Six Lessons from Six Months of Parenthood

Today, our daughter Nainika turns six months old. The days have been long, but the weeks and the months have simply flown by, and I can’t believe we’re already here celebrating this momentous milestone. I’ve always looked forward to motherhood, but the actual experience of raising a baby has been even more incredible than I ever imagined. There’s literally nothing more I’d rather do than spend my every waking moment with our child.

To be honest, it hasn’t always been this way–the newborn days were hard. Really, really hard. You spend nine months obsessed with this thing inside your belly, but once it comes out, you feel guilty for not feeling that immediate connection or unconditional love right away. I was constantly exhausted, my body was recovering, and the little peanut that needed me every two hours for nourishment didn’t feel or look like a real human being.

But then, she slowly began to break out of her little newborn shell and develop this incredible little personality. She began to smile. To giggle. To laugh uncontrollably whenever her Dada made faces at her. To give me shy sideway glances and naughty little kicks. Her eyes now light up every time she notices her Mama or Dada in a crowded room, and her face breaks out into an enormous grin every time a stranger smiles at her. It’s crazy how much you can already tell what sort of personality your baby will have at such a young age. I’m so ridiculously proud of how fearless, spunky, funny, and loving this little person already is. They say it’s supposed to get even better than this, but I really don’t know how we could possibly love her anymore than we already do.

It’s been six amazing, rewarding months, and I wanted to document some of the key lessons I’ve learned over this important period of time:

  1. DON’T BE SHY ABOUT SEEKING HELP. It’s true what they say–it takes a village to raise a child, and sometimes you just have to be recognize your limitations and give in to all the help that’s being offered your way. My parents moved into a temporary apartment across the street for the first six weeks of Nainika’s life, and I can’t imagine surviving those early days without them. My mom was at my place every single morning with fresh, homemade Indian food, and basically took over baby-rearing duties while I caught up on sleep and let my body heal. When I temporarily went back to work full-time (and ultimately decided I needed more time), we moved into my in-laws’ place so they could watch her while I was away. Not everyone is as lucky to have the sort of amazing support we do, but there are people out there who want to help you in small, but significant ways. SAY YES!
  2. TUNE OUT THE NOISE, AND FOLLOW YOUR OWN PARENTAL INSTINCTS. There are also plenty of people out there who want to offer their unsolicited advice and words of wisdom. While this is all well-intentioned, it’s okay to tune out the external noise sometimes and follow your own parental instincts. Sure, you’ll make mistakes, and sometimes other parents DO know better than you, but these are your mistakes to make. You’ll learn from them, move on, and ultimately become a better parent because of the errors you have made. It’s all part of this journey 🙂
  3. IT’S OKAY TO BE SELFISH SOMETIMES, SO YOU CAN BE SELFLESS WHEN IT MATTERS THE MOST. During those early newborn days, my husband and I would take advantage of grandparents and go on almost weekly date nights. I have no qualms about spending time away from my baby every now and then for time with my girlfriends, exercise, or just self-care. That time away from your baby is absolutely critical to feel refreshed and re-energized so that you can give your baby your all when they need you the most.
  4. BE PRESENT, AND SOAK UP EVERY MOMENT. This one can be challenging when I’m obsessed with trying to document every moment and let’s face it, the addiction to technology is very real. There are times where I just have to force myself to put my phone or laptop in a different room and spend time with Nainika sans-distraction. Those uninterrupted moments I have interacting with her are pure magic, and no amount of pictures and videos can quite capture them.
  5. CONTINUE TO LIVE YOUR LIFE. Yes, my baby is the most important thing in the world to me, but my husband and I also value our lives and independence. We continue to travel and eat out, and have found creative ways to make it work with the baby. Our travel itineraries may have slowed down and changed, but we took Nainika to Paris and had the best time of our lives. We have lunches and dinners at odd hours to suit her nap schedule, but we continue to enjoy exploring new restaurants. You CAN continue to enjoy your life with a baby, but with a new buddy in tow 🙂
  6. EMBRACE EVERY MOMENT WITH A SENSE OF HUMOR! I think this is the most important lesson of all, and the one that’s enabled my husband and I to survive the first six months. I owe this one entirely to my husband, who is simply having a blast with every moment of parenting. We’ve had to deal with countless poop explosions at the most inopportune moments (new outfit during a family wedding, in a brand new rental car, you name it…), and the best way to deal with it is just by having a sense of humor and laughing about it. Babies are hilarious little things and while some of the things parents have to deal with are hard and exhausting, they are MUCH easier to deal when you have a sense of humor about it.

So there you have it. Six lessons in parenting from these early months, though I can probably think of a zilliion more. We’re learning every minute, and having a blast while doing so. Would love to hear if any of these resonated with you (for those of you who actually got through my novel!). Cheers to the next six months. I can’t wait to experience them with our little darling.

A New Chapter!

Looking back at my blog, I can’t believe that my last post was nearly a year ago. SO much has happened since then, and I’ve been furiously documenting every second of the past very eventful 9+ months through pretty much every medium except for this blog. I started a new corporate job last June, leaving the agency world behind after six years, but more importantly–I gave BIRTH to a healthy, beautiful baby girl on February 15, 2018! Our lives are forever changed and we could not be more excited to welcome our little Nainika Rani Gupta with endless cuddles and kisses into the world and our little family.

So while my focus has changed for a bit from whipping up recipes to surviving the newborn parenting life, I plan to get back to blogging very, very soon. I hope you’ll forgive my irregular and erratic posts, but I started this blog as a fun, creative outlet and never wanted it to feel like a chore. So follow along in my journey (or not) as I navigate my new norm while remaining true to my passion for food, cooking, and travel. And perhaps some new baby-related interests along the way 🙂 If you have any post suggestions, or topics you’d love to see me discuss here, leave a comment!

Looking Back on Summer – Recipes & Reflections

And here I am, six months later. I can’t believe I’ve taken that long of a hiatus from my blog, but I guess that’s what happens when a summer of epic proportions rolls by. I blame a combination of weddings (nine total this year!), a crazy upswing in work travel (I think I clocked in a total of four trips to NYC within the summer), and the most incredible belated two-week honeymoon to Italy & Greece with my husband. This summer was awesome and exhilarating, but I’m looking forward to time sloooowing down a bit with the change of seasons. I still can’t believe we only have a month and a half left in 2016, but I’m determined to slow things down with what we have left. And catch up on my blog, of course. I have a zillion ideas circling in my head for posts–Italy travel guides, ideas for fall/winter dinner parties, slow cooking recipes–so it’s time to hibernate a bit and get writing again. Always fun to get my creative juices flowing after a long break.

I could do a million different blog posts on my summer alone, but I wanted to start off with sharing a few recipes I tried from other bloggers/websites these past few months. If you follow me on Instagram, then you know I love sharing ‘grams of my food with quick descriptions of the recipes. Some of my favorite tries from summer and fall:

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Post Italy, linguine carbonara has become a dangerous staple in our household. We love how easy it is to prepare, and we’re obsessed with the smoky delicious taste of pancetta/guanciale combined with pecorino. There are many different recipes of linguine carbonara out there and we sometimes improvise, but this The New York Times recipe is pretty fool-proof. Perfect for dinner parties with a side of shrimp scampi or Florentine steak. 

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I am obsessed with Indo-Chinese cuisine, an amazing combination of spicy Indian food and classic Chinese dishes. My husband isn’t the biggest fan of Asian food, but likes it when I make it (or so he says…), so I’ve been experimenting more with Asian dishes at home. The chili chicken pictured here is my absolute favorite, and the schezhwan noodles ain’t so bad either. Thanks to Indu Gets Cooking for both these awesome recipes! Her blog is fabulous for Indian/Indo-Chinese recipes. 

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For a brief period this summer, I was obsessed with zucchini noodles for EVERY meal. I should probably get back on that train, instead of the current pasta obsession that I’m on. I absolutely love this Williams Sonoma recipe for Chicken Meatballs with Spicy Tomato Sauce over a bed of zucchini noodles. It’s super healthy, since the meatballs are baked and include spinach leaves, and the spicy sauce gives it the extra kick I always need. Must try this one!

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Chicken thighs, pesto, goat cheese, garlic deliciousness. What’s not to love? Italian food is one of my faves, and so is this Baked Chicken Thighs with Tomatoes, Olives and Goat Cheese recipe from this lovely little blog called Italian Food Forever. It’s ridiculously simple to put together, and perfect with a side of salad or pasta. Really can’t get enough of that goat cheese and pesto combination! 

That’s all I got for today, but I’d love to hear from YOU guys about what recipes you’ve been loving lately. My husband and I have been cooking together more lately, and we’re dying to try more slow cooking recipes for lazy Sundays. xo, GCG.

To Juice Or Not To Juice?

Happy New Year, everyone! And congratulations on surviving that dreaded first week back to reality post vacation. Mine was filled with gym sessions (kickboxing and cardio dance classes FTW!), healthy meal prepping, and of course, goal setting for 2016. Here’s hoping the discipline and dedication lasts for the rest of the year!

Whether you love or hate resolutions, January is always a good time to set new intentions and reflect on what you’d like to prioritize for the year ahead. Health & wellness is always a big focus for everyone (especially after a gluttonous holiday season), and I’ve noticed a lot of people going on juice cleanses this time of the year. I’ve always been anti-juice cleanses–I don’t believe in starving myself or fad diets–but there was a point in time last month when I just felt really sluggish/bloated/heavy and needed something to reset my system and kick healthy habits into full gear. Sooo, I convinced my coworker to sign up for a Groupon and purchases the three-day Classic Cleanse from Peeled Chicago. We got the cleanse on a major discount ($75) so it seemed like a good time to give it a try.

A couple of disclaimers. 1) I’m not a doctor or a nutritionist, so make sure to consult a professional before trying a cleanse if you have any health issues. 2) I cheated a bit during my cleanse, so my experiences might not be entirely accurate. I started to cleanse on Sunday evening before dinner (you’re supposed to start the cleanse in the morning so you get the full day’s experience) and ended it before Wednesday dinner. I also let myself snack on carrot sticks when I was hungry, had some sashimi on the first night, and eggs on the second night. You’re not supposed to eat at all, but like I said, I don’t believe in starving myself completely, and I still felt like I experienced the positive side affects of juicing – increased energy, feeling lighter, etc. 3) This is not an ad, I purchased this juice cleanse on my own. 

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Now that the disclaimers are out of the way, here’s a quick recap of what the three days of cleansing looked like for me.

Sunday: I started the juice cleanse Sunday evening (again, you’re not supposed to do this, but I was just really eager to get started when I picked the juices up from Peeled) with the Maroon 5 (beet, carrot, apple, ginger, lemon), followed by the Cashew Dream (cashew, maple syrup, agave, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg). These two ended up being my favorite juices of the lot, so this was a very smooth start. I was like, wow, these juices are freakin’ amazing–the next three days are going to be a breeze! The Maroon 5 can be very polarizing (my coworker absolutely hated it), but I looove beets and sweet juices so I was a big, big fan. And the Cashew Dream was sweet and delicious. I went to bed a very happy girl.

Monday: Started the day with the Green Lantern (apple, spinach, kale, celery, ginger, cucumber, parsley, lemon, lime), which I didn’t mind, followed by the Haute Lemonade (lemon, maple syrup, ginger, cayenne, salt) which was incredibly difficult for me to finish. My coworker on the other hand, absolutely loved it. I don’t know why, but I just hated how sour this juice was. I started feeling woozy around noon, felt better after downing the Maroon 5 and Green Lantern but had some chills all day and felt incredibly sleepy by 4 pm. I was major struggling (and shivering) when I got home and allowed myself to eat some salmon sashimi for dinner. Skipped the Maroon 5 and Cashew Dream since I had a light dinner and went to bed by 9:30 pm. Overall, it was a rough day and I was hating myself for ever thinking this was a good idea.

Tuesday: This day was much, much better and I woke up with so much energy! I did the same routine of juices during the day, and didn’t start getting hungry till 2 pm. My coworker and I actually swapped our Haute Lemonade and Maroon 5 juices, so I was much happier being able to skip my least favorite juice. Snacked on some carrot sticks and felt a little woozy, but nothing as bad as the day before. I started getting more fever chills at night, so I decided to let myself eat some eggs and skipped out on the Maroon 5 and Cashew Dream before bedtime.

Wednesday: I’ve read that the third day is the easiest, and that was definitely the case for me as well. I woke up with a ton of energy and felt great all day (my coworker and I swapped our Haute Lemonade and Maroon 5 juices once again). I didn’t start feeling hungry till 3 pm, but that was probably in anticipation of my dinner plans, since I was scheduled to end the juice right before dinner. I didn’t have any fever chills on the last day and was really enjoying how refreshed the juices made me feel. By 6 pm, I was done, and ready to enjoy a REAL meal! I eased back into a regular diet with some fish for dinner.

Overall, I had a good experience with the three day cleanse from Peeled. I know I cheated (a LOT), but it’s important to listen to your body and not do anything too drastic or harmful. I’ve never even skipped a meal prior to this juice cleanse, so I knew I needed to give my body some raw food to survive the cleanse. I don’t think I would do a full cleanse again, but I’m a big fan of incorporating at least one juice a day now. I’ve been picking up beet and kale juices from Trader Joe’s (only five bucks!) and they’re such a great way to start the morning. A lot of people cleanse for the quick drop in pounds, and I think this is the wrong mentality to have. I did the juice cleanse because I wanted to reset my system and incorporate healthier habits into my diet. Can this be done without a cleanse? Probably. But I needed the kick in the butt, and am grateful to the cleanse for showing me how much more energy I can have when I cut out shitty foods. I definitely don’t have a perfect diet today (I love food too much!), but I’m trying to make healthier decisions every day, and I do think this cleanse put me on the right path.

Let me know if you’ve ever done a cleanse, I’d love to hear from you! Please remember that I’m not an expert or a nutritionist, this was just a very honest take on my experiences and I’d love to hear yours too. xoxo.

Autumn at Chicago Botanic Garden

“An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” 

I spent my Sunday taking a stroll through Chicago’s beautiful Botanic Garden, appreciating the stillness of nature, feeling immense gratitude for every single moment, and praying hard for those who haven’t been as lucky around the world. Here’s to restoring peace & beauty for all, and an end to the insanity that’s tearing it all apart.

The gardens, through an autumn-colored lens:

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Create + Cultivate

I had the pleasure of attending Create + Cultivate yesterday, a conference for female entrepreneurs in the digital space and I just cannot. stop. smiling. What an incredible day filled with powerful, inspiring panelists who really pour their hearts and souls, 24/7, into nurturing their business. I’ve always been passionate about writing and launching a more public platform where I can share my creativity and my love for food, adventure, and travel, but my full-time job responsibilities have always held me back from making a real, meaningful commitment towards maintaining a blog.

Needless to say, I’m 100% inspired from yesterday’s conference and have decided that this is the year I’m going to truly launch mrs gcg and be bold about sharing my content with the world. Stay tuned for what’s to come 🙂 DSC00396 IMG_7180 IMG_7210