Romantic Fall Butternut Squash Risotto

butternutsquashrisottopinI don’t know what it is about risotto, which is an Italian rice…

Risotto literally means rice, but it is so much more than that!

It’s rich, creamy, and thick–it’s flavorful and hearty.

And somehow, without a lick of heavy cream or flour to thicken it.

The thing about Risotto is, you need patience and a day where you have nothing else better to do. Save this for a romantic occasion, or maybe just a lifeless rainy day. If you don’t mind standing by the stove for an hour, then by all means, do it during the week. Just make sure you check your planner and have no other obligations for a solid 2 hours.

Why is it so delicious? It requires every bit of effort on your part. You remember how your mom told you her secret to cooking was love? Well, love requires dedication, and making any risotto is a prime example of putting one’s heart into cooking. The reason it is so thick and rich is because the process of making risotto allows for the rice’s natural properties of starch slowly releasing. That is the key to risotto; don’t rush it! The actually process of stirring isn’t difficult; it’s the patience one needs to make it.

To be honest, I didn’t want to post this recipe at first because most of you are busy and probably feel like something like a “gourmet” rice isn’t worth the effort, but believe me–it screams fall and comfort and is worth the effort! I will certainly post other risotto recipes that do not have butternut squash, but since I just made it, here’s the first of the many varieties of risotto. Here’s how to do it…

Romantic Butternut Squash Risotto

Cast of Characters:

1 small butternut squash

1 small yellow onion (optional)

6-8 cups of chicken stock

3 tablespoons of butter or extra virgin olive oil

2 cups of risotto rice (carnaroli)**DO NOT JUST USE ANY RICE!

kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1/4 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 bunch of chopped parsley


Only Italian’s finest ingredients…



1.) Cut the stem end of the squash with a really well sharpened, serrated knife.


Yes, I have a watermelon knife. Don’t judge me.

2.) After cutting the stem, use a vegetable peeler (or a good knife–just don’t cut yourself) and remove the skin.

3.) After removing the skin, slice the butternut squash lengthwise. **WARNING–THE SQUASH IS TOUGH TO CUT! BE CAREFUL!**

4.) Scoop out the seeds and pulp.


Scoop the seeds and pulp, please!

If you’re not really into butternut squash like I am, you can use only half and get a result like this…


Here’s the lighter risotto; equally delicious, just less butternutty.

But if you want the rich blend of butternut squash as opposed to peppered chucks, dice up both halves. Dice the desired amount of squash into 1/2 inch cubes. **During this time, you should also dice up the onion, if desired. I made it once without the onion and it tasted fine, but I think squash and sauteed onions go so well! Throw garlic if you have it–why not?

6.) After dicing, pour your 6-8 cups (I say make 8–it’s better to have more in case it thickens too quickly) of chicken stock into a sauce pan and keep to a simmer at a medium heat. Be careful not to have it too hot–it will evaporate into nothing!


Aren’t they a cute couple?

7.) While the stock is heating up, fry your onions in the three tablespoons of butter or olive oil on medium high heat. In about three minutes, throw a 1/8th of a cup of water to make the onions smelt into a caramelized, yummy state. Stir occasionally to ensure even cooking.


You don’t need garlic, but really, when can you NOT use garlic in savory Italian dinner?

8.) When the onion is well caramelized, throw in the diced butternut squash and spread out evenly. Feel free to throw more olive oil and butter–why not? Stir occasionally until golden brown.

9.) In about 5-8 minutes, throw another 1/4 cup of water and watch the butternut squash sizzle in glory…mmm! The squash should be tender in about 10-15 minutes.


Help! I’m melting!

10.) As you are tossing occasionally, use a potato masher or the side of a wooden spoon to mash up the butternut squash. Leave it in whole chunks if you only used half, or if you used the full squash, mush it to a paste.

11.) Once your squash is mushed up and tender, it’s time for the pain in the butt part–the risotto. At this point, you stir in your two cups of risotto and crack your pepper and throw down your salt (DO NOT COOK THE RISOTTO PREVIOUSLY–IT WILL COOK IN HERE!)

It looks sesame-y and weird--but it's just the beginning. I posted this so you don't feel like you messed up! :)

It looks sesame-y and weird–but it’s just the beginning. I posted this so you don’t feel like you messed up! :)

Okay I am going to stop with the numbers for a second–READ carefully and EXECUTE patiently…

You are only allowed to add one to two ladles of stock at a time. If you pour too much at once, you will stop the cooking and have undercooked rice and mucky soup. Gross.

cooked squash and stock

All mushed up and ready to thicken into the rice…

Stir the rice consistently and slowly pour in one to two ladles of stock at a time. I say add every 30 seconds roughly–you will get a knack for it. Once you see the rice is absorbing the liquid, slowly add more and stir. Don’t walk away. Don’t call your friends. You are a slave to the stove for another half hour or so, sorry.

12.) About halfway through, add some more crackin’ pepper and slammin’ salt. Keep stirring–you can do it, tiger! At this point, you have about another 15-20 minutes, sorry boss. Stir and ladle, stir and ladle. You’ll see progress, though. It’s looking so rich and decadent–you just can’t wait, but you absolutely have to!

Tip: Make sure your pan is wide and that you are spreading out the rice so there’s one even layer; otherwise, you will have some al dente pieces, some overcooked, and some mush. Don’t be lazy! Do it right!

13.) In about 15 minutes, taste for doneness. It should be al-dente, or “to the tooth.” Not hard, not soft–just right.

Tip: You know it’s done when you can drag a wooden spoon and there’s a line made in the pan.

Once you are done, add some more salt and pepper. The chicken stock should provide plenty of flavor, but depending on your stock, you’ll probably need a tad more. Mix in your Parmesan cheese…mmm. It’s going to be gooey and awesome. Then chop up some fresh parsley. My recommendation? Just peel off the tops because the stems can be bitter. Peel off the tops and do a rough chop, and bam (sorry Emeril)! You are finished. Phew.

Go get ‘em tiger.

Eat it out of the pan for all I care--you earned it!

Eat it out of the pan for all I care–you earned it!



The Pumpkin Phenomena–Pumpkin Spice Lattes


It’s ubiquitous.

It’s obnoxious.

It’s Pumpkin Season.

I think we’ve all seen these memes and other status updates that shows us how much profit is to be made in fall…


Now as much as I would love to criticize you all for jumping on the pumpkin bandwagon…

I would be a hypocrite; I am totally obsessed too. I love fall for the cute, comfy sweaters, scrunchy boots, decorative scarves, but most of all….


I love it for all the drink and food inspiration. What better time of year to start making those homemade delicacies? It’s about classic comfort foods. But does it have to be “the same ol’ thing?” Absolutely not! In the comments section feel free to let me know what you would be interested in learning how to make that is fall oriented. I am thinking about loads of different pastas, side dishes, and soups through butternut squash, spaghetti squash, pumpkins, apples, and other lovely fruits and vegetables!

For my next few posts, I’ll be presenting a few twists to your familiar favorites. But to warm you guys up, today I will give you my Pumpkin Spice Latte recipe that I’ve been using to start up my crisp, fall mornings.

Homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte


Cast of Characters (for two large servings):

4 tablespoons of sugar

2 1/2-3 tablespoons of pumpkin puree, Libby’s (you could even put more depending on your LOVE of pumpkin!)

1 tablespoon of vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon of ginger

2 1/4 cups of milk

1/2 cup of espresso (or strong coffee if you do not have espresso!)

copious amounts of whipped cream

Directions: Get a small sauce pan, turn on the stove to medium, and put in sugar, pumpkin puree, vanilla, nutmeg, and ginger into the sauce pan. Slowly pour 2 1/4 cups of milk and 1/2 cup of espresso. Whisk thoroughly for at least 8-10 minutes.  Make sure you do not let it boil over! Serve hot with copious amounts of whipped cream and sprinkled nutmeg on top!

Tip: Try to use clear mason jar glasses for the coffeehouse effect.

Tune in tomorrow for Butternut Squash Risotto–yum!

Peace for the love of fall,

Blasia Modawar



Stovetop Pumpkin Spice Latte

Delicious and crave-worthly PSL; it’s like autumn in a mug!


  • 4 T sugar
  • 2.5 T pumpkin puree
  • 1 T vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. ginger
  • 2 1/4 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup espresso (or strong coffee)


    Get a small sauce pan, turn on the stove to medium, and put in sugar, pumpkin puree, vanilla, nutmeg, and ginger into the sauce pan. Slowly pour 2 1/4 cups of milk and 1/2 cup of espresso. Whisk thoroughly for at least 8-10 minutes. Make sure you do not let it boil over! Serve hot with copious amounts of whipped cream and sprinkled nutmeg on top!

Serves 2

Preparation time:


Total time:


8.2/10 from
200 users.

How to Eat & Drink at Starbucks For Free

StarbuckspinStarbucks: home of the unsubstantiated “$5 cup of coffee”. Although many people complain about how expensive Starbucks is, the facts are 1) it’s really not and 2) it’s really delicious. Anyway, it wouldn’t matter if Starbucks did sell a regular coffee for $5, because I’m about to tell you how to get almost anything on the menu completely free. Yeah, you want to read this article.

So, how do you get to eat and drink at Starbucks cafes for free? The equation is relatively simple: coupons + grocery store + Starbucks reward card = free Starbucks.

This week, starting Sept. 14, 2014, Target is running a sale on Starbucks coffee: buy 3 Starbucks coffee products, get a free $5 Target gift card. At Target, a bag of Starbucks coffee retails for $6.99/each. If you subtract the value of the Target gift card, that makes each bag $5.33. Wait, you’re saying, that’s not free! No, it’s not. Not yet.

In order to make the most out of your Target deal, you can use Starbucks coupons on top of the $5 gift card promo. Coupons.com is offering $2 off Starbucks coffee coupons when you buy 2 packages. This brings the cost of coffee down to $4.33/bag. Buy 6 bags of coffee, get $10 in gift cards and $6 in coupon savings. You can buy enough Starbucks and earn enough Target gift cards to make buying the coffee with the coupons and the deal completely free, or you can buy other gift card promo products and use your gift cards to buy the coffee. Either way, this will make your Starbucks grocery store coffee free.

So, how does this translate to free food & drinks at Starbucks locations?

Well, first, you need to get a Starbucks rewards card. How do you do that? Simple. Sign up here. In fact, if you sign up, you’ll get a free Starbucks drink when you purchase 2 packages of Starbucks coffee in the grocery store (which you’re already doing). And then you’ll be eligible to earn free food & drinks every 12 stars earned (1 star per purchase). But wait, there’s more: this week, Starbucks is offering its reward card members a very special promo:

Screen Shot 2014-09-14 at 2.29.24 PM

This means instead of getting 1 star for every Starbucks grocery store purchase, you’ll earn 2.5 (as long as you buy in increments of 2). So, if you buy 6 packages of Starbucks coffee at Target, you’ll “spend” $25.98. You’ll also get $10 in Target gift cards, bringing your cost down to $15.98. But, you’ve already earned a free Starbucks drink just buy signing up for a rewards card. You can get any size, any kind handcrafted Starbucks beverage for free. Order a Venti (20oz) or a Trenta (iced only, 31oz), go crazy with extra shots of espresso, syrups, and other add ons, and get yourself a $8 latte or frappuccino. This brings your “cost” down to $7.98. And, now that you’ve bought 6 packages of coffee with 2.5 times the rewards, you’ve earned 15 rewards Stars, which means you’ve brought your total cost to -$0.02. You could also use your reward to purchase any food or beverage, and you’ll earn a free food or drink for every 12 Stars. Tip: don’t order large, expensive drinks to earn your 12 Stars; get a regular hot or iced coffee or tea, and spend less than $2. Take advantage of other reward options and perks Starbucks gives card holders, like 50% off food or 50% off espresso to get your rewards. Order what you like, do every transaction separately, and even out the cost by using your free rewards to your advantage. Most of all, enjoy your Free Starbucks experience! :)

Victoria’s Secret Sports Collection? Yes, Please!

This is a sponsored blog post. Influenster provided me with complimentary Victoria’s Secret products to test and review as part of a contest.

I received my first VoxBox from Influenster today and SURPRISE! it was filled with amazing stuff from Victoria’s Secret’s Sports collection. The Incredible by Victoria’s Secret sports bra and Knockout crop pants are both comfortable and stylish. Although I don’t think VS exactly had a pregnant mom in mind when it sent me a VoxBox, I am so very glad that I was selected. The Incredible by Victoria’s Secret Sports Bra definitely lives up to its name. It is the most comfortable bra I’ve ever worn during pregnancy, bar none. I am in love. The Knockout crop pants are also fabulous for chasing around my very active toddler.

#VSSportsBra #VoxBox

#VSSportsBra #VoxBox

What I really, really love about the Incredible by VS Sports Bra is that unlike a traditional sports bra, this one includes a clasp, similar to regular bras, so you can make it as tight or as loose as the size allows. This means that instead of throwing away this bra after a few workouts because of an ill-fitting strap, the Incredible by VS will actually last! It’s great for high intensity workouts, and the wick-away fabric keeps you cool and comfortable.

In my opinion, VS’s sports bras, pants, and other items are absolutely worth the money. I can’t wait to add to my collection. I’ve used lots of other big name brands in the past, but I’ve never instantly fallen in love with a sports bra the way I did with the Incredible by VS Sports Bra. Amaze-balls!


How to Choose The Best Baby Products For a Growing Family

When it comes to registering for a shower and purchasing baby goods, first-time parents are often overwhelmed by the amount of things they need and the selection of products. If you’ve never had a baby, how do you know what you’ll need (or how much of it you should buy)? The answer depends on finances and family planning. In my case, I knew we were planning to have more children in the near future, and although I tried desperately to choose the best products that would hold up from first baby to last baby, I didn’t know what I was doing. I ended up exchanging things, buying different products, and agonizing over purchases long after our first baby was born. In this post, I’m going to share what I’ve learned along with some sage advice from other moms. This article will help you choose the best baby gear for a growing family.

1. Picking The Right Stroller

To Travel-System or Not To Travel-System

For my firstborn, I registered for a travel system stroller. At the time, it seemed like a great idea: a stroller that easily accommodated the infant carseat so shopping trips were click and go.

Britax 2014 B-Agile and B-Safe Travel System, Black

What I Didn’t Know

What I didn’t know about travel systems are that the carseats are usually great, but the stroller often leaves much to be desired. In my case, the Britax B-Agile was actually a fantastic stroller, but it didn’t suit my needs as a new mom with a very large baby and another on the way. I didn’t know that my son would outgrow the infant carseat so quickly, and at 5 months old I didn’t feel that he was big enough to be sitting in a forward-facing stroller. (He didn’t either, as he screamed every time my husband or I went out of his view to push the stroller.) I began thinking about investing in a new stroller that could accommodate two small children, and I found the Britax B-Ready. It fulfilled all of my wants and needs in a stroller: easy click and go for an infant seat, parent-facing toddler seat, and the ability to accommodate two babies (or toddlers!) at once. I wondered why I hadn’t bought this stroller in the first place, but then I realized like many other FTMs I was overwhelmed by the stroller selection and thought a stroller + carseat sounded like a fantastic deal. Instead, I ended up buying two strollers, and, later, a convertible carseat. (We’ll get to that, later.)

Britax B-Ready Stroller, Red


2. How to Find the Perfect and Safe Crib

And One That Won’t Break the Bank, Too!

I fell in love with a crib at Buy Buy Baby. Unfortunately, Clark was a Hurricane Sandy baby, and my dream crib was sold out and on backorder for months. So, with just a few weeks until my due date, I needed to find a new crib.

Stokke Sleepi Crib, Walnut Brown

What I Didn’t Know
What I didn’t know about infant cribs is that just because a crib is expensive doesn’t mean the quality or safety is any better than a much more affordable crib. The unavailability of my chosen crib forced me to look for a safe, cheap alternative while awaiting my other order. I discovered that Ikea’s cribs have very high safety ratings, and all of the Ikea crib options are under $150. I picked an Ikea Malm crib that went with our bedroom set, and I loved it – so much so that I never ended up buying that fancy, luxury crib. The best part? It easily lowered and then converted to a toddler bed, so I will get years of use out of my inexpensive crib purchase. Win-win.

3. Infant Carseat vs. Convertible Carseat

Which One Is Right For You

This question is confusing for first-time parents and been-there-done-that parents alike. Do you buy two carseats in a short period of time, or do you buy one that’s supposed to work into toddler-age. Is there a “right” answer?

Maxi Cosi Pria 70 Convertible Car Seat, Total Black

What I Didn’t Know
The carseat debate is a tough one. If you’re extremely frugal and know you won’t have 2 under two years old, you might be tempted to buy the convertible carseat and use it right away. However, some hospitals will not accept a convertible carseat as a proper infant carseat. This is because some hospitals require you to bring the carseat into the hospital and strap the newborn into the seat in the presence of a nurse or doctor. Aside from this, one of the benefits of an infant carseat is, in fact, the ability to remove the seat and take the baby with you. You can easily clip the seat into a stroller or carry the baby inside during cold weather. Another advantage is that if your baby is sleeping, you can bring the seat inside or in the store without disturbing nap time. Although it’s never a good idea to keep an infant in a carseat for an extended period of time, an extra 5-10 minutes for you to put groceries away or run a quick errand is enough for most parents to feel temporarily rejuvenated.

Britax B-Safe Infant Car Seat, Black

4. Nursery Bedding

A Reminder That Infant Safety Comes First

Lots of first-time parents go crazy over finding the perfect crib bedding set for their baby’s nursery. There are so many different styles to choose from, but safe sleeping practices must take priority over the cute factor.

GEENNY Boutique Crib Bedding Set, Beautiful Black White Flower and Dot, 13 Piece

What I Didn’t Know
Cute nursery bedding sets are, for the most part, a huge waste of money. Crib bumpers, at least the ones that aren’t mesh and are included in crib bedding sets, are not safe. The American Academy of Pediatrics has said that crib bumpers contribute to SIDs risk. Aside from the crib bumpers, infants are not supposed to use any blankets; the only source of warmth should come from pajamas and sleeping sacks/securely wrapped swaddling blankets.

BreathableBaby Breathable Mesh Crib Liner, White

7 Things You Didn’t Know About Hulu Plus

Screen Shot 2014-08-24 at 2.33.23 PMTry 2 Weeks of Hulu Plus Free!

I’ll admit it: when my husband signed up for Hulu Plus, I was annoyed. I found the interface clunky, the commercials obnoxious, and the content lacking. I began to wonder why Hulu Plus was even a “thing” anymore. Didn’t people know about DVR’s and TiVo’s? Unlike Netflix, Hulu Plus‘s content is mostly television based (you won’t find many award-winning, attention-grabbing movies on Hulu Plus). Instead of writing Hulu Plus off completely, I asked myself, “Am I using this product wrong? What makes 6 million other people love Hulu Plus?” Then, I fell in love.

1. Hulu Plus is Nothing Like Netflix

This might seem like a very basic, silly thing to share, but it’s overwhelmingly accurate. Netflix has created thousands of micro genes unique to its platform in order to suggest the most relevant content in relation to your current likes and dislikes. Netflix’s software is so intuitive that it’s as if you don’t even have to think; you just obey Netflix and its suggestions. You are captive to suggested content. Hulu Plus, on the other hand, lets you be the boss. With superior search features and brilliantly organized content, Hulu Plus makes it easy to find your favorite shows and watch them on demand.

2. On Hulu Plus, You Can Search By Television Network

What does this mean? Well, if you love the Bravo Network, you can simply type “Bravo” into the search engine and find all your favorite Bravo shows on Hulu Plus. The same goes for any other network, like TLC, ABC, NBC, etc. It’s a great feature if you love specific channels.

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3. Hulu Plus Offers Original Content 

Yes, this is something Hulu Plus and Netflix have in common, but Hulu Plus‘s original content is much more quirky, like The Hotwives of Orlando. Its style is unique to Hulu Plus, and I kinda love it.

4. The Hulu Plus Queue

Save your shows for later by adding selections to the Hulu Plus queue. This way, you won’t have to search all over again.

5. Children’s Content on Hulu Plus is 100% Commercial Free

And the content is fantastic. Find favorite shows from your childhood, such as Fraggle Rock, Seasame Street, Barney, etc. and new, Hulu Plus original content like Jim Henson’s Doozers. Great for quickly distracting your toddler or school-aged child.

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6. Hulu Plus is Affordable

Let’s be honest: Hulu Plus is cheap compared to Netflix and other subscription services. For just $7.99 a month, you have access to an impressive library of network television shows that can be viewed from your home television, mobile devices, cell phones, gaming devices, and computers. If you’re not sure if Hulu Plus has what you want, try 2 weeks for free.

7. You’ll Forget What Life Was Like Pre-Hulu Plus

I’ve become so reliant on Hulu Plus for all of my yesteryear television needs that I’ve forgotten other people don’t have Hulu Plus. If you’ve ever wanted to rifle through Comedy Central’s library, see what the Real Housewives were like before Bravo blew up, or watch your favorite cancelled series, like I Wanna Marry Harry on Fox, in its entirety, then you need Hulu Plus. Yeah, it’s a “luxury,” but for $0.26 a day, it’s an affordable luxury. Give it a try! 

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links in which the author may benefit from through discounts or compensation. This post is not endorsed, sponsored, or affiliated with Hulu.com in any way. All opinions belong to the author and do not reflect the thoughts or feelings of Hulu.com or its parent company.

Autism in the Womb: Evidence of Autism Present in Fetal Brain During 2nd and 3rd Trimesters

Screen Shot 2014-08-17 at 12.34.40 PMA new study by the University of California at San Diego has found indications of autism in the womb. During the 2nd and 3rd trimesters, researchers were able to isolate differences in the brain development of infants who went on to later be diagnosed with autism:

The area UCSD researchers homed in on is just a quarter of an inch in size. Ten of the autistic children showed the problem in the prefrontal cortex, which dictates communication and social skills.

The outer layer of babies’ brains form six layers at those stages of pregnancy, but the UCSD researchers found that in autistic children, that development is flawed, causing problems in the areas of the brain that control social skills and language.” Source: ‘Messy Patches in Brain Linked to Autism, Times of San Diego

What does this mean for autism research? 

First, we know that autism is something that begins in the womb. It’s not something that can be caused by outside influences after birth, such as vaccines or environmental issues.

Next, we can begin researching ways to prevent autism by intervening during pregnancy or even before conception.

Last, we know that, for now, autism is not something that a pregnant mother could have knowingly prevented. It’s not something that has a cause yet, which is great news because it means that as of right now, autism is not your fault. A shot didn’t do it. An accident didn’t do it. A medication didn’t cause it. It’s just one of those things that nature decides.

The hope from UCSD researchers is that “their work points to the second and third trimesters as a crucial time in the development of autism that may lead to preventative measures to prevent the disorder.”

I hope so, too.

4 Easy Tips To Avoid Stretch Marks During Pregnancy

JAS-04031-3Worried about those “tiger stripes” some moms brag about? There are so many lotions and potions that promise to help with skin elasticity during pregnancy, but there’s only one topical treatment that has been proven effective: Vitamin E. There’s nothing fancy or expensive about it. In fact, you can get Vitamin E oil from almost any grocery or drug store, and you can find more of the elasticizing vitamin in Vitamin E rich foods.

In order to have the best odds in the fight against stretch marks, do the following:

1. Use Vitamin E Oil

After a shower or a bath, coat yourself in Vitamin E. If you have the time, always put an extra layer of the good stuff on before bed. Your body will absorb it as you sleep.

2. Eat Vitamin E rich foods

Surprise! Foods that are rich in Vitamin E are also extremely healthy and great for your growing baby. Sunflower seeds, almonds, spinach, and avocados are some of the foods highest in Vitamin E content. They’re tasty, too!

3. Stay hydrated

Make sure you drink plenty of water. If you can’t stand the taste, add a lemon and some mint for a refreshing sip.

4. Stay active

Aim to take a 30-45 minute walk each day. Exercise is so good for your skin and your pregnancy.


Some people rave about cocoa butter and how it helped them avoid stretch marks. Cocoa butter contains Vitamin E as an active ingredient, which is why cocoa butter can be an effective tool in your battle against tiger stripes. Feel free to use a combination of Vitamin E oil, cocoa butter, or other Vitamin E based lotions. Do you have a favorite pregnancy potion? Share it with us!

10 things you don’t need to do while pregnant – Pregnancy Tips from a Postpartum Mom

betsyfinnToday’s guest post is by Betsy Finn. She lives in Michigan with her husband, two boys, and two cats (Betsy’s story). You can read more of her thoughts on life and creative musings at BPhotoArt.com. There, Betsy blogs about a hodgepodge of topics including fine art and portrait photography, parenting, capturing memories, and finding contentment in the journey of life. You can also find Betsy on Facebook,Twitter,Google+,Pinterest,and Instagram.

There are so many resources online for pregnant moms — and most focus on what you “need” to do while pregnant. For my first pregnancy, we “followed the rules” and did all the stuff that the pregnancy books recommend. My second? We didn’t. We did what what worked for our family. Here’s my list of 10 things you don’t need to do while pregnant, from a mom who’s been there and done that:

1. Don’t give in to the “prenatal” exercise fad.
My first pregnancy, I took prenatal yoga. With my second, I found a pilates class. Instead of gearing exercises towards the pregnant body, the pilates class focused on strengthening my core and adapting exercises, as needed, so that I could do them while pregnant. I wish I’d taken pilates sooner; working my core muscles throughout pregnancy made my changing physique much more manageable.

2. Don’t register for everything under the sun.
As parents-to-be, we thought that we were being reasonable about our baby registry. We didn’t put a lot of extras on the list, and kept it more to essentials. Despite our attempts to be minimalistic, as our first son grew I found myself donating numerous unneeded baby items that we had thought were essential. A baby wipe warmer? Sounds like a good idea, sure, but we never used it. Crib nightlight and music machine? Neat — until you realize it turns off abruptly and wakes up the baby.

3. Don’t forget to document your pregnancy with pictures.
With my first pregnancy, baby’s growth was well documented with snapshots, but for round two, I just wanted nice maternity portraits. I’m a photographer though, so maybe I’m biased on this one.

4. Don’t overpack for the hospital.
I don’t remember what we packed in our hospital back for the first time around. But the second time, I overpacked. What did we use from my extensive checklist? tennis balls for counter-pressure and an aromatherapy diffuser. That’s it. nothing more. One good suggestion I did find? Separate your things into “labor” and “postpartum” bags — and leave the second bag in the car..

5. Don’t try to learn everything about pregnancy.
Do yourself a favor and don’t read all those pregnancy books. I read them with my first pregnancy, but later realized you can get the important information from your doctor (or online).

6. Don’t put life on hold.
Sure, there are some things you can’t do while pregnant. No alcohol, no lunchmeat, no rare/raw meats… no raw sushi. But find a way to still enjoy your pregnant months (e.g. virgin daiquiris, cooked sushi).

7. Don’t be afraid to “pester” your doctor with questions or concerns.
That’s what your doctor is there for. After my first birth experience, I switched OB/GYNs, and my new one was much more receptive to my many questions.

8. Don’t scoff at hand-me-downs!
Brand new baby stuff is expensive…especially when you consider how little they get worn. Most used baby clothes are practically brand new. So, if you are offered hand-me-downs from a relative or friend — accept!

9. Don’t wait until you are pregnant to start getting healthy.
Between my first and second pregnancies, — a postpartum health issue required me to make some dietary changes (which led to weight loss and improved health). Being healthier before my second pregnancy allowed me to be more active towards the end of my second pregnancy.

10. Don’t be stubborn, accept help when needed!
I admit it. I like being independent. But when you’re pregnant, there are certain things you shouldn’t do: lifting heavy things and cat litter duty, for example I was reluctant to ask for help — it’s important to remember, you feel like more of an imposition than you actually are.

So, there you have it. Ten things you don’t need to do while pregnant. Those are my suggestions as a mom who’s been through it. Neither of my pregnancies and neither of my birth experiences were identical. There is no one size fits all approach to pregnancy, birth, or even life in general. You have to find what works for you and run with it. Take what works, and leave the rest.

Family Movie Night Popcorn with Perfect Pop App – Sponsored

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One of my favorite things to do as a child was go to the movies. I loved the big screen, the late nights, and, most importantly, the heavenly scent of movie theater popcorn. Now that I’m a stay at home mom, going out to the movies is easier said than done, but luckily I can compromise by satisfying my craving for amazing popcorn with Pop Secret popcorn‘s Movie Theater Butter variety.

Tonight was one of those nights were I just wanted a nice bag of popcorn and a great movie. It was a particularly dark and stormy night, and I worried about what every popcorn lover fears when making microwave popcorn: burned popcorn. Luckily, I discovered the Pop Secret Perfect Pop App and decided to give it a try.

The Perfect Pop App truly delivers. I used the “start” feature on the app once I began the microwave and stopped accordingly. As the name implies, my popcorn was popped perfectly - not a single piece of burned popcorn. It’s a popcorn enthusiast’s dream come true. Aside from the fact that the app works wonderfully, it’s also really pretty to look at. Here’s what the Perfect Pop App looks like:



Gorgeous, right?

Although my husband and I have both seen popcorn before, this was Clark’s first popcorn experience, and this is one of those scenarios where a picture speaks a thousand words.

Here’s Clark’s first bite:

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Obviously a winner, because he immediately grabs more:

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And there you have it, a recipe for popcorn success: 1 part Pop Secret popcorn + 1 part Perfect Pop App = 1 very happy toddler. Thanks, Pop Secret!

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Special thanks to Pop Secret for sponsoring this post!

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