April 22, 2014

TASTE: Blueberry-Apple Baked Oatmeal

Blueberry Apple Baked Oatmeal
Yum yum yum yum. I don't know about you, but I love eating oatmeal in the mornings. Heeeaaaallllthy. But I pretty much loathe making it. It just feels like it takes, like, 7 whole minutes. I know, I sound like an ugly rushed American. But in the morning time, especially lately, I've been waking up famished and wanting food NOW. So oatmeal? Doesn't really fit into the "quick and easy" breakfast category. But this oatmeal (introduced to me by my lovely dear, newly-British friend Carrie), is wondrous, because you can prep it the night before and just pop it in the oven in the morning. Then, voila! You have a delicious, healthy, toasty breakfast. And if you have a husband who wakes up before you... he can put it in the oven so that it's hot and ready right when you wake up :) Thanks, Stevie!

- 3 cups Rolled Oats
- 2 Eggs
- 1/4 cup Agave
- 1/4 cup Butter, melted
- 1 Apple, chopped
- 3/4 cup Blueberries, fresh or dried
- 1 cup Almond Milk
- 1 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. Salt 

1) Chop the apple. Combine in a bowl with the blueberries. Set aside.

2) In a large bowl, combine the oats, salt and cinnamon. In another bowl, whisk the eggs and combine with the almond milk, agave and melted butter. Stir the wet mixture into the oat mixture, adding in the apples and blueberries until evenly combined.

3) Spoon into a greased 9-in. square baking pan. Bake at 350° for 40-45 minutes or until set. Yields 9 servings. Or 2. Depending on how much you eat :)

Breakfast of Champs!
I really hope you love this. Because I do - a lot. And if you're interested in a fun twist of flavor on this basic oatmeal recipe, you can check out my exotic Mango Coconut Baked Oatmeal. That's right. You can get a little crazy with it and this will still taste incredible.

Happy breakfasting!

April 19, 2014

His Name!

Dear Everett,
We've spent a long, long time thinking about you. In fact, since we learned about your little life beating furiously inside of mine, we haven't thought of much else. Your dad and I agree that you are going to be so strong, perhaps even to the point of stubborn (nothing like us, obviously), and brimming with joy for life. How could we possibly know this much about you already? Well, actually, I've gotten to know you pretty well in these past six months. You have made your presence very well known. The acrobatics you keep trying out in my tummy aren't lost on me. Neither is the kicking. Or the punching. Or the late night hunger pangs for peanut butter and jelly. Or the early morning wake-up calls for cereal with blueberries. Why do you like to wake me up so early? Even God is still sleeping at 5am, my dear.

But you know what? All that strength; I secretly really love that about you. And that strength, my little man, is what your name means. Everett Lee Hale.

Everett - Strong as a boar (!!!), Brave, Mighty One
Lee (your daddy and granddaddy's middle name) - From the pasture meadow, Contented One

After spending some time thinking about you, I found a few verses that I am declaring for your birth and life:

I pray that out of his glorious riches 
he may strengthen you 
with power from his spirit in your inner being, 
so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. 
And I pray that you, being rooted & established in love, 
may have power, together with all the Lord's holy people, 
to grasp how wide and long and deep is the love of Christ, 
and to know this love that surpasses knowledge - 
that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
- Ephesians 3:16-19

These are such sweet promises that your dad and I believe for your future. The you may know Christ as your Lord and savior. That you may be unwavering in your faith all the days of your life. That you would pursue every dream in your heart. The you would surround yourself with loving people who encourage your faith. That you would have the best education possible and incredible, jaw-dropping opportunities. That you would see this Earth as the gift that it is and explore it to the utmost. That your identity would be rooted in nothing but Christ's love for you. And that you would be an overwhelming vessel of joy, fun and encouragement to all who know you.

As much as we can't wait to meet you, we can wait. Grow Everett grow.

*Many thanks to Jenny Highsmith for the beautiful custom-made name artwork. You can check out her shop here.

April 16, 2014

8/50 NYC Adventures: High Tea at The Plaza Hotel

The Plaza.
Iconic. Epic. Faaaaaahncy. This hotel is so known, so featured throughout historical literature and film that it has become a character in its own right, almost a living, breathing entity. The Plaza is a cornerstone of all that was scandalous and glamorous in Fitzgerald's roaring twenties epic, The Great Gatsby. This hotel set the awkward dichotomy between regal and bumpkin as Bette Midler and Lily Tomlin cracked us up 'til we cried in Big Business. Every little girl was jealous of Eloise's spectacular living situation and every little boy wanted to be Kevin in Home Alone 2, sliding across the slick mosaic tiles in the lobby. This hotel has been impressed upon our memories even as children. It's a legend in it's own right, the epitome of classic perfection and a standard of American royalty.

// Walking in on a red carpet. Well sure. //
The Time I Took My Sister There. And Surprised Her.
I've told you about The Plaza before. I've visited so many times over the past year, because DUH it's pretty and fancy and there are always gigantic arrangements of fresh flowers in the lobby that looks like they were flown straight in from Eden itself. And I like the chandeliers. Each time I walk through the lobby (usually touring around guests), I long to sit in that gorgeous central restaurant, the renowned Palm Court. It's probably just where people meet for important business lunches, but in my mind (that of a 12-year old little girl who loves tea time and china and playing dress up), I think it's the pinnacle of all fanciful fun in this city. Yes, so silly. But I knew that there was someone who would probably love a tea time experience here even more than me: my little sister.

The Company.
I say little. But she's not. She towers over me at 5'8 and whenever strangers meet us, they immediately think she's the older sis. It's probably because of my cheeks. I have some wicked chipmunk cheeks. Even though I look like I'm storing away some nuts for the winter, these days I've accepted them as a semi-endearing feature... while Rachel's cheeks are high and contoured and chiseled like an America's Next Top Model. But I don't tell her that too much. Cuz I don't want to lose all her goodness to the realm of modeling. She's got brains, too. Aaaannnywho, my little sister is a total doll and I just knew that she would die if I took her to The Plaza for high tea. And who doesn't want to see their baby sister freak out in the middle of a quiet, refined hotel? Too bad she's so composed. Drat her meticulously polite upbringing. Where did that come from??

This is fun. She thought I was just taking a picture of her:

Rachel at the Plaza from Kristen Hale on Vimeo.

The Menu.
We were seated. We tried not to giggle too much. We were presented with gold-tipped menus. I tried not to talk to the waiter in a fake British accent. It was hard. We ordered one of each of the tea services and awaited our porcelain beverage china to arrive. We tried to talk about the weather and mother and daddy and where "everyone should summer" (much like Phoebe from Friends at 2:06). Then our drinks actually arrived and instead we dove into real conversation about life, dreams, boys (eek!), babies (double eek!!) and our dissimilar yet spectacular journeys. My sister is a fountain of sweetness. We had such a dear, wonderful time together.

The Service.
Should you be surprised? The service was astounding. Our waiter was precious, noting my pregnant belly and artfully explaining to me what I should and shouldn't eat and drink. He brought delicious substitutions for all the soft cheeses and uncured meats in the meal and left us to sit and talk for hours. There was no rush. So of COURSE we sat there for hours, sneaking pictures when I hoped others weren't looking. I didn't have the heart to whip out my giant SLR (you can't help but feel a sense of decorum in that place) so all the photos are brought to you by my handy dandy iPhone. One of the best parts? Well, one of the tea sandwiches was so delicious, I might have ordered a second helping. Which he gladly brought out and didn't charge me for, stating, "the baby must have what it wants!" Seriously. So precious. Although that rosy memory has faded slightly since I had a weigh-in at the doctor yesterday... perhaps a few too many tea sandwiches. Perhaps.

The Experience. 
Overall, this experience was just THE BOMB. The Plaza holds its standard. I mean, that place could have some mad ego because it's so dazzling and spectacular, and yet, the air is crystal clear of any vanity or pretension. It's just so, swell. There was nothing unpleasant about our high tea experience, even the bathrooms were stunning. Coming to New York? I would more than highly recommend a reservation at the Palm Court for the high tea service. You would absolutely be wooed by the opulent romance and epic, lavish charm. And if that doesn't get ya, the tea sandwiches will.

April 14, 2014

6 Month Bump Update

6-Month Bump-date.
What a great weekend! The sun finally came out and shone down us us, FINALLY. Praise the Lord, there is still a sun in the sky. After this never-ending winter, I wasn't so sure anymore. But it has been the happiest weekend of reconnecting with old friends (that's not a metaphor for the sun, we had actual friends in town, too). And in the midst of so much wonderfulness, I have reached an epic 6-month mark in my pregnancy. My oh my, this child has GROWN. It was like he started kicking and then all the sudden I realized how incredibly long he is! I can feel him kicking way down low (if you know what I'm saying) and then I feel him punching up in my ribs. That's a wide expanse! He's really taken up residence inside of me and now he's requesting that I add on. Also, my belly button is weirdly half-out. Stevie felt it last night and squeamishly said to me, "Your belly button feels weird..." Yes, dear, I know it does, BUT YOU DID THIS TO ME. Then I made him rub my feet.

My sweet sister came to town and was kind enough to take these semi-awkward pictures of me and Stevie. We don't get too many pics together. Why awkward? Well, everywhere we go these days, Stevie likes to announce to our environment that HIS WIFE IS PREGNANT. "Excuse me sir-on-the-street, my wife is pregnant." "Hello, restaurant hostess, can we have the best table? My wife is pregnant." On the phone to the pizza guy, "Well, let me check on that ingredient with my 6-months-pregnant wife, just a moment." So when Rachel whipped out the camera and he knelt down on the street to kiss my belly IN PUBLIC, I decided to draw the line. You just can't. Do that. In public.
// Silly sistas. //

The Progress:
I love how Jenny over at Jenny Highsmith has been doing baby bump updates during her pregnancy. Here's mine:

How Far Along: 6 months (24 weeks)

Gender: Boy!

Name: He's got one! Check back later this week for his name reveal :)

Sleeping? Ish. I've been waking up a lot at 3 or 4am, unable to fall back asleep. And then by 10am I am ready for the mother of all naps. It's an odd little schedule that I've stumbled into. I guess it's prepping me for those all-night feedings!

Eats: Everything. I like eating, and I have throughout this entire pregnancy. The urge for tons of protein hasn't worn off, but I'm sad to admit that my sweet cravings have increased over the past month. I'm trying my best to not to give into every craving, but lately, cupcakes and lemonade and Pinkberry have been taunting me. It's dangerous to live in a city where EVERYTHING DELIVERS. I shouldn't have so much access.

Emotional Check: I am. Emotional. But especially at night. Stevie keeps trying to have these deep conversations post-9pm and I just can't handle it.

Movement: Like I mentioned earlier, this kid is moving and kicking like crazy. Sometimes he wakes me up early in the morning with his kicking, sometimes he won't let me fall asleep because he's so active. It's kind of started to interfere with my normal routine (hello, wonderful world of children!), but my sister gave me some excellent advice. She said that in order to get the baby to change positions, get on all fours and do the "Cat-Cow" yoga move. My sister is a total guru because THIS WORKS. And I've been able to fall asleep more easily since I started doing this little move. Thank you, genius big sister. I wish the whole world had one of you.

Looking Forward to: Warm weather! I'm ready to retire my boots and jeans and wear more comfortable clothing. Cotton dresses, this rapidly-expanding belly is ready for your ease!

This guy. He just kills me. I hear his wife is pregnant.

April 13, 2014

TASTE: Grandma Soup

Grandma Soup. 
My wish came true. Spring has finally decided to grace New York with her presence. YES! However, if you are anything like me, spring is a smidge-bit bittersweet. Only because this particular season comes with some unsavory baggage: POLLEN. If any of you have allergies, I'm sure that you completely love all the budding trees, but are probably popping Claritin around the clock, as well. I have a better solution for you. THIS SOUP.

This soup is my winter go-to, always brimming atop the stove in the icy cold winter season. However, this is also a great springtime chicken noodle and vegetable soup, because it has insane healing properties that combat the woes of pollen. So if you're like me and battle those allergies, I encourage you to try this hearty, homey soup that will make you want to pull out your crochet and call your grandma for life advice.

Why is this called Grandma Soup? This recipe was passed down from my mom's grandma (my great-great grandma!) She used to cook it on Sundays after Catholic mass, and my mom remembers being a tiny little girl in her shiny, church-day mary janes, eating this exact soup. I love that visual image of my sweet mom, a little girl with Shirley Temple curls, slurping down the same recipe I've been eating my whole life. I didn't ever know my grandma, let alone my great-grandma, so I feel especially grateful to have one small token of that family history: this recipe. And I've learned that the best thing to do with something that you love is to give it away! So I'm sharing this very precious recipe with all of you today :) Over the years, I have jazzed up the soup a bit, added ginger and a few fresh herbs to pep up the flavor. Somehow, I think my great-grandma would be proud.

- 1-2 bone-in skin-on chicken breasts (sometimes called chicken ribs)
- 1 can stewed or diced tomatoes
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 7-8 celery stalks, chopped
- 3-4 large carrots, chopped OR 1 bag baby carrots
- Noodles of your choice (my mom always used ABC noodles, but I can't find them in many stores these days, so I experiment with anything fun and fancy looking)
- 3-4 Chicken bullion cubes (I love the Knorr brand) OR 2-3 32-oz. boxes of chicken stock (Whole Foods 365 is my favorite)
- 1 Bay Leaf
- Oregano & Basil (fresh chopped is best, but you can use dried, too)
- 2-3 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and pressed
- 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
- Salt & Pepper (I like to use Maldon Sea Salt Flakes)

1. In a large stockpot, place the chicken breasts, the stewed tomatoes, the chopped onion, the chopped celery and the baby carrots. Generously go to town with the salt and pepper. I mean it. Get furious. We need to get some flavor going.

2. If Using Bullion:
Place three large cubes in the stockpot and fill with water, leaving about 1.5-2 inches from the top empty.
If Using Chicken Stock:
Pour 2 boxes (64 oz.) of stock over the ingredients in the stockpot. Add a few cups of water to the mixture, leaving about 1.5-2 inches from the top of the pot empty.

3. Heat stockpot on stove over low heat. Cover.

4. While that begins slowly heating up, begin chopping up the herbs. Chop the garlic, ginger, basil oregano, and any other delicious green herbs you happen to have in your fridge (parsley, rosemary and thyme are great additions, too!) I just like to throw a medley of herbs in, because they're so good for you and they make the flavor soooo intoxicating. Add all the herbs to the pot and recover.

5. Simmer this mixture on low for 5-7 hours. You want to, very slowly, boil the chicken and give the vegetables time to soften. If the mixture starts to boil, stir it a bit and turn the temperature even lower. If you find that some of the broth has burned off (as mine always does), you can add more chicken stock to the mixture. If you used bullion cubes, add a few more cups of water and another cube. Just keep that soup savory! After a few hours you can uncover the mixture and continue on with low heat.

6. Once the chicken is fully cooked through, you want to remove the breasts from the pot. This takes a little finagle-ing, so use a large slotted spoon and do your best to remove the chicken without removing anything else. Place chicken on a large plate and cut all the white breast meat off, placing back into the soup. You want to make sure you're removing all the skin, bones and fat from the meat so that you can just eat the chicken. Sidenote - this part always grosses me out a bit, but its SO worth the 5 minutes it takes. Place all the good meat back in the pot and stir it around. Add a little bit more salt and pepper.

7. Continue on low heat for another 30 minutes.

8. During the last 30 minutes of heating the soup, follow the recipe on the package to prepare the noodles. It should take between 15-20 minutes to prep/cook the entire package, depending on the kind you choose, then drain and set aside. You can combine the noodles, once they're cooked, into the soup, but I never do. I don't really know why, its just not the way my mom did it. I'm a follower.

9. To serve, we spoon the noodles up first, then pour the broth/vegetable/chicken mixture over top.

Voila! Slurp Away!
Mmmm its so delicious, I melt every time. I like to serve this with buttery Ritz Crackers. On a crazy winter day, we might make a grilled cheese to go along with it. But this is seriously the BEST feel-better soup in the world, and it's been tried-and-true in my family for over 50 years. Go ahead.
Those allergies haven't bested you yet. Happy souping!
*This post is entirely dedicated to my sweet mother, who has probably made hundreds of batches of Grandma Soup in my lifetime. We share the same laugh, the same cheeks, the same regretful woes of allergy season, but we also share the delight of this familiar, favored family recipe. Thank you for passing on the tradition of being a happy cook in the kitchen. Everything I know is because of you :)

April 11, 2014

Baby Registry Resources

Baby Registry Resources
Registering for a baby is a KILLER big deal. There are so many categories and brands and selections that it can seriously make your head swim. Feeling overwhelmed by so many options, I started by polling the best mamas I know (and some incredible nannies who know WAAAAY more about babies than I do!) So, so many of you have helped contribute to my understanding of what a baby really needs (and what us mamas really just want! Hello there, you Kate Spade diaper bag, you.) Thank you for all your advice and personal stories. I know that every baby is different, so some people's needs will contradict others, but I am grateful to have a solid launching pad of information! And it just wouldn't be right if I didn't share this golden information with all those pregnant ladies out there :)

A Few Resources that Prepped Me for Registering:
1) Mommy Blogger Registry Guides:
- Oh, Joy! Baby Registry Essentials
- Cup of Joe: What to Register for Your New Baby
- Alpha Mom: Our Ultimate Baby Registry Checklist 
- The Wonderful World of the Pitzer Family: 10 Things I Couldn't Live Without After Having a Baby 

2) Product-Specific Books:
I've been reading a lot during this pregnancy. Probably because I'm a 1st-timer at this whole growing a human thing, but I've found a lot of comfort in learning about what's coming! I've been devouring everything - books about birth technique, staying fit while pregnant, ways to be eco-friendly with my child, sleep training, you name it! A few books have sections devoted to must-have products, which I found helpful while researching. Raising Baby Green and The Honest Life had really helpful product information, especially if you want to keep the environment in mind while you consider certain products. Keep an eye out for an upcoming post on my favorite pregnancy/baby books - I am still voraciously reading!

3) People Watching!
I live in the city, sandwiched between two massive parks. And I happen to live in a baby-hood, meaning everyone around me is pushing a stroller (and sometimes a double) over these city streets. I have had my eagle eyes open, name checking every brand I see, reviewing the safety information and product reviews. It's a little creepy to be the gal staring at a baby stroller in the park, but my recently popped belly has probably relieved some of the stresses of the mothers who have caught me checking out their gear. Women are more than happy to share their advice when they know you're expecting! Although when Stevie does it... he gets the creeped-out cold shoulder from them. Which is just so entertaining.

4) Excellent Places to Register:
- Amazon Baby Registry
When ISN'T Amazon the boss at everything? I loved that I could use the Amazon Baby Registry for practically anything on the web, and they offered free shipping on most items over $25. Before I got pregnant, I would always purchase others' baby gifts on Amazon just because it was easier (and free shipping!), even if they weren't registered there. And since I use my Amazon Prime account on a weekly basis, it seemed like a natural choice for others to make purchases that way, too. Let's simplify our lives, right??

- Buy Buy Baby
Initially, I liked this store because it seemed to have more brand options than Babies R Us. But that was simply a personal choice! Our experience working with the Buy Buy Baby Registry has been spectacular. Their staff went above and beyond, making sure we had everything we needed to make an informed decision about the products that really mattered to us. We spent hours of time (yes, hours) one-on-one with product experts, testing every stroller, baby monitor, crib, tub, you name it. They have excellent customer service, and for new parents, they really equip you to feel like you're making empowered decisions for your child. They made a believer out of me. And then they gave me free samples of stuff. I just love swag.

- Myregistry.com
This site is great because it allows you to link and sync all other registries you might have. It's basically Pinterest for registries. Lets say you want to register for nursery decor from Etsy, bedding from Pottery Barn, and other baby gear from Buy Buy Baby? It's no problem! Myregistry indexes all your selections in an easy way, and directs buyers to the original source for purchasing (so you can still get that free shipping on Amazon!) I love the customization of this site. For those of you who have trouble committing to only 1-2 stores for all your baby needs (like me!), this site can give you that sigh of relief. Have your cake. Eat it too.

Take a Breath.
At first, registering for baby gear seemed really, really daunting. But with the help of lots of people and with a lot of research under my belt, I feel like we've made some good choices. However, like most moms I talk to, I'm sure I will make plenty of mistakes and have to figure out what will actually work for my particular child! You can take a peek at my Pinterest board of Baby Registry Picks, although I probably won't post about my favorite baby picks until after I have some experience with what works out and what doesn't.

For all you mamas out there, were there any particular tools/books/people who helped make your registry process a lot easier?

April 9, 2014

April Delights List

April Delights List

April Delights List by oykristen 
// 1. Hunter Bubble Umbrella // 2. Madewell Military Anorak // 3. Target Tortoise Sunnies // 4. Anthropologie Isharya Pearl Beacon Ring // 5. Essie Fashion Playground // 6. Ranunculus on Pinterest // 7. Scoutmob Italian Leather Tote // 8. Lifefactory Glass Water Bottle // 9. Anthropologie Pilcro Hyphen Chinos // 10. Ban.do iPhone Cover // 11. Johnathan Adler Triangle Socks // 12. Michael Kors Mid-Calf Rain Boots // 13. Peeps Marshmellows //  

April Showers.
True to the old saying, April has welcomed itself to New York in a soppy, rainy fashion. It's time to pull out the rainy-day gear, or invest in a few fun, lasting pieces. It's also time to put away those bulky sweaters, and hopefully, begin delving into the long-awaited lightweight spring clothing that has been stored away for too many seasons. We're on to a brighter and, (fingers crossed!), less soggy future!

// 1. Hunter Bubble Umbrella
We all need a good sturdy umbrella for this season's surprise showers. And the happy pop of color really does wonders for the soul.

// 2. Madewell Military Anorak
I want one. This type of jacket is SO versatile and cute. And somehow it just looks tough, like only cool girls wear them. I want to be a cool girl. In this jacket.

// 3. Target Tortoise Sunnies
Round are back. There's not much else we can do but embrace it.

// 4. Anthropologie Isharya Pearl Beacon Ring
Such loveliness. I would gladly let my ring finger be a beacon for the spring :)

// 5. Essie Fashion Playground
I'm addicted to Essie. Seriously. The colors must have addictive properties because I just cannot seem to get enough of the goodness that they make.

// 6. Ranunculus on Pinterest
It's been decided. This is THE FLOWER of the spring. C'mon, get happy.

// 7. Scoutmob Italian Leather Tote
I wish I had the cash to afford one of these delicious totes back when I was in Italy. The dream still lingers in my heart.

// 8. Lifefactory Glass Water Bottle
Glass water bottles. I want to invest in these bad boys.

// 9. Anthropologie Pilcro Hyphen Chinos
I bought these exact shorts and I've been so pleased. The color and wash is so fun and spring-y and they are so soft. For a preggo lady attempting to buy non-maternity shorts, this is actually not an insane option, because the fit is so relaxed.

// 10. Ban.do iPhone Cover
An unexpected, whimsical color block phone case. Yes. Amen. Ban.do.

// 11. Johnathan Adler Triangle Socks
Why does everything this guy makes immediately turn to gold? These socks are perfect for a spring day that still has a hint of chill in the air. 

// 12. Michael Kors Mid-Calf Rain Boots
I have last season's version of this boot, and it is SO COMFORTABLE. I seriously want to wear these everyday. They are mega-cushioned on the inside, do you don't get that awkward rubber-bulk feeling of most galoshes. And that hunter green color just seems so go with everything.

// 13. Peeps Marshmellows  
What can I say? I'm such a sucker for Easter. Best holiday ever. Other than Christmas. And my birthday. And summertime in general. Get your Peeps on, people!

Bring on the warmth, April!