[PARTNERSHIP] THE IMPORTANCE OF FREE PLAY FOR KIDS.

Let's get real here. All moms look forward to the times that their kids are playing independently or - gasp- playing together nicely for a few minutes so we can get a little break.

Plus, free play is super important for them to develop critical thinking skills, encourages them to use their imagination and learn to entertain themselves (and if it prevents me from having to play Skye one more time, sign me up).

Paw Patrol | SKye

It's not you, it's me.

If my kids are playing well on their own, I take the opportunity to clean up, scroll through my phone, or start dinner. It's usually not long before one of them sniffs me out, but I'm always grateful for a few peaceful moments of quiet play time, and have really noticed my daughters out their imagination to use when someone else isn't entertaining them.

Because free play is so important to us as a family, we're super excited that the brand new Minnesota Children's Museum is opening again on June 7! The completely remodeled museum will feature 10 new exhibits, more functional spaces and more amenities, which means my kids will have a hay-day with free play! 

We were lucky enough to attend a sneak peak of one of the new exhibits called Forces at Play, which features wind-powered ball launchers, a functional sudsy car wash, water graffiti station, water light tables and more Yes,  your kids (any maybe you) will get wet at this exhibit, but thankfully the museum provides adorable little rain coats for the kids! (Moms and dads, you're on your own!)

Minnesota Children's Museum | Forces at Play

The ball launcher area was especially fun for my husband, I mean kids, and they had a blast coming up with ideas for how to shoot the balls farther or build a better structure. 

Minnesota Children's Museum | Forces at Play

This girl was so cute parading around my toddler. Her dad later told me she's dying to be a big sister! 

There is no doubt that we could spend hours in this one exhibit, which means we can have a different experience nearly every time we visit the museum. Free play, fun, and a break for mom and dad all rolled into one place? Sign me up! 

The Minnesota Children's Museum reopens on Wednesday, June 7. Find out more details and membership info at www.mcm.org.

WEEKLY MEAL PLAN: MAY 12.

Heeelllllooo you lovely people! It's Friday, Friday, gotta get down on Friday. (You guys remember Rebecca Black, right?) It's my day off with my girls today so I'm super happy it's an early weekend! 

This week I saw a naturopathic doctor for the first time. It was very enlightening, and I was super impressed by how thorough the appointment was (it was almost 2 hours!) and how the doctor listened to the things I've been experiencing and came up with a treatment thing that pinpoints those specific issues vs just prescribing a medication to put a band-aid on anxiety as a whole. I can't wait to get started with the supplements and see if things improve! 

Onto the meal plan for this week! 

Weekly meal plan | May  12

Sunday: Paleo Tex Mex Casserole (I used shredded pork this time!)
Monday: Chicken Fried Rice 
Tuesday: Zoodles & meat sauce with roasted broccoli
Wednesday: Hawaiian burgers with Pina Colada slaw (The slaw was a little too sweet for me!)
Thursday: Sheet Pan Chicken with Sweet Potatoes, Brussels Sprouts & Apples
Friday: I'm going out with friends! Woop woop! 
Saturday: Homemade Chicken Nuggets 

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend! 

[DIY] WASHABLE MAKEUP REMOVER PADS.

Every weeknight, I put some EVOO on a cotton ball and use it to remove my eye makeup and eyebrow filler (let's be real, I rarely wear makeup on the weekend). 

It's not that cotton balls are expensive, or hard to find, or inconvenient, but I started thinking about how I use at least one a day and just throw it away. I'd seen some other bloggers and natural living enthusiasts make these washable makeup remover pads, and seeing as I have tons of flannel fabric laying around thanks to my baby craft hobby, I decided to make some for myself.

DIY makeup remover pads

I probably wouldn't have picked this fabric if I were going out to buy some, but hey, I'm all about using what I've got! 

Full tutorial with images of the sewing process here

All I did was use a roll of packing tape to trace a bunch of circles of the same size. I then cut them all out, and layered three pieces for my preferred thickness. 

Tip: To ensure the layers end up the right way, put the first two with the right sides facing each other, then the third one on top can face either way. 

Washable makeup remover pads

First I used a straight stitch to secure the layers together, and left about a 1" hole so I could turn it right side out. Once I turned it, I did a zigzag stitch around the entire circumference to close the hole and flatten the circle down. 

I didn't focus too much on how perfect the stitches were since they are just for my own use, so a few of them got a little wonky, but whatevs. 

Washable makeup remover pads
Now remove that makeup you aren't wearing for demonstration!

Now remove that makeup you aren't wearing for demonstration!

Don't mind my awesome counter top and rusty sink drain... 

Don't mind my awesome counter top and rusty sink drain... 

Place them in a cute jar or bowl next to your sink and you're ready to roll! I hung a little mesh bag from our towel rod in the bathroom to put the dirty pads in, and when it's time for laundry, I'll just throw the whole thing in the wash. 

One more check off the box of being more sustainable! Don't worry though, I won't be making reusable toilet paper any time soon. #ew 

WEEKLY MEAL PLAN: MAY 5.

Howdy everyone. I hope you all had a good week! Mine started off a bit rocky with an out-of-the-blue anxiety attack at work on Monday. After a super stressful and on-edge day, I took Tuesday off as a self-care day to get back on track.

It also made me get more serious about treating my anxiety: I ordered a few natural supplements (Rescue Remedy and Natural Calm), made an appointment with a naturopathic doctor, and am trying to stay away from as much sugar as possible, as that can impact symptoms of anxiety. 

Thankfully I'm feeling better now after a visit to my therapist and some me-time! If you suffer from anxiety, please talk to someone! You don't need to suffer through it! It took me quite a while to reach out for help when I was experiencing post-partum anxiety, but I'm so glad I did. 

Weekly meal plan for the week of May 1

This week was pretty lame on the meal planning front because I was not inspired this week! Yes, it even happens once in awhile for this meal planning nerd. But, we all got fed, so that's what matters! 

Sunday: Homemade pizza and salad
Monday: Pork tacos + quesadillas
Tuesday: Cream cheese chicken chili 
Wednesday: Trader Joe's Coconut Shrimp + quinoa + roasted broccoli
Thursday: Swedish meatballs + roasted carrots and potatoes
Friday: Out
Saturday: Burgers on the grill with neighbors

Here's to a new week with some more interesting meals! 

7 BREAKFAST IDEAS TO TAKE TO WORK.

Does anyone else eat breakfast at their desk every day? I've always brought my breakfast to work since I started working after college. Partly because I like to sleep as late as possible and I don't want to get up earlier to eat, and partly because I like to eat breakfast a little bit later in the morning (around 8:30 or 9:00). 

Since I'm not at home for breakfast 4 or 5 days a week, I've gotten used to packing two meals + snacks in my lunchbox every day, and have figured out breakfasts that are portable, easy and delicious. With a little prep work on the weekend, my breakfasts come together super quickly each morning so I can have a healthy, hearty breakfast every day.

7 breakfast ideas to take to work

1. Soft boiled eggs + turkey burger (or other protein) + guac. My personal favorite. I throw it all in a Tupperware container and eat the turkey burger at room temp. (For soft boiled eggs, just boil them for about 7 minutes and put them in an ice bath to stop the cooking.) I generally buy the guac packets from Aldi or Trader Joe's.

2. Oatmeal 3 ways. The night before, add 1/2 c. rolled oats, 2/3 cup milk/almond milk, and toppings you like (dollop of nut butter, toasted coconut, cinnamon, nuts, etc.) to a glass bowl or mason jar. The next day, top with berries and eat it cold (also known as overnight oats- option #1), or warm it up and then top with berries (option #2). You could also make a pan of baked oatmeal (option #3) over the weekend, portion it out and just heat up at work! 

3. Yogurt parfait. On the weekend, layer plain whole milk yogurt and your desired toppings (nuts, fruit, drizzle of maple syrup/honey for sweetness, granola) in a mason jar. Grab a spoon and a jar from the fridge, and you're off!

Breakfast idea for work | Yogurt Parfait

4. Muffin tin egg cups. Over the weekend, make some muffin tin egg cups to grab and go during the week. You can customize them however you want, and they are so easy to make! Recipe ideas here. 

5. Cereal/granola. Pour some cereal in a Tupperware bowl and put some milk in a mason jar. Pour the milk in the bowl when you get to work.

6. Smoothies. I'm not big on drinking my breakfast, but you could easily make up a healthy, hearty smoothie at home and bring it to work with you. Sneak in some greens for an extra serving of veggies and it's even better! One of my favorite smoothies is 1 frozen banana (we peel + freeze the ones that are about to go bad), ~1 c. almond milk, 3-4 frozen coconut milk cubes and frozen mixed berries. Add more almond milk as needed to get your desired consistency. 

Breakfast idea for work | Smoothie

7. Leftovers. I love leftovers for breakfast, especially casserole type dishes with meat, veggies and potatoes. Add a warmed up soft boiled egg, and it's golden! 

Additional tips for eating breakfast (and lunch) at work:

  • Keep a set of silverware (fork, spoon, butter knife, steak knife), a bowl and plate in a desk drawer so you're never without. I also keep an apple corer, a few cups and a salt and pepper shaker in my cube. Less waste, and I'm never without! 
  • Skip the stinky stuff. Be kind to your co-workers and don't bring fish or stinky food to your desk. Save that for the cafeteria! 
  • Get some good containers. If you're bringing breakfast and lunch to work, you'll be bringing lots of dishes to work. I love our glass containers because they don't get stained from sauces and you can cut with a knife in them without scratching them up. Plus, no chemicals from plastic!

Do you bring breakfast and lunches to work? What are your favorite breakfasts for work?

WEEKLY MEAL PLAN: APRIL 28.

After missing a few weeks of my weekly meal plan, it's back! This week I'm running my real food challenge, which pushed me to try some new recipes! 

We've also had some duck nest excitement in our yard and house this week. Let's just say I have two abandoned duck eggs in an incubator in my house right now. Stay tuned for more info. 

what we ate this week 2.png

Sunday: Garlic Spaghetti Squash Casserole
Monday: Zoodles with Kale + Sausage
Tuesday: Mexican Skillet
Wednesday: Pork chops with Roasted Brussels Sprouts + Salad
Thursday: Rosemary chicken with roasted potatoes and green beans
Friday: Sloppy Joes
Saturday: Stuffed Peppers

Have a great weekend!

5 REASONS SHEET PAN MEALS ARE AWESOME.

I'm not really sure what took me so long to get on the bandwagon with sheet pan meals, but I finally have and am pretty much in love. I saw this recipe on Pinterest a few months ago and it was tempting enough for me to try my first ever sheet pan meal. (I generally use chicken thighs for mine because I can make a ton for very low cost, and they are delicious.) 

5 reasons sheet pan meals are awesome

What's so awesome about sheet pan meals? Well, they certainly aren't a new or novel idea, but dang, do they make dinner a breeze. 

1. Easy. In most cases, sheet pan meals are a meat, veggies and maybe a sauce or marinade. They are simple, yet delicious, and anyone can pull them off. 

2. Variety. By switching up the meats and veggies, the options are literally endless for sheet pan meal combos. Once you try a few, you really don't even need a recipe anymore because they are pert near impossible to mess up. 

3. Minimal Clean-up. One sheet pan, a cutting board and a knife is pretty much all you need to pull off a sheet pan meal. Put a layer of tin foil or a silicon baking mat on the sheet pan and clean up is even easier.  Less clean up = more time doing other things, like mindlessly scrolling through Instagram (what, don't judge!). 

4. Flexibility. If you don't have the exact ingredients needed for a sheet pan meal recipe you found, the chances that you can still make it are 99.96% Swap out a veggie, change up the seasonings a bit or change the meat completely and I'm confident you'll still have an amazing meal. 

5. Cheap. Chicken thighs are like $1.19/lb and you could get a pan full of potatoes and veggies for $5. You can easily feed a family of 4-6 with 8 chicken thighs and those veggies for $10 in most cases. SCORE. You can stretch meat and veggies pretty far, especially if you make some quinoa or other side dish as well. 

Sheet pan meals are here to stay at our house, and I'm excited to try even more combinations soon! You could probably also do something like this on the grill in the summer. Putting that on my to do list! 

Find more sheet pan meal ideas here. 

Do you make sheet pan meals? What's your favorite recipe?

KNOWING VS. DOING... A RAMBLE.

As I've been gearing up for my Real Food Challenge (<--- go sign up!), I've been crafting some messages and videos to the participants and have been thinking about my own path to eating real foods and living a more natural lifestyle. 

I provide a lot of information on what I do and how to do it, but I want everyone to know that although I preach the benefits of eating real food and cutting out the junk, I am nowhere near perfect and there are many times where I'm not walking the walk. 

Knowing what to do and how to do it is one thing, but actually doing it is a whole other challenge. 

Like, I know I should be getting more exercise, but I haven't made it a priority. And that girl on Instagram always makes the most delicious looking veggie bowls, and I love veggies, but I just want Little Caesars tonight, OK? And yeah, I definitely eat more donuts than I should, but I love them and life's too short. And yes, I want to be able to do that amazing yoga pose, but I also can't devote 2 hours a day to practice. 

Malisa Lieser Planning | spiralizing zoodles

Over the last 5+ years, I've read hundreds of articles/blog posts and a few books on real food, chemicals, toxins and all around health and wellness, so I like to think that I'm pretty aware, but that doesn't mean that my entire life of eating and living before then just magically disappeared and my mindset completely shifted. I still have my struggles, whether it's binge eating, sugar addiction, body image issues, guilt over not working out, and more. These mindsets aren't going to vanish just because you are armed with more knowledge; they are deeply rooted feelings and beliefs that will probably always be lingering. 

Again, knowing the information is much different than taking action on it. 

There are some people who learn information and apply it without looking back. I think that number is very small. Especially in the health & wellness space, the amount of information is astounding and overwhelming. How do you know who to trust, and how do you decide what makes sense for you without buying a bunch of stuff and doing experiments? 

For me, certain things stuck really quickly, such as avoiding fake sugar (other than the occasional DC!), and not eating chemical-filled frozen or shelf-stable foods. I have no idea why those two things stuck for me, because there are many that haven't, even 5 years later. We've slowly made other changes that have stuck and I'm happy when I make one more small change for my (and my family's) health. 

Malisa Lieser Planning | Spaghetti Squash Boats

For most of us, it takes repeated exposure to messages, and for something to happen in our lives personally to make information click. Even after reading the terrible effects of sugar, I still eat sugar. Why? Well, because it's nearly impossible to cut it out completely (and that sounds like a ton of work) and because, BALANCE (and, you all know I'm not going to give up my donuts). Also, other than the occasional day where I over indulge in sugar, I haven't necessarily felt the extreme affects it can bring on, so I haven't personally been impacted enough to give it up completely.

I also haven't switched over to organic food for the most part because I keep hearing people say it's better, but I haven't done the research myself (I'm just starting to get to that point). 

My husband made this paleo cheesecake a few years ago, and I need it back in my life soon! 

My husband made this paleo cheesecake a few years ago, and I need it back in my life soon! 

I think we all owe it to ourselves to learn more about what's going into and onto our bodies, which is part of the reason I started this blog. I want to inspire people to take small, actionable steps to improve their health and wellness.

That being said, I don't want people to rush out and do everything I write about just because I said it's healthy. Everyone needs to advocate for themselves and their family and choose the things that work for them.

KNOW the information, but DO what works for you. 

I'm also really trying to focus on balance right now. Yes, I brew my kombucha and use my hippie homemade products, but I also eat Little Caesars, put sugary creamer in my coffee every day and eat my husband's tasty breakfast treats like homemade cinnamon rolls or pancakes every weekend. I like to make home made meals for my family that are nutritious and delicious, but I like to eat junk food sometimes, too. 

Malisa Lieser Planning | homemade cinnamon rolls

Health and wellness doesn't have to be an all or nothing thing, and striving for "perfect" eating just isn't going to work for most of us. I think finding a balance that makes you feel good physically and mentally is the key, and that will look different for everyone. 

Phew! It feels good to get that off my chest. I really want to be transparent about how I do my life. Just because the title of my website is 'real food meal planning and natural living,' doesn't mean I do those things 100% of the time. I want to be relatable as a working mom of two young kids that doesn't have a lot of time but is doing my best and what works for my family. What I do might not look like what you do, but in the end, we're all doing our best!