Memorial Day Highlights

Frederick Meijer Gardens

 It was wonderful being able to take a 4 day weekend / week to be with my family. Ryan planned some activities for us and boy did it go really well.

We started out by going to Detroit and visiting the Henry Ford Museum for 2 days. I did not take the camera but I did have some Phone Pics I'll share later.

We returned home for a night and then headed out to Grand Rapids for Memorial Day.

Nature walk

Boy was it a HOT day to be outside. Suddenly walking sculpture gardens and seeing nature was not so exciting.


Ryan was a real trooper seeing that he was suddenly attacked by allergies. It is his time of year where his eyes swell and his sinuses just clog up. Poor guy. He could have told us to pack up but we trucked along for 3 hours and almost 4 hours with a break for lunch.


Julianne was real great. She loves the outdoors and really refuses to nap especially with the sun shining so brightly. She loves chewing on the pacifier clip and not the pacifier itself. Is she not funny?


On our walk we spotted some turtles and great frogs communicating with each other.


I took Julianne out of the stroller so she could see the animals. She was just staring at everything! It is pretty amazing how takes everything in.


We visit the greenhouses and spot the orchid section. My favorite flower!


Back outside, we visit the sculpture garden with "interesting" art. Hmmmm.


While we eat lunch indoors, we notice a Chihuly glass sculpture from the ceiling. How gorgeous!

Almost 7 months

Towards the end of our sweaty walk, we decide to take some family pictures. We make most of our time and love how Julianne likes to pose. Can you spot her little teeth?

Check out the rest of our album for more pictures.


Virgin Jamaica Sangria


Anyone else around here need a drink? Summer is nearing and all I can think about are iced drinks. I have been making Mighty Leaf's Mango Iced Tea for the last week and a half and mixing it with hibiscus flowers. YUM!

I have also been enjoying the occasional beer, like Blue Moon. Ahhh...but as a nursing mother, I really try not to drink and so I brought out this bottle of dealcoholized wine I had purchased when I was still pregnant.  I could still use it now!


I found this at our local store and decided that since it was the only non-alcoholic wine I should snag it.

It is known to be the world's best non-alcoholic wine made in California. This particular blend, Rouge, was made with Merlot, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon.The website describes it as it offering "aromas of cranberry, strawberry, and plum with good balance, soft tannins and a dry finish."


I was really glad to have some wine again because even though I am told it is okay to have the occasional glass, I really do not like doing it. Here is a safe way to enjoy the same drink with no guilt! I even fooled my hubby for a bit before he found the bottle and cringed at the non-alcoholic part of the recipe. Oh well.


I chose fresh kiwis, apples, and grapes, even though you could add plums, strawberries and cranberries to super enhance the flavor of the wine. I made the hibiscus punch I have prepared before, like my Agua de Jamaica (Hibiscus Punch)

The key to sangria is to refrigerate overnight so it was hard to wait but it was worthwhile.


Make this version of sangria for your guests or for your spouse during the summer days and it is bound to cool you off. You can even pretend that it gives you a buzz. I know I did! :-)

Virgin Jamaica Sangria

by Noelle Kelly
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: overnight
Keywords: refrigerate boil beverage appetizer hibiscus flowers Cinco de Mayo Parties

Ingredients (6 to 8 glasses)
    For Agua de Jamaica (Hibiscus Punch)
    • 1/2 cup dried hibicus flowers (can be purchased at International markets)
    • 3 cups hot water
    • 2 piloncillo cones (Mexican brown sugar) or 1/2 cup agave nectar
    • 1/4 cup lime juice

    For Sangria
    • 1-750ml bottle Ariel Rouge Premium Dealcoholized Wine (or regular wine)
    • 2 kiwis, peeled and diced
    • 1 cup grapes, cut in half
    • 2 apples, peeled, seeded, and diced

    • Ice
    • Sparkling water


    For Agua de Jamaica (Hibiscus Punch)
    Place hibiscus flowers in a pot. Boil hot water in a teapot or pour water over leaves and pour over hibiscus flowers. If you boil water and flowers, boil water for 10 minutes then remove from heat and let the flowers sit in water for 15-20 minutes.

    Make sure to add piloncillo to hot water so that sugar will melt. Depends on how sweet you want your beverage but 2 cones will probably be sweet and can always be diluted or add 1/2 cup agave nectar. Allow liquid to cool.

    Using a strainer, strain the flowers and drain the liquid in a large pitcher and add the lime juice.

    Sangria Preparation
    Add the whole bottle of wine and diced fruit and place pitcher in fridge overnight.
    When serving, add some fruit to each glass, some 4 cubes of ice, 3/4 sangria and 1/4 sparkling water. Enjoy! Serves 6 -eight ounce glasses.



    Learning How to Eat like a Big Girl

    6 months-feeding

    I know that this blog has morphed into more about my daily life than a food blog, but I think that is how life happens right? Changes and seasons come through life and we embrace then, or at least I do. Even though I love sharing about my singing gigs and sharing food pictures of recent recipes, I also like sharing about our life and the new addition to our family.

    I simply cannot believe that 6 1/2 months have gone by and I have a big girl with a big personality. She is definitely easier to read now that I have gotten used to her cries and the signs she gives when she is tired. I believe even Ryan enjoys the stage Julianne is in right now because she loves to play and she is in the discovery period.

    One thing that has definitely changed for me is the amount I read. Here the 6 month mark was approaching and I wanted to make sure I knew enough to start feeding Julianne solids. Should I wait or should I start her later? I know that I had many allergies as a child because I was fed solids earlier than my sister was. She does not suffer from allergies!

    We live in an age with SO much reading material especially having the internet at our fingertips. When is reading too much? I'll tell you. I just kept getting frustrated reading so many different point of views that I started obsessing whether I was going to make the right choice. The pediatrician tells you something then I get advice from mothers and then I read an array of books and articles. When does it stop?

    I was given advice a while ago, and I believe it brought my mind at ease. I was told to STOP reading and to read only material that seemed to be along the same standards I wanted to use with our baby girl. It made a lot of sense to me. 

    So here I was, close to 6 months, and I did not know whether I wanted to start feeding Julianne. She was at the point where she was putting everything in her mouth but I knew it had nothing to do with hunger. How was I to know if she was truly hungry. I have been one to also obsess about not having enough breast milk to feed her. Questions I asked myself: "She seems to be crying, maybe she is still hungry, maybe she is not getting enough from me?" I had the fear of having to supplement with formula, which I knew I totally did not want to do.

    In comes the Baby-led Weaning.book. I read the whole thing in 2 days and learned a lot! It was a very informative book about when to start feeding your baby, what foods to feed and the reality of not breaking your back on making purees.

    6 months-feeding

    Is it okay for a 6 month old to already be an independent eater? Will giving slices of bananas, avocados or other soft or light steamed foods cause my baby to choke? Why can't I just do purees? The book talked about the fact that making purees for a baby and FEEDING them does not help them be independent. Why does the baby spit out her food when fed with a spoon? Well, either they are not ready because they have not achieved tongue thrust.

    6 months-feeding

    At this point the book talks about eating not being the target but about learning about food. If she gets to eat, great, but breastfeeding is still the baby's main source of nutrition.

    I was just plain nervous my baby would choke. The book also discusses this when feeding your baby slices of fresh fruits and veggies. The baby will naturally gag EVEN if you are feeding them purees or whole foods. She will not choke, but will gag and naturally spit out the food until she is ready to chew and swallow.

    How did Julianne do? I mean, I had to REALLY monitor her and see what she would. I started almost 3 weeks ago and I gave her slices of avocado and sweet potato. She did gag and cough a bit so I pureed them and she fed a little better. 

    She started wondering about swallowing and out of 2 Tablespoons of food, she ate about 1 teaspoon.

    At the second week, I started giving her bananas and apples.  She did not like to be fed! She grabbed the spoon forcefully and just gnawed at it. (She is presently cutting her first tooth, so I can imagine she just wants comfort). She has great hand control, grabs the 2-inch long banana slices and sweet potatoes and places them in her mouth. She gnaws, chews and starts swallowing. 

    6 months-feeding

    Here we are week three, and I believe she really enjoys eating. I really feel that pureeing is a waste of time since she does NOT like being fed. She forcefully takes the spoon away from me when I try, so I continue giving her the slices of food and she has been processing the whole eating procedure really well!

    Another beauty about the book is that it explains that it really is not necessary trying one food at a time like the pediatricians discuss. The importance lies in introducing a variety of foods to develop their palate. It is NOT necessary to just do rice cereal because it does not have real nutritional value. I will start feeding her brown rice cereal along with her veggies soon though.

    Yes, allowing my child to feed herself, now, at such a early age will be quite messy but if she is happy and she is eating then I will choose not to fight what she naturally should be doing. Of course, all this is to say, that she is in constant supervision and she eats while WE eat so she continues to imitate us eating.

    6 months-feeding 

    Another plus? She has been sleeping A LOT longer at nights even though I have heard that feeding solids does not guarantee that, it seems to be working FOR NOW.

    Whew...here is another stage I continue to learn more about daily, but I am really enjoying it and I want it to be a smooth transition. I think it is quite important knowing my child and I feel like I am successfully working at it, by God's grace.

    What is on the menu today? Avocados and Butternut / Sweet Potato Mash. :-)


    Cola de Mono (Spiked Coffee Cocktail)

    Do you like Bailey's Irish Cream? Well this is a version that folks in Chile drink and I veganized it and gave it some twist with delicious spices. (I did not know if you knew I am HALF Chilean. :-) ) I have taken this to evening parties as a night cap or to go with desserts. YUM! 

    Who does not like coffee and alcohol?

    This recipe is featured in the So Much to love contest! Voting is open all of this week, and you can vote once a day, every day this week for it to get it to Top 1.

    Please consider voting for my recipe, Cola de Mono (Spiked Coffee Cocktail) in this week's So Delicious® Dairy Free SO Much to Love Giveaway!

    You'll be entered to win daily prizes, and if my recipe gets the most votes, YOU'LL be entered to win a great weekly prize. Thanks for voting, if you do! :-)

    Cola de Mono (Spiked Coffee Cocktail)

    Serves 8-10


    • 1 cup water
    • 4 cups So Delicious® Dairy Free Vanilla or Original Coconut Milk
    • 2 cinnamon sticks
    • 8 cloves
    • 2 star anise
    • 1 tsp orange rind, dried or 2 Tbsp freshly grated orange rind
    • 1½ tsp vanilla extract
    • Pinch of nutmeg
    • 1¼ cups brown sugar
    • 1 cup espresso


    1. In a large pot, add the water, coconut milk, and the rest of the ingredients (except for the espresso) and bring the mixture to a boil.
    2. Boil for 10 minutes.
    3. Remove from heat and let sit for 15 minutes.
    4. Add the espresso and stir mixture.
    5. Cool completely at room temperature and then place in a clean bottle, seal tightly.
    6. Drink will be ready the next day.
    7. In a sealed container, the cocktail will last a month in the fridge.


    My First Mother's Day

    new mom

    I hope every one of you mothers out there had a terrific day! I was so sad I did not get to spend it with my mother but I was able to send off my sister, who lives near her, to take my mom out for a nice dinner.

    It has been a beautiful blessing knowing that God has given me the gift of being a mother to our little girl. The picture posted above was taken in New York last February after I announced that I was pregnant. I had a food blogger meet-up and a friend gifted me with this little tee, which Julianne will be wearing soon!

    Fast forward 6 1/2 months and here is my big girl! She is rolling around, sitting up and eating food already (more on that later)! She is such a character and has such a personality already. She is so much fun and both my husband I agree this has been an easier stage than when we first began as new parents.

    No one really lays it out for you, that motherhood is going to be hard. Well, maybe not hard, but challenging. No it is hard because it is something different, but somehow God has wired us to be strong and wise to bring up our children.

    How did my Mother's Day begin? Julianne woke up at 6:30am (ugh) and Ryan promptly took her out of the bedroom and let me sleep for more than an hour before we got ready for church. It was SO nice to sleep in. Ryan did get a nap later for being such a great daddy!

    Coffee was brewing and a nice bouquet of flowers and cards were awaiting. It was beautiful!

    We celebrated early, the evening before because we knew places would be crowded so I got to choose the place: Sultan's Middle-Eastern Restaurant.

    Mediterranean food

    This is probably one of my favorite restaurants in the Lansing area because the food is fresh and authentic.

    raw potassium

    I started with a raw juice called Raw Potassium, which was made with juiced carrots, celery, spinach, and parsley. SO delicious and good. Ryan even took a swig of it and realized it really did not have much of his least favorite veggie: celery. :-)

    For an appetizer, we had some delicious lamb sliders (not pictured).


    Our second appetizer were plates piled with fresh tabbouleh and a basket of mini pita breads. Can I eat this every day? I would just be plain content.

    What did we have for dinner? We waited too long for our entree but it finally came and I did not have time and forgot to take a picture of our Sultan's Combo which came with Chicken Kebab, Lamb Kofta, Kibbee, Falafel, rice and veggies. It was so much food but we were glad to have leftovers for today. So good!

    The highlight of the evening was Julianne, of course! She got to sit a high chair for the first time and she ate dinner with us. I brought some mashed avocado and a sweet potato / butternut squash combo for her to eat while we ate. It was fun! She was so calm and was very eager for every bite.

    family meal

    See that table behind the picture behind Julianne? They came up to us afterwards and beamed at how great she was during our whole dinner. WHEW. I was really trying not to be nervous that she would throw a fit but she was an angel. She followed people around with her gaze and waitresses came by making her smile. This truly made my Mother's Day for sure!

    I thank God for the opportunity and blessing of being a mother and I thank my mother for being such a hard working and God-fearing mother. I believe it truly has made me the person I am and to be a persevering person. Thank you Mom and God!

    If you get a chance visit my friend's post On Becoming A Mother. It is so poignant and it is powerful. Thank you for your beautiful writing and words Larissa!~

    What was something special that was done for you or that you did for your mother?


    Two Opera Recordings and Blackberry Baked Oatmeal

    Beth & Noelle

    This has been a long time a coming and I finally got all the pictures together and video from the performance in March 23rd. This truly shows that I am actually performing! Hee hee.

    This was my first performance after having our daughter on November 2nd and I have to say I was not sure I was going to be able to memorize and physically get back into vocal shape to make it happen. Somehow, with my husband's encouragement and God's strength, I learned my music and I was able to go to several voice lessons. My voice lesson told me that I was in great vocal shape and the fact I kept on singing up until I had the baby and even after made it possible. How exciting and what a blessing! As a member of the Holland Chorale, I was happy to be able to participate in a great show with other friends.

    un bel di 1

    How was my experience as I performed and what was different in this performance? I was VERY surprised that I was not nervous. We did not have a babysitter that night so Ryan and I alternated taking care of her in the church nursery. We both agreed, afterwards, that that was probably not the best because it might have made me unfocused. Whew, it was a little stressful but it all went well, thank God.

    I was thrilled to say that I believe that by having natural, drug-free childbirth helped me find a renowned sense of confidence I did not have before. Let me just say that if you have a child, you can do ANYTHING! At least this is how I feel.

    After show

    In the first half of the concert I sang my aria, "Un bel di, vedremo" from Madama Butterfly.


    After a brief intermission I sang The Flower Duet from Lakmé with a friend from the chorale. Here is the video you can watch on YouTube and I have the recording if you want that.

    Hope you enjoy them!

    Blackberry Baked Oatmeal

    On another note, one of my recipe creations was chosen in the Breakfast category in the So Much To Love Giveaway hosted by So Delicious Dairy Free company.

    Would you mind checking it out HERE and voting for my recipe? When you vote you also get entered for a chance to win some prizes. That can't be bad right?

    Here is the recipe as well if you want to try it out. Thanks for voting for this recipe!

    Serves 8


    • 1/3 cup coconut oil
    • ½ cup agave nectar
    • 2 Tbsp flax seed with 6 Tbsp warm water (egg substitute)
    • 1 cup So Delicious® Dairy Free Original Almond Plus Almond Milk
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 3 cups oats (can use gluten-free oats)
    • 2 tsp baking powder
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 1 tsp cinnamon
    • 1½ cups fresh or frozen blackberries (may substitute with other sliced berries or fruit)


    1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
    2. Spray an 8x8 baking dish with nonstick spray. Evenly scatter berries on the bottom on the dish.
    3. Next, add wet ingredients to dry and mix well. Pour mixture into baking dish. Bake for 45 minutes or until slightly golden brown.
    Note: To make a larger batch, double recipe and add to a 9x13 pan and bake for an extra 10–15 minutes.


    Secret Recipe Club: Mexican Black Bean Pizza


    It was very hard not to be able to post this last week because Cinco de Mayo was this past weekend. When I pinned this recipe on Pinterest I had so many people repin it that I knew it would be a favorite already! Who cares if Cinco de Mayo is past us, you need to make this pizza ASAP.

    Secret Recipe Club

     This month, as part of the Secret Recipe Club, I was assigned The Cookin' Chemist blog, the blog about food, life and edible experiments. Tessa loves to cook and boy does she have a lot of recipes on her blog. She posts delicious recipes very often and she had then nicely categorized too!

    When I was trying to choose a recipe I mostly perused the Tex-Mex cuisine. I almost chose the Southwestern Quinoa Casserole but I knew I would be the only one eating leftovers. Well, guess what? I still was the only one eating this pizza because my hubby is a stickler about eating black beans. All I know is I cannot wait for my little girl to grow up because I know she will have a developed palate. :-)

    Before I get to the recipe I want to say that I have a bit in common with Tessa other than the fact that we both love to cook. We both are in the pharmaceutical field! I also minored in chemistry and am a registered pharmacy technician. Looking forward perusing more recipes and so should you! Go check out her blog after making this yummy pizza.

    I did make some changes using my own recipe for pizza dough and I made this a lot more easier to handle.I added all the toppings to a hot pizza instead of cooking the jalapenos, tomatoes and cilantro. I liked it a lot and would make it this way again.


    You can add vegan cheese if you are vegan, or try Mozzarella cheese like the original recipe indicates. Thanks Tessa, for posting such a yummy recipe!

    Mexican Black Bean Pizza

    by Noelle Kelly
    Prep Time: 60 minutes
    Cook Time: 14 minutes
    Keywords: bake lunch entree vegetarian black beans Cinco de Mayo Mexican

    Ingredients (4 slices)
      • 1 cup whole wheat white flour
      • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
      • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
      • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
      • 2 & ¼ teaspoon pizza yeast or instant yeast
      • 1 1/2 Tablespoons olive oil
      • 1/3 cup very warm water
      • More flour for surface when kneading

      Pizza Toppings
      • 1/2 cup canned black beans
      • 2 cloves garlic, minced
      • 1/2 cup onions, chopped
      • 1/2 Tablespoon chili powder
      • 1/4 tsp. cumin
      • 1/2 teaspoon salt
      • 2 ounces Muenster cheese, shredded
      • 2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
      • 1/2 avocado, chopped
      • 2 Tablespoons cilantro, chopped
      • 10 pickled jalapeno pepper slices
      • 1-2 cups shredded romaine lettuce

      For the Crust

      Spray a pizza pan with non-stick spray and sprinkle with some cornmeal (optional) and preheat oven to 500 degrees.

      In a large mixing bowl, mix together 1 cup of flour, salt, oregano, garlic powder, and yeast. Stir well. Now quickly add in 1/3 cup of very warm water along with your 3 tbsp of oil. Stir well.

      Grab the dough and place on floured surface. Knead the dough for 5 minutes, adding flour if it gets tacky. After 5 minutes the dough should be smooth and not sticky. Form into a ball and place in a large, oiled bowl.
      Cover the ball with a bit of oil so it doesn’t dry out. Now cover the bowl and let it rise for 45 minutes. You can punch out the air once half way through. Cooking time will vary but my pizza took 14-15 mins at 500F.

      For the Pizza Topping

      Meanwhile, prepare the black bean layer. In a medium skillet, saute' onions, garlic, and black beans in 1 Tablespoon olive oil. Add the spices and cook for 5-10 minutes. Using a potato masher, mash the beans.

      Once the pizza dough has risen, roll out the dough on a floured surface and place on the pizza pan. Spread the black bean puree on the pizza crust, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edge. This will be more of a think crust pizza than a thick crust. Top with the cheese and place in the oven for 14 minutes.

      After it is cooked, remove the pan from the oven and transfer the pizza to a work surface. Add the jalapenos, cilantro, avocado, tomatoes, and top with romaine lettuce.
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      Cinco de Mayo Recipe Ideas

      Cinco de Mayo is upon upon us and well, even though we forget what this holiday is all about, we always seem to turn to food and beverages, eh? Wait, what is Cinco de Mayo all about? The Huffington Post came out with an interesting article called "How a Mexican Battle Became An American Party." 

      Despite that, I know everyone will be on themed parties and foods for their meals tomorrow so I thought I would share some of my favorite recipes I've made in the past. I made a DELICIOUS recipe last night that I cannot feature until Monday, so I will be sharing my POST-Cinco de Mayo recipe late. It just means you will have an excuse to make it even after the holiday is over.

      Since when do we stop eating Mexican after a holiday has gone by? Never!

      Enjoy this little recipe round-up!

      Do you know what you are eating this weekend?

      Spicy Black Bean Enchiladas

      Portabella-Poblano Fajitas

      Tofu Rancheros

      Watermelon Margaritas

      Bean Sopes


      Vegetarian Tostadas
      Flautas with Tomatillo Salsa and Pine Nut Crema

      Fresh Prickly Pear Lemonade
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