Hi there, I’m Jen and it’s great to meet you!
I’d like to begin by thanking you for taking the time to check out my website. Your time is valuable and I’m grateful we have a moment to connect!
For this “About” page, I really wasn’t sure where to begin. I’m a lot of things – a mom to a toddler named Trevor, a wife to my husband Chris, a daughter, a sister…
But I guess the right place to begin this “About” page is around the time I became pregnant with Tru.
Chris and I wanted Trevor and I’d worked really hard to get myself into good shape before I became pregnant. My heart was in the right place. I wanted to do everything I could to have a healthy pregnancy and baby. I believed it was possible to remain fit and healthy through pregnancy, if you tried.
Chris and I were extremely blessed in that I did have a healthy pregnancy. However. It didn’t feel healthy. At all.
I felt as sick as I’ve ever known for every single day of the first three months.
It wasn’t morning sickness that I suffered from. It was all-through-the-morning-afternoon-and-evening sickness.
The only thing that ever helped me to feel better – and it was a very temporary help – was to try to eat. I ate a lot of Honey Nut Cheerios and Goldfish crackers during that time!
For the later part of the pregnancy, the morning sickness went away, but I continued to feel mostly awful all around.
I’d have an empty, sick feeling of hunger that would come over me and I’d need to eat immediately to try to make it go away. I can remember mornings of trying to eat a healthy breakfast (fruit and whole grain toast with peanut butter).
And then, at 9:30 am, that empty, sick hunger would arrive and there I’d be at the kitchen table, eating a big bowl of spaghetti with meat sauce, left over from the night before…
Ice cream and chocolate milk were my cravings.
I’d melt peanut butter in the microwave and drizzle it over vanilla ice cream and that was my snack before bed every night.
Did I handle the pregnancy weight gain with grace and acceptance?
Of course I should have. Of course I’d like to say I did. But, in truth, I didn’t.
As my belly grew, so did my arms and legs. I developed a triple chin.
Outwardly I didn’t show it, but in a far-off corner of my mind that I tried not to acknowledge, I was struggling with a lot of negative feelings about my body.
After Trevor was born, I felt myself sink further and further into that life of overwhelm and exhaustion known as the “newborn fog.”
I didn’t cook healthy meals, or any meals. I grabbed snacks and ordered a lot of take-out Chinese food and pizza.
I struggled with breastfeeding and milk supply, so my general focus was just to eat enough to hopefully feed my baby.
When Trevor weaned himself off of breastfeeding at about one year old, I decided it was time to put some focus on my weight.
I stepped on the scale. I was the same weight as when Trevor was two weeks old.
I should have expected it, since I was still fitting into (and wearing!) my maternity clothes.
But from what I could gather from Instagram, the pregnancy weight was supposed to just fall off, and quickly too. What was wrong with me?
After that, I worked hard and really struggled to lose weight, and did lose some.
But the yo-yo cycle took hold. Because as Trevor moved into toddlerhood, there were new challenges.
He wouldn’t touch anything I cooked, so that didn’t do a whole lot to encourage me to return to my old love of cooking.
As I’d prepare snacks for Trevor – peanut butter crackers here and pumpkin chocolate chip muffins there – I’d snack along with him.
(Side note: chocolate hummus is a great way to get protein into toddlers, but it’s dangerously addictive to adults! They somehow build that “addictive” quality into Goldfish crackers as well…)
In restaurants, when Trevor would order chicken tenders with fries for dinner, he’d eat one bite of chicken and one fry. Guess who ate the reheated leftovers the next day when Trevor wouldn’t touch them?
Becoming a mom is a drastic life change. There’s a loss of freedom and a loss of peace of mind. There’s the struggle to adopt a brand new identity.
In addition to my struggles with my body, I also experienced a lot of new anxieties after becoming a mom.
I had an often overwhelming need to “protect” Tru from an outside world full of scary stuff, and it made it hard for me to even leave my house.
So in 2018, Chris, Trevor and I did a year of family travel.
I posted a list of 2018 Travel Goals to my website, and I documented all of our trips. We did some shorter flights (I was terrified of flying with a young toddler in the beginning!) We also did a lot of weekend road trips.
Although I wasn’t able to release my anxieties (they’re still as strong as ever!) we did travel to every single spot on our list, aside from one (Iceland).
As I looked back over 2018, I was actually really impressed with all we’d managed to see and do. Creating that list and making it a top priority to check one destination off at a time – it seemed to work extremely well!
For 2019, I’m going to do something similar. But this year, I’m focusing on my fitness and physical wellbeing.
Last year, I created a list of travel goals. This year, I’ve created a list for my 2019 Weight Loss Goals.
I want to get to the root of why weight loss been such a struggle for me.
What’s the roadblock?
Why am I holding onto the weight?
It’s been a few years since I felt really fit (somehow, Trevor is now three years old!)
I’m starting to wonder whether it’s even possible to get back to that place.
I’m not sure it’s in the cards for me to reach these goals.
But, for 2019, I’m going to return to one of my long-lost loves (cooking healthy meals!) and I’m going to try…
The Three Words That Sum Up My Recipes
If I had to use three words to describe my cooking style, they would be:
What “healthy” cooking means to me: recipes that are full of fresh, whole ingredients. I try to include lots of fresh fruits, veggies, and herbs in all of my recipes (sometimes I make them the star of the dish and sometimes I sneak them in!) Ingredients I love to cook with: whole grains, nuts, beans, and lean proteins (like chicken and fish). I also cook a lot of vegetarian (and sometimes vegan) meals.
Although I like cooking healthy recipes, I don’t ever want to sacrifice flavor! So I love creating healthier new twists on classic comfort foods. I don’t ever want to go so overboard on my “healthy” goals that I lose out on the “tastes delicious” element.
Although I love cooking with fresh, whole ingredients, I don’t have a lot of time to prepare dinner every night. So my recipes are all simple and approachable and easy to prepare on a weeknight. I use ingredients that are easy to find at the average suburban American grocery store. I love creating 30-minute meals, slow cooker meals, and one-dish recipes. Anything that simplifies things!
There are (unfortunately for me!) so many to choose from! But here’s one from my time working in corporate America. I was a few months into a new position, and scheduled to attend one of my first business trips. I would be giving a short solo presentation, which had me really nervous. The afternoon meeting was scheduled for a destination that required a quick one-hour flight. So I dressed for the meeting – my favorite black skirt and sensible nude heels that looked professional yet were comfortable for the airport. I packed up my carry-on suitcase and headed to the airport for my morning flight. Before heading to my gate, I stopped in the restroom, as I always do before a flight. I was struggling with the whole luggage-in-a-restroom situation, which is never easy, but I looked in the mirror above the sink and tried to give myself an internal pep talk. “You’re prepared for this, you’re on time and everything’s running smoothly…etc.,etc.” As I made the long walk to my gate, I couldn’t shake the feeling that everyone was staring in my direction. I grabbed a seat and tried to reassure myself, “it’s just nerves about your presentation.” A moment later, a woman sat down beside me and discreetly whispered: “you’ve got toilet paper stuck to your shoe.” I glanced down. It was a nice, long piece trailing for at least 16 inches.
I’ve been the stay-at-home-parent for Tru, the one who’s always around. But Trevor goes through phases where he shows a much stronger preference for Chris. One time, the three of us attended a get-together with lots of families with babies and toddlers. We were all in the playroom, a giant group of people. Trevor was playing on a little slide in one corner, I was seated in the middle of the room and Chris was standing at the far end. Suddenly, Tru started sobbing and everyone looked his way. He’d fallen on the slide and was hurt (just a minor bump). As soon as I heard his cry, I opened my arms wide to embrace him. It was an instinctive gesture that I did without a second thought. Trevor bolted directly past me as though I didn’t exist and continued walking until he reached the far end of the room where Chris stood. I awkwardly dropped my arms and slunk toward Chris, who was already fully handling the consoling and didn’t need me in the least.
@thewaltonadventure – a family with two young girls, a toddler and a baby, who travel the world
@jess.wandering – this Jess posts the most incredible travel photography
@howsweeteats – this Jess posts the most incredible food photography
@chateaugudanes – a family who bought – and are now in the process of restoring – a literal château in the French countryside
@anitamoorjani – she’s on a mission to spread love and joy, and her posts always lift my spirits
I’m fascinated with mansions, castles and gardens. Anywhere we travel, I always want to check out the historic mansions and the botanical gardens. I love reading books about women who move to Europe to renovate old châteaus (there are endless books with this theme, which is good news for me!) I was obsessed with the Versailles tv series. I’ve watched the Disney live action Cinderella at least ten times because I’m in love with the castle and the costumes.
My other obsession: the old black and white episodes of Twilight Zone from the 1960’s, hosted by Rod Sterling. As a general rule, I don’t watch sci-fi or horror at all ever. But I’m weirdly obsessed with Rod Sterling’s mind. I have over one hundred episodes taped on DVR and Chris tries to delete them and I won’t let him.
Favorite Ways to Relax and Unwind (Other than Food!)
One of my goals for this year is to find new (better) ways to deal with negative emotions and stress, other than snacking. Some are:
- My favorite: turning my nightly showers into a “spa.” I turn the lights off, light a few scented candles, and play music that lifts my mood. My favorite is Hawaiian music that takes me back to when Chris and I traveled to the beaches of Maui.
- Cooking healthy meals, with 80’s music turned up!
- Watching Fixer Upper reruns with a steaming cup of Chai tea.
- Watching (certain) reality shows at night before bed. Some Chris likes watching with me: The Profit, Shark Tank, Top Chef, and Food Network Star. Some, he leaves the room for: The Bachelor and Southern Charm.
Looking over my recipes, my two favorite ingredients seem to be wine and cheese. This wasn’t intentional, but they appear over and and over and over again in my recipes … apparently, I’m a fan!
And I love peanut butter. I always have and always will, until I die. Those Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups in the shapes of trees at Christmas and eggs at Easter? Pretty much my favorite food of all time.
Here’s what I recommend you check out next:
To Browse Healthy Recipes, Start with the Complete Recipe Index
Some of the most popular categories include:
To Browse Family Travel Guides and Confessions, Start with the Destinations Index
Some of the most popular categories include: