

2. We found out that baby number two is a BOY!! Here’s how we told my husband’s side of the family ;) 


Note: this was actually round two of the game. The first round included ONLY balloons filled with white paint so the fun wouldn’t be over too quickly. The fam wasn’t too happy when they popped the last balloon and it didn’t reveal the gender.😉 It was such a blast, though! 

3. And now, onto the purpose of today’s post! I was inspired by the pumpkin-spice everything that I’m seeing everywhere and had to make SOMETHING now that it is officially fall. I went with protein bites, but naturally I wasn’t satisfied with using just any recipe I found. So I winged it and luckily, they’re delicious!! Enjoy ❤️

Pumpkin Spice Protein Bites

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups quick or steel cut oats
  • 5 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 3/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon 
  • 1/4 cup dark honey (or maple syrup)
  • 1 cup pumpkin purée (I like Simply Balanced Organic Pumpkin!)
  • 1 cup peanut butter 

Directions:

  1. Mix all ingredients together!! *if you’re feeling less lazy than me, mix dry ingredients together separately, first, for an even distribution of spices. 
  2. Roll into tablespoon-sized balls and place on pan lined with parchment paper. 
  3. Freeze for one hour; transfer to air tight container and refrigerate. I’d tell you how long they’re good for but it wouldn’t matter because they’ll be gone long before they go bad.

*Makes 2-3 dozen, depending on your definition of “tablespoon-sized balls”

*Mix it up! Chocolate and cranberries appealed to me, personally. You can swap either or both for chopped walnuts, almonds, peanuts, raisins, coconut flakes, mini m&ms, butterscotch chips, etc. Peanut butter may be swapped for Almond butter, and chia seeds for ground flax seeds. 

*Want an extra kick? Try adding a few tablespoons of ground espresso! Yum! (I skipped this because- preggo). 

Minnesota State Fair for Young Fam-bam’s. 

Ahhhh the “Great Minnesota Get Together”, formally known as the Minnesota State Fair. 

It’s a time for gluttony without guilt, exhilarating rides that bring child-like abandon to people of all ages, smelly yet adorable animals, a market full of merchandise for every quirky collection, and every joy you can think of… All on a stick (naturally). 

It can be quite fun… And yet, quite exhausting; especially with children in tow. But what’s a state fair without families? 

These are my tips on how to not only survive the state fair with children in tow, but how to ENJOY it!! 


Photo is pre-food, pre-nap, and extremely accurate of our moods when we first arrived. Hahah!! 

RULES:

  1. Leave the kids at home. Haha. The funny part is that I’m not joking. If you really want to enjoy the fair, consider going twice. Arrange for a babysitter, budget effectively for two trips to the fair, grab your honey, and have some child-free fun. Drink flights of beer (don’t worry- I didn’t forget I’m pregnant, we skipped that part), go see some live music, be in a news audience, eat food without having to sharing it with little humans with snot crusted above their lips, walk fast if you want to, walk slow if you want to. Heck, use the bathroom only when YOU want to. Do you. Trust me on this one. 
  2. Once you’ve had your time to be child-like and have your OWN fun, share it with the little ones! There are so many great activities for children of every age. Since you’ve already had your fun, you can truly relax and enjoy the little things that bring your kids joy. (See below for toddler aged suggestions! …I’ll update with more categories in a few years when we have older kids to entertain😉 )
  3. Have a plan. You know your children better than anyone, and what they will or will not do well with. Ours hates being confined to the stroller. Enter: child leash and Ergo. SERIOUSLY SO GOOD.  When the stroller is necessary, we are NOT above giving her handfuls of french fries, or when the day starts to catch up with her lack of napping, a little YouTube kids on my phone. No shame. 
  4. Study the map. Did you know that there are several lactation stations? These are super helpful for nursing in a quiet, cool place. Most of them also have relatively clean areas to change your diaper aged kiddos. So much nicer than the hard plastic (FILTHY) changing tables in the bathrooms. It’s also helpful to know where the bathrooms are as well, for the sake of small can’t-hold-it-very-long children. Lactation stations located at/provided by: MyTalk 107.1 (Underwood St), Tpt, Twin Cities PBS (outside 4H building), and at Care & Assistance (West Dan Patch). 
  5. Coupons!! Our family swears by the Blue Ribbon Bargain Book. We buy it at Cub Foods for $5 every single year and save a TON of money. The coupons apply mostly to food, but there are several for rides and merchandise as well. You CAN give your kids every experience the fair has to offer without breaking the bank. 

Activities for toddlers: 

  • Pet a bunch of animals. This one is kind of obvious. It’s the fair. Duh. Ellavie LOVED making all her favorite animal noises!! 
  • Outside of the barns there is a stand (forgive me- I can’t recall what it was called!! Pregnancy brain) that gives out FREE string cheese! That’s a win in my toddler’s world. 
  • Kidway offers age appropriate rides that even tots can enjoy! (we skipped this year). 
  • For a decent (or, you know, strap your kid into a high chair) meal, check out the dining halls. We went to the Hamline Dining hall because of a coupon from the bargain book. It was cool, relatively quiet, and had restaurant style high chairs. We were able to get a burger, roasted potatoes (several other sides to choose from as well!) and a pickle for just $5! There was also a soda machine where we were able to fill our water bottles and her sippy cup with ice and cold water.  
  • Near the Kidway and north of the 4H building there is the Baldwin park area that has an ENCLOSED large sandbox complete with dozens of buckets and shovels (and it’s FREE).  We spent a good chunk of time here. An area where your child can run and play freely without getting trampled by day drinkers or run over by the elderly scooter drivers is GOLD. Plus, she absolutely loved it. 
  • Organized activities: depending on the age and attention span of your toddler (ours is only 1.5), there are DOZENS of organized activities and exhibits geared toward children (many in the Baldwin Park area, Kidway, and PBS area mentioned above). They can do spin art, chalk drawings, “farm”, sing, meet characters from their favorite pbs kids shows, there’s a swing set vendor where you can test out equipment, etc.         

I HIGHLY suggest downloading the Minnesota State Fair App- it lists all these activities and more; not to mention, provides an interactive map. Yay! 

        I hope you enjoy the fair as much as we did!!

        Summer Veggie Bake

        You know me- unless we’re talking about baked goods (we’re not), I just can’t follow a recipe; not even a good one… And most of the time, it works out in my favor. 

        This is one of those times. 

        While doing my regular, run-of-the-mill grocery shopping this week, I grabbed some eggplant and yellow zucchini. Perhaps I was inclined to do so because the only thing our garden yielded this year was basil, but hey, who knows. 

        Of course, I didn’t actually plan on what I was going to make with these vegetables. 

        Naturally, I typed the words ‘eggplant’ and ‘zucchini’ into Pinterest and up popped several yummy looking recipes. 

        I wasn’t in the mood for anything coated in bread crumbs- be it fried or baked; and then I stumbled upon THIS delightfully tempting recipe. 

        Though eggplant is hearty enough to stand alone without meat, my marathon running husband would not be satisfied without a substantial amount of protein at dinner time, so I added some chopped up chicken breast tenderloins (which I cooked in a slow cooker to keep this simple recipe, well… simple). 

        Then there’s me: my pregnant and indulgent self wouldn’t be satisfied without some sort of grain-y, carb-like side to pair all those veggies with. I went with a pre-seasoned 5 minute couscous (Near East brand; roasted garlic + olive oil) to keep things simple and quick; but you could substitute quinoa, rice, potatoes, pasta, or nothing at all if you so choose. That’s what I love about cooking. You can make just about anything your own!

        Lastly- I used dried parsley instead of fresh because it’s what I had (but stuck with the formentioned fresh basil since I have an abundance of the herb), and I added balsamic vinegar because I thought it would add another level of flavor. 

        Oh!  I also decreased the garlic by an entire clove; the author of the original recipe mentions it’s quite heavy on the garlic flavor, and garlic tends to stick with me longer than it does most people (not to mention it makes me slightly nauseous after the eating while pregnant, so there’s that as well). 

        Here’s my complete, modified version of the recipe, though I highly suggest mixing it up and making it your own!

        Summer Veggie Bake

        Ingredients:

        • 5-6 small chicken breast tenderloins
        • 2 medium yellow zucchini 
        • 1 large eggplant
        • 1.5 cups grape tomatoes 
        • 1.5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
        • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
        • 3 small garlic cloves, minced
        • 2/3 cup grated parmasen cheese 
        • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped 
        • 1 tbsp dried parsley 
        • 1/4 tsp freshly ground sea salt
        • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

        Directions:

        1. Cook frozen chicken in crockpot on high for 2 hours, or less if thawed. I lightly seasoned mine with a squeeze of lemon juice, olive oil, and salt/pepper. There’s no hard and fast rule on this part. Don’t worry if it’s not completely cooked- it will finish off in the oven later. Remove and chop into 1 inch pieces. 
        2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and coat a large baking dish with olive oil (I used Corningware). 
        3. Cut zucchini and eggplant into roughly 1 inch pieces and put into a large mixing bowl. 
        4. Halve tomatoes lengthwise (no reason for lengthwise- I just think it’s prettier!), add to bowl. 
        5. Add basil, garlic, parsley, salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar, olive oil and 1/2 of the Parmesan cheese to the bowl. Toss. 
        6. Add chicken to the bowl and toss (I saved the chicken for last because I want the veggies to absorb most of the flavor first!)
        7. Pour into baking dish and bake uncovered for 25 minutes. Cover with foil and bake an additional 10-20 minutes. (I went with 15!)
        8. Follow cooking directions for couscous or other side while dish is baking. 
        9. Remove veggie bake from oven, uncover, and sprinkle remaining cheese on top. 
        10. Serve! 

        Presentably Out The Door

        If you’re like me, only a few days a week (if I’m lucky) are worthy of my make up bag and my favorite outfits. They include church, date night, my part time job, and events. Why waste all that nice (expensive) stuff on days when I’m covered in dog hair, drool, boogers, and half my daughter’s lunch? 

        While I give myself a pass to be a slob and do nothing with my appearance at least 2-3 days a week (partly because I CAN), there are a few products I always use to look put-together, even when I don’t have time to go all out. 


        1. Tinted moisturizer. I use it so religiously, I frequently run out. But there’s a solution. Mix one part liquid foundation with one part moisturizer. I use Makeup Forever HD with Aveeno Healthy Glow +SPF. Otherwise my current (affordable!) go-to is Neutrogena Healthy Skin Glow Sheers. It shimmers ever so slightly (and it has SPF), so I love it for summer! It also has a pretty decent amount of coverage for my post-pregnancy (and current pregnancy!) uneven skin tone. 

        2. LIPSTICK/STAIN. Easiest way to make yourself look glam in a pinch. I take it with me EVERYWHERE and keep my fave shades in both my purse and my diaper bag. For night: Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick in Fiery. Current fave affordable option: Revlon Colorburst Balm Stain (doesn’t dry and crumble!) in Crush. 

        3. Brows. I mean, obviously I always have eyebrows (minus that one time I had a shaping mishap and lost a chunk of one. Oops), but I don’t feel like I look put together unless they are FILLED. For this one, I don’t recommend any particular product; for me, I prefer a brown eyeshadow a shade lighter than my natural brow color and a fantastic brow brush (I got mine at Sephora). Some people like gels. Some like pencils. Some like kits. Choose your poison. It’s such an easy way to look naturally fab. In fact- if I had to choose to do ONE thing to my face before leaving the house, it wouldn’t be a few swipes of mascara. Nope. It’d be filled brows. Hands down. 

        Obviously mascara will make your eyes pop, but let’s be honest; as a mom, most days I don’t have the time or energy to FULLY remove it, so there’s frequently enough on my lashes that I wouldn’t call it a must. On the once or twice a week occasion I do scrub it ALL off, I would definitely reapply if I’m on my way way out the door. 

        The rest is just fluff! Nothing beats a five minute routine when you have a toddler- am I right?! 

        ❤️

        The Truth About Stretch Marks


        I’m going to start this post with the bottom line: 

        The truth is, sometimes (and commonly), women get stretch marks when their bodies grow a child. This shouldn’t be news. Once the marks appear, they’re permanent. You might be able to fade them to a point, but they aren’t going anywhere. 

        Thanks to many women proudly boasting their “Tiger Stripes”, there’s no shame in getting stretch marks; as there shouldn’t be- it’s a beautiful thing to grow a child. I love that we, as women, can stand together and reassure each other that our bodies are still beautiful, despite the changes that can FEEL like flaws. 

        That being said, I have yet to meet a woman (though I’m sure they exist), that HOPES to get stretch marks. 

        So, we do everything we can think of to prevent them from occurring in the first place. 

        I made it through my first pregnancy with exactly one stretch mark; a tiny lightening strike between my belly button and the hole where my belly ring used to be. (Yeah- that hole is extra cute now. NOT. Haha! But hey, no regrets). 

        I intend on doing all the same things I did during my last pregnancy to prevent the little buggers this time around, and thought I’d share what worked for me, with you! 

        1. Genetics – at the end of the day, you can do everything in your power to prevent, but some bodies are just more mark-able than others. It doesn’t mean you can’t try to prevent them, but you don’t know until you know. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. 
        2. Hydrate – this is probably the most important piece of advice you could ever follow before, during, and after pregnancy. And no, Diet Coke doesn’t count. Drink WATER. And lots of it. Infuse it, eat water-rich fruits such as watermelon, do whatever you gotta do if you get sick of the plain stuff. A hydrated body means hydrated skin, and hydrated skin means elasticity. Elasticity= the ability to stretch, then return to its original form. 
        3. Food– Speaking of fruit, eating foods that are rich in vitamins, antioxidants, and healthy fats ALSO promotes healthy skin and elasticity. Be sure to include foods such as berries, bananas, spinach, kale, walnuts, almonds, olive oil, oatmeal and legumes in your diet. Bonus: It’s not just good for your skin, it’s good for baby! 
        4. Exfoliate– Exfoliating your skin helps to get rid of dead skin cells, and encourages your skin’s new cells to regenerate new, youthful, elastic skin. I like to use a loofah during my shower, making sure to exfoliate my baby bump and hips (because the skin pulls from all directions as it stretches) thoroughly. You can also use an exfoliating body wash- just make sure all of the ingredients are safe during pregnancy. 
        5. Moisturize– Last but not least, the PRODUCTS. Most women that emerge on the other side of pregnancy without stretch marks will swear by “this” cream or “that” oil.  There is NO miracle cream. All of the other factors I mentioned, including genetics, play a huge role. That being said, moisturizing is incredibly important. After exfoliating in the shower, I like to use Palmer’s Cocoa Butter* lotion all over. The sooner you apply, the more moisture you’ll lock in!   In addition to post-shower moisturizing, I recommend Burt’s Bees Mama Bee Belly Butter, which was a recommendation I received from my sister-in-law. I use it on my belly and hips before bed each night, and as needed when itchiness (stretching!!-try not to scratch!!) occurs.  I went through roughly 3 tubs (one per trimester) during my last pregnancy. 

         *Note: Cocoa butter lotion can be controversial as cocoa contains caffeine, which could potentially be absorbed into the placenta. If you are not comfortable using cocoa butter, I would recommend any lotion that contains vitamin E as an active ingredient instead. 



        Good luck, mama!!