Back at it…

Wow… somehow it’s been almost 4 months since I’ve blogged.  It’s hard to find time for hobbies lately that aren’t just zoning out after bedtime with a glass of wine and Netflix.  I do have several posts scheduled you can look forward to, but thought I would do a quick catch up on life lately.

Last Fall, the stress of trying to work full time with a baby caught up to me.  I was working from home two days a week, but it was hard. I wanted more time to play with her beyond evenings and the weekend.  Honestly, I’m not someone who loves to work or enjoys that time away from home… I don’t say that to guilt those that do, but I say it because I’ve felt out-of-the-norm as a working mom who doesn’t feel that way.   I’m thankful that my work supported my need for flexibility and allowed me to go part-time. I’m still in the office three days a week, but my days at home can be focused on my girl as well as giving me time to run errands, get groceries, meal prep, exercise and clean house.  And I’m actually able to enjoy my weekends with my family.  I feel grateful for a schedule that gives a whole lot more balance to my life and that’s allowed me to focus on my health again, as well as precious time my girl.

In other news… this Spring, I weaned my daughter.  I shared about our many struggles with breastfeeding in the early months, but honestly it was never easy. We were never on a schedule, never able to wean from the nipple shield, pumping at work and after bedtime was annoying and I always struggled with / stressed about supply.  Plus, breastfeeding seemed to have the opposite effect on me that it does on others and made me gain 20 pounds; I couldn’t cut down on calories because it would affect my supply and I was ready to lose the extra weight.

While I never “loved” nursing like some women do, I was so thankful for the ability to provide a strong foundation for my daughter’s health, giving her the best nutrition possible.  I did love the bond it created.

When she reached her first birthday, I was ready to start the process. She got sick with RSV right after that and I didn’t want to stop then as her immune system recovered.  I hoped it would happen naturally, but of course it didn’t.  It was really tough on me emotionally (ok, likely hormones had a lot to do with it) to intentionally stop because I had worked SO hard to make it happen in the first place. Eventually, I convinced myself that I needed to do it for me and started decreasing one session per day each week.  We just kept busy or got out of the house to distract her.  We couldn’t do a bottle replacement because she wouldn’t drink milk.  We tried all kinds of milk, but she didn’t like any of it.  She still eats yogurt every morning and loves cheese at mealtime. She loves her sippy cup of water and drinks more than any kid I know. The process took about 6 weeks, but she handled it really well and I was thankful it was easy in that way. IMG_7547

These days, I’m chasing a 17-month old toddler.  She’s been walking since 10 months, so she’s runner and climber now, constantly on the move.  She’s outgoing and says + waves hi and bye to everyone we see at the grocery store. She loves her dog “Belle-y” and feeds her as many snacks (aka “nacks”) as she can sneak. If you ask her what sound an animal makes that she doesn’t know, she’ll scrunch her nose and sniff like a bunny because that’s her favorite. She loves to dance and clap her hands and stomp her feet with joy.  She gives the best hugs with a pat on the back and always blows kisses when saying bye-bye. Her favorite foods are blueberries, bananas, applesauce, yogurt, chicken, cheese, ice cream and whatever we’re eating. And she’s absolutely loving the pool this Summer, already swimming like a champ.  These are truly the best days.

 

 

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A 2017 Recap

2017 was quite a year… my life completely changed upon welcoming our baby girl.  I am loving being a mama!  I haven’t had as much time for blogging this year, but surprisingly I’ve gotten more traffic than ever to this site this year.  Thanks for sticking with me and reading!  In case you missed any posts over the past year, I’ll do a quick highlight here…

The year started out waiting anxiously for my daughter to arrive, giving birth, navigating breastfeeding and life with a newborn, and figuring out how to survive be a mom.  Most of my blog posts this year were focused on parenthood, as it has been quite all-consuming lately.

I’ve only shared two recipes this year, though you see more on my Instagram stories if you follow me. One was for an easy household hack and another for the quickest, yummiest weeknight dinner – those save me as a working mom!

Lastly, I started a series on sharing various health stories.  I’ve shared a lot of my own, but I am so encouraged by hearing how others find hope in tough diagnoses or lack there-of.  I hope you have been encouraged also!  I would love to continue this series next year, so please let me know if you have a story to share (anonymously or not – I am more than happy to plug your personal blog!).

Wising you a healthy & hopeful new year!  May the Lord bless you abundantly!

Christine

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*Photograph by Jessica Doffing Photography

 

Life Lately…

Apologies for being quite absent lately…. it’s been 3 months since my last post- eek!  I have a few drafts in the works, so you will see some more blog posts in the coming weeks.   Is there anything specific you want to hear about? Let me know!!

It’s hard to believe that Thanksgiving is next week!  We sure have lots to be thankful for this year.  Our baby girl is already 10 months old and is such a happy, fun baby.  She’s adventurous and always on the move… I think she may start walking soon.  I’m so very thankful that we’ve been blessed to continue with exclusive breastfeeding still even with all our troubles in the beginning.  She also loves food, which I can thank the Baby Led Weaning process for- I’ll be sharing all about introducing her to solids here soon.

I’m also thankful to work for a company & manager that have been supportive of me as a working mom and allowed me to go part-time.  It’s allowed for much better balance in my life and I am blessed to be able to spend more time with my daughter.  Just a few months ago, I was in absolute survival-mode; now I can breathe again.  On Mondays, I try to prep our breakfast & lunch meals for the work week, so I’ll soon be sharing my favorite recipes like overnight oats and paleo broccoli salad, as well as some go-to weeknight meals. In the meantime, follow me on Instagram @chrissysu and #healthyandhopeful – I am always showing my #mealprepmonday routine and recipes on my Story.

I hope y’all have a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends.  God Bless!

A Recap of 2016

Wow… is it really almost 2017!?!  As I look forward to the huge life change that 2017 will bring, I wanted to take some time to reflect back on 2016.  If you’ve missed any of my blogs this year, this will be the perfect opportunity to catch up!

2016 was certainly a roller-coaster for my health.  The year started off with me still trying to figure out what was causing my random high cortisol responses and unexplained weight gain.  Then, in May, we found out we were expecting, even though doctors had told me I wasn’t supposed to be able to get pregnant. Pregnancy brought on constant nausea and exhaustion that kept me down and out for a few months, and then a gestational diabetes diagnosis rocked my world.

Here’s a recap of the blogs I wrote in 2016:

Travel

VeniceI’m a huge believer that vacations are super important for your overall health and well-being.  We all need to take a break and relax, and traveling to experience different foods and cultures is great way to relieve stress. The past couple of years, we have taken two trips to Europe that were incredible.  I got so many requests for advice, I just decided to write all about our itineraries and recommendations right here:

My Favorite Natural Products & Organic Grocery Deals

BruschettaHealthy Recipes

Pregnancy:

Essential Oils

Thieves Essential OilHighlighting the benefits of some of my favorite essential oils to both your overall wellness and to creating and keeping a natural home.

Happy New Year!!

2016-recap

Big News!!

Due in JanuarySo, I’ve been a little absent on this blog the past few months but am returning with some exciting news to share…

I’m pregnant!  We are expecting our baby girl in January!

We are so thankful that God has blessed us with this precious child.  Having been told by several doctors that it was unlikely I would get pregnant naturally, we were unsure what we would face when we were ready to start a family.  God had other plans and has proven his healing power yet again.  He graciously answered many years of prayers and we had faith that this would not be our struggle- that all my efforts in nutrition and supplements to balance my hormones and heal my body would make it possible. I ask for your prayers in a continued healthy pregnancy and delivery.

I’m excited to share more about my health journey as I dive into this new season of pregnancy, post-partum and motherhood!

Vacation to London

This is the last installment of a five-part blog series all about the details of our travels to Europe the past 2 years. So far, I’ve covered our time in Italy with the Amalfi Coast, RomeTuscany+Florence+Venice+More, and our time in Paris.  Today, I’m sharing about our trip to London two months ago.

London

Getting There & Around: We flew into London Heathrow airport. Once you arrive, follow signs for the Underground. We took the tube directly from the airport into the city- it was easy and much cheaper than the Heathrow Express (and not much longer either).  We bought a couple of Oyster cards and filled it up with money to use throughout our trip – you can refill at stations as necessary. We took the Underground everywhere throughout the city; Google maps makes it easy to figure out your route.

When we flew out of London, we left from Gatwick. Since our flight was early in the morning, it was before public transportation started running to the airport. Instead, we hired Hummingbird car service to pick us up from our apartment and drive the hour-long ride out there. It was half as cheap as Uber or a taxi.

What to Pack: Late March/early April is a tricky time in London.  We happened to visit during the first weekend they had Spring weather and only had one night of rain. But, it snowed just a couple weeks later!  Here are the top items I would recommend packing to make sure you are prepared for that time of year:

  • IMG_3870Layers + Jacket – I debated bringing a coat, but knew it wouldn’t be necessary in Italy (the second part of our trip).  I was glad I had a jacket that I could wear over layers when it was chilly, but I also took it off a few times when the sun was shining warm.
  • Flats (Shoes) – Bring a few cute pairs of flats that are comfortable to walk in. I don’t think I ever saw anyone wearing heels in the entire city.  Even if you take the tube, you’ll still be doing lots of walking.
  • Umbrella – While it only rained one evening, it certainly caught us by surprise. Bring a small umbrella that’s easy to pack in your purse and have on hand when the weather changes.

Where to Stay: Anywhere in central London near an Underground stop is going to be great. We stayed in the South Kensington neighborhood and it was a beautiful area with lots of restaurants and shopping. We absolutely loved our flat – this adorable Airbnb. Sign up with this link and get get $20 in travel credit for your next vacation!

Sites to See: There is so much to do in London… plenty of museums to visit and famous places to see. Here’s what we decided to see:

  • Kensington Palace Gardens – FREE! We did not go inside Kensington Palace, but instead just saw it from the outside and walked through the surrounding gardens and park.  We also enjoyed Afternoon Tea onsite at the Orangery (see under Eat/Drink below).Kensington Palace
  • London Eye – Reserve tickets in advance to skip the long lines and visit at sunset so you see the city both during the daylight and as the city lights begin to turn on.  This was a great experience for our first night to help us get a feel for the layout of the city.  The ride lasts 30 minutes.IMG_7034
  • Big Ben – FREE! Of course you have to see the famous clock tower! Make sure to visit both at night and during the day.
  • Tower of London – Buy your tickets online in advance and pick up from the Group Tickets counter onsite to avoid lines. This palace was the home of many former monarchs and has a rich, dark history (many know it as the site of Anne Boleyn’s beheading).  The Beefeaters (guards officially called Yeoman Warders) guide a FREE tour every hour on the hour leaving from the front gate – I highly recommend taking it to learn some fascinating bits of history.  Don’t miss the Crown Jewel exhibit… you’ll have to wait in line once you get inside the complex, but they are absolutely stunning. It’s also here that you’ll get some fabulous views of old Tower Bridge.
  • Borough Market – Across the London Bridge, you’ll find an outdoor farmer’s market with lots of unique, local foods to eat.
  • IMG_7072Old London – FREE! This area of London was the central town in Shakespeare/Elizabeth I times. Download Rick Steves’ audio guide to walk through the area and learn about the Great Fire, the many churches built afterwards by famous architect Sir Christopher Wren, Fleet Street, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the original Twinnings tea shop and Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese pub where Charles Dickens and Dr. Johnson wrote and drank.
  • Westminster Walking Tour – We took an awesome walking tour with Free Tours by Foot (the tour is technically free, but they work for tips) of the beautiful Westminster area. We began at Buckingham Palace for the Parade of the Horse Guard and Changing of the Guard.  Seeing these events in this tour saved us tons of time and allowed us to get the best view – we are so glad we didn’t wake up early to spend hours waiting at the gate to watch. We saw St. James Palace (built for Anne Boleyn by Henry VIII), 10 Downing Street, the former location of White Hall Palace, Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament.
  • British Museum – FREE! This beautiful museum is open to the public and displays many historic artifacts.  The museum website has great guides for what to see if you only have an hour, 3 hours or all day at the museum. Highlights for us were the Rosetta Stone, Egyptian mummies, Parthenon sculptures and Assyrian lion hunt reliefs.
  • IMG_7178Windsor Castle – There are so many options for day-trips outside London and I had such hard time choosing… I don’t regret this choice at all! It was easy to get there: train to Windsor/Eaton Central from Paddington Station in London (40 minutes total). When we arrived, it was lunchtime, so we stopped for meat pies & pints at the Duchess of Cambridge pub across the street from the castle. It was not crowded at all this time of year (late March) so we got right in with no lines.  You get a free audio guide to take you through the castle’s main sites: the State Apartments and St. George’s Chapel. The State Apartments are just stunning with medieval knights armor, swords, guns and coats of arms all over. In St. George’s Chapel, you’ll find the burial sites of Charles I, Henry VIII and Jan Seymour. Plus, you are likely to see another Changing of the Guard while you are there.

Where to Eat & Drink:

  • IMG_3815Breakfast: The Muffin Man – This adorable place was just around the corner from our apartment in South Kensington.  We both got pots of tea to drink, then hubby got the full English Breakfast (complete with baked beans) and I chose toasted scones with clotted cream and jam. Everything was delicious and it was a ton of food for super reasonable pricing.
  • IMG_3829Fish & Chips: Rock & Sole Plaice – The oldest place for fish and chips still makes everything according to their original recipe. We chose the cod fish and chips – the regular is a huge serving. The homemade tartar sauce was amazing!
  • Pub Pies & Pints: Barrowboy and Banker Ale and Pie – This old bank building was transformed into a pub and the keep the beer in the old vault and cellars below.  We grabbed a couple of local pints and shared a meat pie for lunch, which was perfectly filling and delicious.
  • IMG_3728Afternoon Tea: Orangery Restaurant at Kensington Palace – This beautiful building is just off the palace gardens and is the perfect setting for Afternoon Tea.  At 27£ per person, it is one of the more reasonable options.  You can add glasses of champagne for an additional cost. The three-tiered tray of food is certainly enough for a meal – we barely finished it between the two of us.  It includes a selection of tea sandwiches (I loved the egg mayonnaise and hubby loved the coronation chicken curry wrap), soft scones with decadent clotted cream and strawberry jam, and several delicious mini desserts on top.  As for teas, the Lady Earl Grey was my favorite!
  • IMG_3811Curry: Dishoom – Our BEST meal of the trip… do not miss this spot!  There are several locations around London and all will have a queue if you arrive after 7, maybe earlier. The drinks (especially the green tea old fashioned) are amazing and the food is unforgettable.  Our server was great in helping guide us through the menu and decide on what to order, so if you’ve never tried Indian food, don’t let it scare you.
  • Cocktails: The Blind Pig in Soho – With a very speakeasy-like entrance (we almost missed it!), this cool bar had some incredible hand-crafted cocktails.

P.S. Looking for more details? I reviewed hotels, restaurants and sites on TripAdvisor here. Or, feel free to email me with questions and for more details at healthyhopefulblog(at)gmail.com.

Vacation to Paris, France

I’m currently writing a five-part blog series all about the details of our travels to Europe the past 2 years. So far, I’ve covered our time in Italy with the Amalfi Coast, Rome and Tuscany+Florence+Venice+More.  Today, I’m sharing about our 4 days in Paris, France!

Paris, France

Getting There: We flew into and out of Paris Orly airport – much easier to navigate than Charles De Gaulle airport and closer to central Paris. You can take a bus, the RER train or a short drive in a taxi directly to town – all easy to find when you arrive.

Where to Stay: Anywhere in central Paris that is close to a Metro subway stop will be perfect for navigating the city. We stayed in a rental apartment just a block from the Siene in the 7th arrondissement (district); it was walking distance to several main sites and just across the street from a Metro station.

What to See, Do, Eat & Drink: Here’s how we spent our four days in Paris…

Day 1 (a half-day due to travel)

  • Eifel TowerPicnic at the Eiffel Tower – We found fresh baguettes, coconut macaroons and pan au chocolat (chocolate croissants) at Le Moulin de la Veirge bakery on our walk towards the Eiffel Tower. We saw on the lawn gazing up at the towering monument, enjoying the delicious carbs.
  • Sunset Seine River Cruise – I’m so glad we did this our first night to get a feel for the layout of the city. There are several boat companies to choose from and I would highly recommend the one we took – Vendettes du Pont; it’s a smaller boat than the other cruise, was only 10 euros and the tour guide’s English was very understandable. Sunset was the perfect time as we sawEifel Tower Lights the city by sunlight on the first half of our journey and then saw the city lights for the second half. Get a glass of wine, sit on the top and enjoy!
  • Eiffel Tower at Night – You must visit this site both during the day and at night. When the sun sets, the twinkling lights on the tower are just magical!

Day 2

  • Musée de l’Orangerie – We visited this museum first because the line is shorter (only an hour) to buy the combo entrance ticket to this and the d’Orsay for 16 euro. I absolutely loved this small museum…the gallery with Renoir and Picasso paintings and the spectacular Monet waterlily murals.
  • Jardin des Tuileries – The beautiful gardens next to l’Orangerie and the Louvre are perfect for a relaxing stroll. We found a cafe here to eat lunch at and enjoyed quiche Lorraine and a croque madame.Tuilleries
  • Sainte-Chapelle – A royal, gothic chapel with stunning stained glass windows illustrating key moments in the Old and New Testaments.Sainte Chapelle
  • Notre Dame – Just down the street, you can walk inside this incredible church for free. The arch ceilings and overall grandness of the place were just phenomenal.
  • IMG_3384Crepes at Aux Ducs de Bourgogne – This family-run restaurant serves delicious, authentic savory and sweet crepes with house-made cider. The apple caramel crepe for dessert was amazing. Plus, they are gluten-free!
  • The Louvre – My husband had already faced the massive crowds to visit this museum once and said “so not worth it;” instead, we opted to visit just the outside in the evening. We enjoyed a violinist playing as we explored the pyramids and building’s exterior.

Day 3

  • Croissants and Coffee at Brasserie Bourbon – We visited this place around the corner from our apartment, both for breakfast and drinks. It’s right across from several government buildings and filled with politicians and government workers. The food, drinks and prices were good – definitely get a hot chocolate if you visit when it’s chilly!
  • Orsay ClockMusée d’Orsay – This old train station turned museum is filled with masterpieces, and the building itself will dazzle you also (peak inside the restaurant if you don’t eat there!). When we arrived, we skipped the line (see Musée de l’Orangerie) and went straight to the 5th floor Impressionism gallery.  The works by Monet, Renoir, Sisley and Picasso were beautiful.  We quickly walked through the rest of the museum, but then got hungry to head for lunch…
  • Pre Aux Clercs – The French onion soup here was to-die-for. My mouth is watering just thinking back.
  • MacaronsMacarons at Ladurée – We stopped for a decadent dessert across the street- incredible macarons in all different flavors… the Marie Antoinette was my favorite. You must try this French treat!
  • Arc de Triomphe – Visit this monument commissioned by Napoleon where 12 streets converge into one intersection. Then follow down the Champs-Élysées to do some window-shopping.
  • Picnic on the Seine River – Do as the locals do: grab a baguette and bottle of champagne and enjoy a picnic along the banks of the Seine River.Siene

Day 4 

  • Boys Day Trip to Roland Garros (The French Open) – A quick 30 minute Metro ride away, the boys had purchased tickets to the French Open and enjoyed a day watching the pros play tennis on the clay courts of Roland Garros.
  • IMG_5838Girls Day Trip to Versailles – An easy RER C train ride takes you to the countryside to the beautiful palace. Buy tickets in advance, but still expect to wait in a shorter 30 minute line to get in. You’ll get a free audio guide to take you through the Palace. It was just as beautiful as I had dreamed – the gilded ceilings, marble mantelpieces, enormous chandeliers and the Hall of Mirrors. After seeing the palace, we walked through the gardens to the Grand Canal and then on to the Grand Trianon and Petit Trianon (where Marie Antoinette lived).

P.S. Looking for more details? I reviewed hotels, restaurants and sites on TripAdvisor here. Or, feel free to email me with questions and for more details at healthyhopefulblog(at)gmail.com.