Striving to Find Balance

After having lost a year with working on my photography business, now that I am feeling better I am super determined to get things rolling again. It has been a lot of work lately trying to get everything restarted and re-branded since we are no longer putting weddings as the primary focus of the business. I am firmly resolved that I will bring the business to the level that I feel it should be in terms of quality, service, and success.

So far, I have been struggling with the whole work-at-home-mom thing. Little E does not like to nap, which makes it difficult to get much done during the day. If he does take a nap, he tends to wake up within 10-15 minutes maximum. He sleeps well at night, but just fights sleep during the day. As a result, I end up waiting until my husband gets home and can entertain E for a while, or waiting until after E falls asleep at night to get most of my work done. Most days, I find myself spending at least 6 hours straight at night working on the computer, which means I end up getting very little sleep myself.

I keep telling myself that this crazy intense period is just temporary until I cross off all of the things on my to-do list to get the business relaunched. It just does not seem like a good long term solution though since I know there will always be busy periods, especially if the business starts to grow as I hope that it will.

My husband and I keep discussing the issue, trying to figure out a solution. As the piles of dishes and laundry stack up (some clean, some dirty), I am starting to feel a little overwhelmed. We discussed looking into hiring someone to come in occasionally to either help with taking care of E or helping with the housework. We are both very strongly committed to the decision of not having someone else raise our baby, and that I am the person taking care of him during the day. So then that leaves the option of having someone come in and help on occasion with laundry, dishes, and general cleaning up. This makes me so uncomfortable though since I have really neurotic standards about how things should be washed and put away. I picture having someone come in to help, and me spending most of my time instructing them how things should be done, not really solving any problems (the whole if-you-want-something-done-right-do-it-yourself complex).

I stumbled upon this graphic last night online, and it really made sense to me. I am going to try hard to start applying some of these guidelines to my life.

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Since my husband works an average of 50-60 hours at his full time job on a good week, we struggle to find quality time together. He assists me with most of my photoshoots, which is great since he can also take care of E while I am shooting. In the picture below, you can see them spending some time together while I was working on a recent shoot. 🙂 It was E’s first time seeing the ocean and he was fascinated by it. We have brought him to the ocean in the past, but for some reason, he happened to have his rare long nap whenever we went!

In an effort to try to be as mentally and emotionally present for my family as possible, and still feel that I am giving my own goals as much attention as possible, I am trying to come up with a set of guidelines for myself. So far, these are the rules that I have set for myself:
1. No photoshoots on Sundays (with only a very rare exception). Sundays are our family day, so we can go to church in the morning, and spend the rest of the day together, either doing something fun, working on a project for the house, etc. Most clients like to schedule photoshoots on the weekend when they are not working, but if I book up both of our weekend days, I will end up never spending any quality time with my husband, and that is not an option ever.
2. I am trying to set aside two designated times per day to work on emails. It is tempting, especially with a smartphone, to try to keep up with emails and messages in real time, answering everything as soon as it comes in. That is exhausting, and does not allow me to give my full attention to E when he needs it. If something is really urgent, it is much easier for me to talk on the phone than answer an email. I am convinced that part of the reason he is such a happy baby is due to the fact that I try very hard to give him my full attention when he is awake, and stay positive and happy around him.
3. I am trying to not feel so guilty for allowing E to have a bit of tv time some days. I struggled with the desire to keep him from watching tv much, especially since he already turns into a little tv zombie when one is turned on. However, some days I have found that is the only way that the laundry or dishes really get done. This baby has a ton of energy and likes to be entertained!
4. I am not going to worry about feeling guilty anymore about not putting 100% effort into some of the friendships where I feel like I am doing all the work to maintain the friendship. If someone does not reciprocate the effort to maintain a friendship and expects me to be the one to always initiate plans or phone calls, that friendship is going to be put on the back burner for a while.
5. If we are invited to a party or event, the only camera you will see in my hands is my iPhone. I have too high of standards to allow myself to just shoot a bunch of images and spit them out for a friend, even if it is just for a family event. I have fallen into this trap in the past, and often feel like it is expected since I am a photographer. I am a perfectionist, and have to spend time perfecting in post-production every image that I take. That all ends up taking up a bunch of my time that could be spent focused on other things, and I will not do it to myself any longer. If you have a friend who is a doctor, you wouldn’t expect him or her to go around a party giving everyone a quick checkup, right? So why is it that people expect a photographer to always have a camera in hand, and be willing to shoot everything?
6. I am going to allow myself to continue to work a bit at night since it is the only time of day when the house is quiet, but I am going to start setting a timer for myself so I don’t force myself into chronic sleep deprivation. Things that are not finished by the time the timer goes off will have to wait until another day.
7. I am also going to start forcing myself to take a couple of nights off per week. E and I had a nice relaxing day yesterday with a couple of playdates, and I was determined to not do any work for one day. Yet once he fell asleep (and my husband was at work stuck in a lab overnight), I found myself bored and started working again. Before I knew it, it was 3 am before I went to sleep. It would have been much better if I had just taken an entire day to relax!
8. With my huge list of food allergens that I have to avoid, I am going to start prepping meals ahead and freezing them again. We literally have to cook almost every meal we eat from scratch, and it gets quite overwhelming on some days. There are so few places where I can actually eat without having a problem, and it gets old. A selection of homemade frozen meals would really help cut down on some of this stress.
9. I am not going to stress too much if the basket of clean cloth diapers never makes it back into the individually sorted baskets on the changing table. Just being committed to cloth diapering (and line drying them) is an accomplishment on its own.
10. With the exception of my husband’s work clothes, I am going to try to stop stressing out if every piece of laundry is not completely wrinkle-free.

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I normally do not welcome unwarranted advice from others about parenting, but in this particular instance, I am curious if anyone else has any wisdom to share. Any other small business owner moms/work-from-home-moms have any advice for me on how to balance it all?

Quick & Easy Thai Turkey Larb Lettuce Wraps

turkey larb lettuce wraps

A few years ago, a friend of mine made some amazing turkey larb lettuce wraps for us when she had us over for dinner. I became obsessed with them since then. She could not remember the exact recipe that she used, so I started a process of trial and error to find my own perfect blend of ingredients. All of the experiments came out good, but I think my final mix comes out amazing. This has turned into a part of the regular dinner lineup in our house.

Ingredients:
1 bag of Trader Joe’s frozen Confetti Rice
Romaine lettuce
1 package ground turkey
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 small red dried chili peppers, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped lemongrass (using only the white part)
2 tablespoons coconut oil
Juice from 3 limes
1/4 Thai fish sauce
A few sprigs of fresh cilantro for garnish

1. Put coconut oil in wok and add in ground turkey. Cook on medium heat, stirring the turkey periodically until the turkey is about 75% cooked.
2. Add in the garlic, chili peppers & lemongrass. Continue to cook while stirring regularly until the turkey is completely cooked and the garlic is softened and slightly opaque.
3. Heat up rice in microwave for 3 minutes.
4. Pour lime juice & fish sauce in large serving bowl.
5. Once turkey is finished cooking, add it into the serving bowl with the liquid mixture, and mix well to blend.
6. Add in Confetti Rice, and mix well.
7. Add a bit of chopped fresh cilantro to garnish.
8. Scoop mixture into individual pieces of lettuce to form lettuce wraps.

So easy, tasty & healthy! It usually takes me 15 minutes or less to make the whole thing!

Saving Every Last Drop – Preserving Broth & Juice

Alicia in Wonderland Blog

Alicia in Wonderland Blog

Once our baby is consuming food other than just breastmilk, I plan on making our own organic baby food and freezing portions of it. I found these baby food freezer containers and like the fact that they are bpa free. I originally bought these freezer containers only for that purpose (you can find containers here) but soon realized they could serve other purposes too. When our little lemon tree had its big bumper crop of fruit for the year, it was more lemons than we could use at one time, but I didn’t want to waste any of that precious juice. I juiced all of the lemons that we weren’t going to be able to use right away and poured the juice into the baby food containers. It worked out to be approximately two lemons worth of juice for each 2 ounce container. After they were frozen, I transferred the frozen cubes to freezer bags for long term storage so the cubes could be used for other things (you can find the freezer bags I use here). It worked out really well since now I always have fresh squeezed lemon juice on hand whenever I need it for a recipe or for making lemonade!

After I perfected my pot roast recipe (recipe shown here), I wanted to save every last drop of the delicious broth that was left over from the crock pot. I used the baby food containers again to make some small portions of broth, perfect for making my homemade dog treats (recipes here and here). I also saved larger portions of the broth in the freezer bags.

The Perfect Pot Roast Recipe

The Perfect Pot Roast Recipe - Alicia in Wonderland Blog

My husband is originally from Texas, and before I met him, I was a vegetarian. In our house, he is definitely the top chef when it comes to making any kind of beef dish. I have been working on perfecting my pot roast recipe for a while now, and have finally found the perfect blend of ingredients. There is a Sunday pot roast that we love from a local diner, and sometimes I wish we could have it on days other than just Sunday. We actually enjoyed my newly perfected recipe even more than our favorite diner’s recipe 🙂

Ingredients:
Beef chuck roast
White potatoes, cubed
Baby carrots
3 sprigs each of the following fresh herbs: thyme, rosemary, sage, oregano
3 large cloves of peeled garlic
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon salt
water

The process is super simple. I just threw all of the ingredients in the crock pot, and filled up the rest of the way with water. I left the herbs whole on their branches. I cooked it all in the crock pot for 6 hours on high and an additional two hours on low.I used a very large cut of meat though to make quite a few meals, so you may want to adjust that if using a smaller piece of beef. Super easy and amazingly delicious! I even saved the broth for other uses (post coming tomorrow!).

Homemade Protein & Fiber Snack Bars Recipe with Juicing Leftovers

Homemade Protein & Fiber Snack Bars with Juicing Leftovers - Alicia in Wonderland Blog

Like yesterday’s post (seen here), I wanted to find some uses for the leftover vegetable and fruit pulp when I use my juicer. This is the second recipe that I created to put that fiber goodness to use! They taste about 1000 times better than they sound and look, I promise! Even my mom who hates vegetables loves these bars. 🙂 They have a slightly sweet (but not too sweet), nutty taste. You would never even realize that they are full of fiber!

Ingredients:
3 cups of vegetable/fruit fiber pulp leftover from juicing (I use a mix of carrot, beet, apple, and ginger)
2 cups old fashioned oats
1/2 cup unsalted almonds
1/2 cup honey
1/4 unsalted, unsweetened almond butter
1 tablespoons sesame seeds

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Pulse oats lightly in food processor 6 times. Add oats in with juicing leftovers in large mixing bowl.
3. Pulse almonds lightly in food processor, about 5 times, and add to mixing bowl.
4. Add honey, almond butter and sesame seeds to mixing bowl, and mix everything together with stand or hand mixer.
5. Once well combined, take dough out of mixing bowl and spread out on cookie sheet. I line my cookie sheet with a Silpat to prevent sticking and burning.
6. Once evenly spread across a half sheet size cookie sheet, I cut the dough into 12 bars and spread them apart slightly.
7. Bake in oven for 35-40 minutes, until cooked through.
8. Cool on wire rack, and store in airtight container.

Homemade Dog Treats Made with Juicing Leftovers

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I have been doing a lot of juicing lately. I have read so many places that juicing helps your body heal by delivering a straight shot of nutrients to your system. Since I still have torn abdominal muscles and damaged ligaments from my pregnancy, I have been doing anything I can to help my body heal. I have been starting off most mornings with a glass of carrot/beet/apple/ginger/spinach juice before breakfast. After I am finished running these goodies through the juicer, I have all this leftover fibery pulp. Adding the fiber to the compost bin is definitely one good way to use the leftovers, but I kept thinking that there must be a few better uses for this great fiber that I could whip up.

I often make some homemade dog treats for our dogs with carrots (recipe here), so I know they are fans of veggies. For my first experiment in reusing the fiber leftovers, I decided to make some dog treats. Our dogs have been going nuts over these treats, and I can barely make enough to keep up with their requests for them! These are so far their favorite treats of any they have had.

I love finding ways to utilize every last bit of nutrients, and will post another recipe tomorrow that I whipped up using the juicing leftovers! It reminds me of a funny quote from one of my favorite shows, Gilmore Girls, about chef Sookie:

Ingredients:
3 cups of vegetable/fruit fiber leftover in juicer
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup beef broth (I use homemade beef broth leftover from my pot roast recipe, coming soon)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Mix all ingredients together in stand mixer. Scoop a small amount of batter into silicone baking squares. You can find the tray that I use here. Bake in oven for 35-40 minutes, until cooked though to center. Take out and cool on wire rack (mine can be found here).

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The Perfect Snack a.k.a. Street Vendor Style Chili Lime Cucumbers

Street Vendor Style Chili Lime Cucumbers

In the theme of replicating street vendor food treats, like yesterday’s post, I wanted to share my favorite easy snack. it is especially great during the summer when cucumbers are in season and plentiful. Every time I see a street vendor selling cucumbers, I cannot resist getting one. 🙂

Ingredients:
1 peeled and sliced cucumber
juice of 1 lime
salt
chili powder

When the street vendors make it, they toss all the ingredients in a bag and shake to blend the ingredients together. I usually just put everything together in a bowl and mix to make sure all of the cucumber pieces get coated, but either way works!