Five reasons I’m grateful this week

I am most grateful this week to be back stateside with my family, and in good health, after our international trip. This grateful post is fueled by my patched recollections of the past few weeks, as memories were made and time flew by. I am sure that I have forgotten something, and that makes me even more thankful for knowing that we were so blessed during this trip. We had headaches, trials, and times when we were less than best, oh yes, but I prefer to focus on the positives, and there were plenty…


I hadn’t thought of it until we were already in France, but I’m pretty sure Chouchou went along with this whole trip just for me. He doesn’t speak French and was lost in conversations most of the time, but he continued to smile and be the best sport.

There were many cultural differences I had failed to prepare him for – la bise (the kiss) the most surprising for him.

Big oops – after a while, I had forgotten these small cultural variations, and although I should have taken better care to prepare him, Chouchou was very flexible and forgiving.

Despite the language and cultural differences, he adapted quickly and easily, and was patient with me all around. When I was on the verge of tears wondering if the Uber would pick us up at 4:30 am for our flight, he told me, “It will be here.” When we were in the airport waiting to go home and I worried, watching people board, then debark twenty minutes later, he said, “Everything will be okay.” Whenever I started to worry, he was my calming force and reassured me.

The kindness of strangers

We decided, foolishly, to take the metro into Paris, from CDG. Foolishly, because we had in tow: two roller suitcases, a trunki/ride & roll suitcase for Mon Cœur, a stroller, and my purse. Oh, and Mon Cœur (MC), a fiercely independent, headstrong, and curious toddler. Our hands were full. Although we only had one change of lines to make, it still meant multiple trips up and down stairs, through tunnels, and turnstile entrances.

Did I mention…we arrived at about the same time as morning rush hour traffic? For every flight of stairs up or down, there was a wonderful Parisian offering to help carry the luggage or stroller and sometimes multiple strangers helping with both. Even after we dropped off our luggage at our AirBnB, and were just metroing with the stroller, there were always people willing to give up a seat or help with the stroller up and down the stairs.

After the first day of using the metro, we decided we should try to navigate the bus system better – there would be no steps and we’d be able to see more of the city. I am so thankful to a beautiful Parisian woman who was waiting for a bus right outside the Palais Garnier and helped us decide the best route.

This was after running into a team of RATP security men and asking them en français to help confirm if we were going the right way. They told me, “I don’t speak much English.” I had to explain to them, en français again, that I spoke and understood French. This was by and large the exception to the rule for us. Nearly every other français was friendly, charmed by MC, and eager to help us.

Friends and excellent hosts

We went mainly to visit two sets of friends, one near the France/Spain border, in Biarritz, and the other two hours south of Paris, in Bourges. They always have their door open for us.

We are so lucky for the exchanges that spurred these relationships – one just one and a half years through an introduction by a former colleague, and another that began back in 2003 with an exchange through my sister’s high school.

Our hosts introduced us to varied French cuisine, cathedrals, and castles. They went the extra mile to see us off at the train station, and came prepared with un goûter (snack) for the car ride back to their house. They treated us like family, and provided us warm and cozy places to stay. They served us delicious food that stuck to our ribs, and lingered in Chouchou’s memory – my mission this month is to try to reproduce many of the meals we had in the homes of our hosts!

Fair February weather

We encountered almost no rain, the sun shone on us every day we were there. We did get caught in rain and some hail during a walk on the evening before we left – it made for a good adventure though. We were truly lucky for our trip, that the weather was so mild. At a few different points during the trip I felt silly for all of the winter clothing that I had packed.

One day, while we were port side at St. Jean de Luz, it felt like a summer day. We were sitting at a café having lunch, I felt warm rays hitting my back, and I smelled a cigar that reminded me of my Papa. I had an instant memory of his ashtray, a blue-grey circle, with frothy white waves for low walls to contain ashes, and a lighthouse on an edge that completed the nautical effect – essentially a monument to a seafarer that consumed his whole side table.

Technology and Family

I am glad that I had the capability to keep up with friends, family, and readers by posting photos to Instagram. I am grateful for the ability to video chat, as I was able to call my mom a few different times: to let her know we arrived safe, for Dad’s birthday, and right before we left to say “see you soon.”

It’s because of this technology, too, that mom was able to share news with me of my Papa’s passing. When she told me I circled back to the scent of cigars at St. Jean de Luz.

His celebration was yesterday, and the reunion of family reminded me of what a wonderful host and community organizer my Papa was, and that my mother is. I am lucky to have been raised knowing this love and the open door to neighbors- where everyone can come to a house and feel at home whether neighbors, friends, distant relatives, or immediate family.

Can you relate? I’d love to hear in the comments below!


Avgolemono : Greek Lemon Chicken Soup

The other day we found ourselves at a lovely local Greek restaurant, and since it was a chillier day, I was looking at the soup options.  I saw the Avgolemono Greek Lemon Chicken soup and was curious.  I ordered a cup and fell in love.

I love the lemon taste – how it made me pucker just a little – and I was intrigued by the broth, which I later learned was thick due to the eggs in the recipe. Simply yum,

Three reasons I love Avgolemono

It’s hearty, but doesn’t weigh you down.

It’s lemony, clean, and refreshing.

It’s super easy to make.

Avgolemono recipe

Thanks to Jeff Mauro at Food Network for the above linked recipe. Below is my interpretation of the recipe. I completely spaced and used two chicken breasts instead of four – and I think it was still mighty meaty.


  • 4 quarts low-sodium chicken stock
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup orzo
  • 3 large eggs, separated 
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest plus juice of 4 fresh lemons 
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper 


  1. In a large stockpot, bring the chicken stock to a boil.
  2. Add the chicken breasts and lower to a simmer. Simmer until the chicken is just cooked through – 15 to 20 minutes
  3. Remove to a plate and let rest. Once cooled, shred the chicken and reserve.
  4. Add the orzo to the pot with the chicken stock and cook until al dente, 5 to 8 minutes.
  5. In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites to soft peaks.
  6. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and most of the lemon juice, reserving some to add later as needed.
  7. Combine the egg yolk mixture into the egg whites. Then, ladle in some hot stock to temper the egg mixture, whisking constantly and adding the hot liquid slowly. (I filled nearly the entire bowl before adding the warmed egg mixture into stockpot.) Very slowly, add the warm whipped egg/lemon mixture into the pot, whisking constantly to prevent any curds or clumps from forming.
  8. Continue to cook over medium-low to medium heat, whisking, until the soup thickens, about 10 minutes more.

Two new friends – building a virtual community post-stillbirth


Over the past few weeks, I have been doing more and more research into podcasts, blogs, and websites, looking for others who had experienced a similar loss. I was hoping to find others to build community, to discover different angles or additional insights.

Initially, I had no intentions of diving into the black hole of the internet to seek out community and assistance through this journey of grief. We tried the old-fashioned, face to face contact – our village, counseling, and support groups.

Chouchou and I have supported each other throughout this journey, while also grieving in such individual ways. As we continue to grieve for Millie and try to move on with a new pregnancy, I felt compelled to seek any resources or communities that I could be a part of. Below are two resources I’ve found that are helping me.

The Joyful Mourning Podcast

One of the podcasts that I found was The Joyful Mourning, hosted by Ashlee. Currently, she is producing a series of episodes with her guest, Monique Scrip, around what the enneagram is, exploring the different types, and how to help individual types who are grieving.

I was curious and I took Monique’s test on her website. Perhaps I’ll share my findings here another day.

I found that Ashlee has built an amazing community online with numerous interviews with mothers who have met similar fates, a book club community, and other resources for marriage and grief.

Where my blog is a hodge podge of this and that, trying not to focus solely on our stillbirth, Ashlee’s podcast and blog embraces this grief and provides her community with stories of hope that moms are seeking.

While loss is her sole focus, this is far from a depressing blog – it is quite the opposite – where she seeks to provide all forms of hope and positive thinking throughout. I try to sty positive, like anything in life though, the positive vibes ebb and flow. When I need a pick-me-up, I make sure to check in with Ashlee.

Star Legacy Foundation

I found out about Star Legacy Foundation while listening to Kasey Macha’s story on the Tuesday Mom Group.

In general, the TMG podcast doesn’t focus on infant or pregnancy loss, however, these gals understood how sensitive the topic is, and made a point to discuss it. Namely, they wanted to know how to help a friend who is grieving and what does she want to hear?

Many, many people have asked me questions about what to say or do to help or have been candid with me, sharing, “I just didn’t know what to do.” Some people prefer to avoid me now, and even nine months later, I prefer to avoid certain places and situations where I would have to confront this truth with specific people (namely my students who had a contagious enthusiasm for my pregnancy).

At many points during the episode, I found myself shaking my head – agreeing with Kasey’s points. Yes, this happened to us, too. We tried counseling, support groups, etc, which helped us in the beginning from a communication and bonding standpoint, but did not prove to be what we needed for us in the long run. We wanted to begin trying again as soon as possible, too – not to replace Millie, but to propel us forward, and importantly for me, to show I’m not a failure. I can do this.

Kasey mentioned Star Legacy Foundation, and I’ve found that the website is an excellent resource for anyone- family, friends, healthcare professionals- to go to get more information on how to support grieving loved ones, statistics on stillbirth, and research. They have online support groups, local chapters, and a blog and podcast.

In the end, I lean into Ashlee’s website more than the Star Legacy Foundation. Although Star Legacy has amazing resources and information, if I lean too much into them, I find myself divided. Is this all “part of God’s plan” or was this truly preventable? Could I have had control over my situation and have Millie today? If I ever wanted to lobby, become an advocate for stillbirth awareness and prevention, then this would be a great resource.

In this season of grieving, though, I find myself needing more comfort, and Ashlee’s positive messages and resources provide that for me. When I can be less selfish and if I want to do volunteering as a support person, then I will turn to Star Legacy.

Do you have resources, podcasts, or blogs that you lean in to to help you with your grief? Please share them in the comments section!

Instant Pot Adventures: Loaded Potato Soup

As I transitioned back to staying at home, committing to Mon Cœur (MC) and Chouchou full time and trying to post regularly, I decided to try at least one new Instant Pot recipe a week. I started looking online and then I found an Instant Pot app.

Yes – there’s an app for the Instant Pot. And I love it.

Three reasons to love the Instant Pot app:

  1. You can change the number of servings and the recipe ingredient amounts are automatically adjusted. An accurate cooking time and difficulty level are also included.

2. It has step by step directions and timers built in that you can start and stop as you reach those parts of the recipe.

3. The recipes run the gamut from desserts to soups to roasts. All sorts of recipes are available to try from the traditional to the adventurous.

Loaded Potato Soup Recipe

I tried Heather Schlueter’s recipe which I found on the app. Although I was worried at first about the soup being a little too runny, it did thicken up and was wonderfully delicious.


  • 8 slices of bacon, chopped
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • 4 red potatoes, peeled & cubed
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • ½ tsp red pepper flakes
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 2 Tbsp sliced fresh chives


  1. Preheat Instant Pot on Sauté.
  2. When hot, add bacon and cook until crispy, 5 minutes.
  3. Cancel sauté, remove bacon to a plate lined with paper towels.
  4. Drain off bacon fat.
  5. Add onion, potatoes, seasonings, and broth to pot. Stir well.
  6. Close, lock lid and ensure steam release handle is in sealed position.
  7. Pressure cook on manual, high for 5 minutes.
  8. Natural release for 10 minutes then quick release.
  9. Add sour cream, cheddar, and bacon to pot and stir well.
  10. Garnish with fresh chives.

I made this on a cold rainy day, and this was the perfect cure.

Do you have a favorite soup you make in the Instant Pot, or any favorite recipes from the app? Share them in the comments section!

***all photo images for this post come from the Instant Pot App. All credits for food pics go to Heather Schlueter. I was not quick enough with the camera before the family taste-tested!***

Five reasons I’m grateful this week

This week we are gearing up for our trip and getting super excited for the adventure and to see dear friends. While we are away, check my Instagram for daily pictures!

Old fashioned fun times with MC and Chouchou

Taking a permanent marker and some balloons blown up to make faces, and then just sitting and tossing them around. It seems we don’t take enough time to just have fun anymore. It was nice to press pause on life and just sit on the floor as a family for five minutes.

Ridiculously warm February weather

Great for walks and working in the garden. I was able to deadhead our Chrysanthemums and also had ambition to trim back our Rose of Sharon – trying to convince Chouchou that splitting it isn’t too ambitious of a project!

An independent little lady

She wants to fold laundry with me, crack eggs for her breakfast, make the coffee, but “I do it by self, okay?” If I can find a way for her to pitch in, she is right by my side, helping me.  And if I can’t, she is motivating me to figure it out!

Old friends

Dinner with an old friend and pal who loves and accepts me for me and allowed me time and space to be. It’s nice to have friends where words aren’t necessary and you can just be.

Our upcoming vacation

We haven’t taken a vacation in about 4 years, and this will be our first family vacation and we’re going all out with an international trip! We are packed and ready to go! We have an amazing house sitter and know that our fur and feather babies will be well taken care of so we can relax and enjoy. I also just found the most amazing app that can be used online or offline and will help us navigate Paris easy peasy. Space in our luggage is at a premium so I am glad to not have to pack my arrondissement map book. I think in the end the app will also save us time trying to find our way around (where’s the adventure in that, though?!), and help plan our daily itineraries.