New Western Suburbs Coffee Roaster

If you know me well, you probably know a few of my quirky food and beverage preferences including sandwiches as my favorite food and the fact that I drink iced coffee year round. Leaves or snow, hell or high water, it's just my feel-good pick-me-up. I'm no stranger Starbucks (mainly because there's a super convenient drive-thru right next to my office), but given the choice, I would prefer a non-chain/mom & pop coffee establishment. It's one of my favorite parts of visiting new places...whether it's a surrounding suburb or a different state, I always insist we try a local coffee spot for breakfast so I was pretty thrilled to find out there's an up-and-coming coffee roaster not too far from my office.

Maple Leaf Coffee Roasters is an artisan coffee roaster based in Roselle, IL who aims to serve both the casual coffee drinker and coffee obsessive by offering a variety of roasts, origins and carefully crafted options for individuals and businesses. Founded in 2018 by husband and wife team Alex Behrens and Lynn Greetis, the MLCR duo has a mission to share their favorite coffees with friends and neighbors, as well as a way to honor their love of Canada. They strive to offer flavor choices for every palette imaginable – from the casual coffee drinker to the aficionado.

I have always had interest in opening my own coffee shop, so I asked the Maple Leaf Team questions like, "how did you get into this" (3oz at a time in the kitchen) and "when will you get to opening a cafe that I can come sit in all day?" (read all about their answer here). I also found out more about the brand and what makes them special. Find out a little more about MLCR...


THEY ARE CREATORS OF SMALL BATCH SPECIALITY COFFEE
They research, source and roast coffee in small batches and tell you on every bag when they did it (roasted on date). They are dedicated to putting quality into everything they offer and carefully crafting each and every batch to be a truly stellar cup of coffee!

THEY ARE HERE TO FIND THE BEST COFFEE FOR YOU
No matter what you drink or how you drink it, they are going to have something that fit your taste. It doesn’t matter if you are a Starbucks, Dunkin or McDonald’s coffee drinker or patronize one of their friends in the artisan roaster community — they have something for you. Most times, they feature over 10 different roasts from light to dark. Some of their coffee is available year round and some change from time to time.

THEY ARE A PART OF THE COMMUNITY
Maple Leaf Coffee Roasters is proud to be part of the Roselle business community and give back to the place they live. They partner with Roselle businesses like Little Red Ribbon, Pollyanna, Chocolate Inspirations and Orange Theory. They support local charities and organizations like the PTO, Girl Scouts, 5k’s and Trunk or Treat events.


It’s not often that those of us who live in the Midwest can walk in to a small, specialty coffee roaster and see the process in action but that's one of the best parts about this new spot. You can sign up for a tour to learn a description of the roasting process, see a live demonstration, and learn how the purchasing of beans is done. I look forward to taking a tour myself but in the meantime, I was lucky enough to try a batch of their cold brew which was fantastic! I found it to be pretty strong (which certainly helps when running after a toddler all day) and I added a little bit of almond milk to make the perfect latte at home.

If you live in or near Dupage County, make sure to stop by and support this new local business who is working so hard to become a part of the community. You can see where to find them, the hours, current roasts, tour schedules and more on their website.

Cheers!

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A Few Reasons Why We Love Meez Meals

For the first 4 years that we were married (which was pre-kids), I would spend time researching new recipes on Pinterest, order the ingredients on Peapod and then make the meal, many of which were not quick and easy, because I wanted to make "nice" meals for us. I didn't really understand portions so we never really had enough for leftovers which meant making a new meal every day and not to mention, I was wasting money on oils or spices that we would use for one dinner and then never again so they would take up room in our pantry until they eventually expired. This cycle wasn't efficient but it worked alright for us -- until we had our son. During his first year and even now that he has just turned two, researching recipes is the last priority on my long list of a million "to-do's." We no longer have time to dedicate to making elaborate meals from scratch but we also don't want to succumb to chicken nuggets and mac&cheese every night either so being in this "limbo" phase led us to try a few different meal services and by FAR, the winner is Meez Meals

I shared a little bit about them in this post when we just started using them but I wanted to circle back with an update now that it's 9 months later to share that we are still using the service and love it more than ever. The recipes are super easy to follow (more than any other meal service we tried) and take anywhere from 20-40 minutes from start to table which is KEY for us. My husband is a teacher so he's home during the Summer and semi-early on weekdays so we take turns making these meals during the week which is great because even though he doesn't have a "passion" for cooking, these recipes are easy enough for him to follow and I think he enjoys having a hand in making a healthy dinner for the Family. 


We have ordered this Chicken Satay Noodle Bowl 3 times now because it's THAT good! I like that they repeat the menu offerings now and then because you will definitely develop favorites.

Most of all, I love that you can just place an order whenever you want because there's no crazy subscriptions or need to freeze your ordering if you plan on being out of town. The email and text reminders make it easy to place your order (get them in by Fridays at noon!) and I think the prices are fair. Plus, we love the selection of meals...we usually order two meals (for 3 servings each) so we have enough for 2 dinners and 2 leftovers for lunches. We budget for this each week so we still have more than enough to grab some other easy foods from the store for non-Meez dinners like pasta, brats, Italian beef, etc. I post it about it all the time, not for any other reason than we're just huge fans and I have turned a few of my friends and Family members onto it as well - My Mom orders every week now too and has gotten my Dad to eat some veggies which is a win in itself!

Want to up your dinner game? Use code Kait50p at checkout
 for 50% off your first order!

If you aren't convinced yet, here's 6 of our favorite Meez Meals:

Pasta with Spinach Pesto

Toasted Gnocchi with Asparagus and Edamame 

Hawaiian Paella

 Roasted Red Pepper Gnocchi with Smoked Sausage and Pesto

Cauliflower "Friend Rice" with Chicken and Pea Pods

Steak & Quinoa Bowl

Let me know if you have any questions about Meez! I love talking about it because I want everyone to test it out and become just as obsessed :) 

You can also see more of our Meez Meals on my Instagram highlights!


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A Letter to my Son on his 2nd Birthday


My sweet Ro,

For the first few months after we brought you home from the hospital, I had this reoccurring dream: I would wake up in a PANIC in the middle of the night, thinking I had fallen asleep while nursing you and that you had ended up in our bed somewhere. I swear I saw the outline of your tiny newborn face, laying right next to me and would freak out that I hadn't put you back in your bassinet. This happened regularly and was just one of many parenting worries to come. Maybe it's because I was so nervous in our new phase of life and worried that we were doing something wrong along the way...

But now, as we approach your 2nd birthday, I look at you and know, we've done so much right.

Ronan, 1 years // 2 years

This past year with you has surely been the best yet. Selfishly, I think that's partly because you could never want me around more than you do right now. Just recently, you started saying, "I luh ewe, Mama," and I never knew I could feel so much joy from one sentence. We are best friends who do everything together and even though I know you will create your own circle of friends one day, I hope I'll always be your definition of home. 


I feel so lucky you are mine: You are the most loving, curious, exuberant, stubborn, strong-willed and sweet boy who is growing up beautifully and I am more proud of you than you can ever understand. It doesn't matter how long or difficult the day, every time you fall asleep in my arms and I stare at your still-baby face, I melt all over. My heart explodes just by watching you experience life and do the most mundane things... 

When you wake in the morning, I hear "Mama" on the monitor almost immediately and we begin our day, which is filled with no less than 2,874 "Mama's," over the next 12 hours which tests my patience at times but more often than not, makes me feel loved. You follow me into every room, look for my approval and get excited to show me all of your accomplishments. Lately, those include learning new words every single day, filling up your own cup of water at the fridge, scooping dog food for Fitz (and inevitably spilling half on the floor) and talking about every animal and the noises they make (with lions and ducks being the frontrunners).


You offer greetings to every living and non-living object: The birds ("b's"), our neighbors lion made of stone ("bye line!"), the ceramic bunny in our front yard ("hi bun!") and my new favorite, our dog Fitzgerald ("hi puppy gerald!"). You never sit down. You ask to watch Peppa Pig first thing in the morning and promptly tell us "NO!" if we try to put on any other show. You cherish your Peppa figurines, taking them out of your basket and lining them up on the shelf, calling each one by name. You say "Ohhh noooo" when you are concerned (especially if the oven timer beeps or your band-aid falls off). You recently discovered how much you enjoy the pool and I think our swim lessons have been a huge help with that. You are very much your own person who does things his own way. Every "first" with you continues to be magical for Dad and I, including your first trick or treating this past Halloween, your first visit to Santa at Christmas (no tears = victory!), easter egg hunting, your first carnival ride and watching you learn how to have conversations with us -- like most things you do, you handled all of these new endeavors fearlessly. 




Our hearts hurt when you are disappointed, swell when you are extra sweet and beat just a tad faster every day, as we cautiously watch you navigate life. Your happiness, self-esteem, values and morals matter more to us than anything else and most days, I feel pretty good about what our little Family is doing to make sure we meet all of these goals. You are so smart and we look forward to seeing how you change the world...

but in the meantime, we've been a little 
busy since you turned 1... 

August 2018

September 2018

October 2018

November 2018

December 2018

January 2019

February 2019

March 2019

April 2019

May 2019

June 2019

July 2019

August 2019

I wish so many things for you but in this moment, I wish you could stay this little, innocent and protected from harm longer than time allows. Right now, you don't know any real sadness or heartache and I would do anything to protect that security forever. When you were born, it was hard to imagine loving you anymore than we did on August 3rd but oh my, nothing to compares to our feelings for you now.


Thank you for making me a Mama and giving me the best two years of my life. 
I look forward to all of our adventures yet to come. 

Happy 2nd birthday, my love.

Your Mama.
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Making "Mom Friends"

If you're lucky like me, you have one of those friend circles that's been together since the early days (and very late nights) of pool parties and poker nights. Beer pong and bar hopping. The same group of people who will be gathering in someone's Family room 20 years from now, with wine and the same but not tired inside jokes. These people are loyal and a second Family in many ways. We've endured break-ups, witnessed get-togethers, danced at each other's weddings, become homeowners and begun parenthood together. Our roots began many years ago and seemingly, everyone has these relationships that they've been building since they were little. This can make it hard to forge new friendships as an adult and find a way to fit other people into your life.

...Until you become a Mom, I think. 


Then all of a sudden, you have this little human by your side who is a magnet for conversation starters. How old is he? He's so cute! What's his name? Is he talking yet? Before I had a baby, there would have been no catalyst to facilitate such an in-depth convo with a stranger in the TJ's line. But now that I'm always out in the world as a duo, it happens constantly and it's a strange concept, really. Sparking discussion with a stranger, trading "me too" and "I know the feeling"(s), feeling suddenly connected and hoping you have more in common than your children. It feels similar to the beginning of a blind date and so far, I've been been really lucky with "swiping left," to put it in modern dating context.

Together, Ronan and I visit a lot of play spaces - Every single one in Dupage County to be specific ;), including our local library on a weekly basis. Because we are there so often, I have begun to recognize many of the familiar Mom faces who are also on a mission to simply get out of the house. Last September, I was chasing him around the children's area and noticed (an admittedly trendy looking Mom with cute style I was eyeing) doing the same with her toddler. I asked how old her son was and minutes later, we were deep into a conversation about how our beloved dogs have now become pests and nap schedules. We went to breakfast a few days later which felt totally normal, as if we had known each other for years. Without a second thought, we launched into a conversation about our lives: Our backgrounds, kids, aspirations, Mom wins/losses, working from home challenges, etc. I found it so easy to connect with her and found myself texting her almost every day after. It's now 7 months later and she has become one of those girlfriends I feel I can trust with anything. She moved here last year not knowing anyone and sometimes, it feels like we were supposed to meet that day.


As another recent example, I met a Mom through Ronan's music class. If we're being honest, he isn't always the most compliant child, especially in a structured group setting because he's very much an explorer who has no interest in sitting or following the leader. This was very obvious to the rest of the class, as I spent most every week chasing him and pulling him back to my lap, with one specific class being harder than the others in terms of testing my patience. That day, this Mom reached out and said something that made all the difference: "Trust me, you're not alone." Sometimes, that's all we need to hear, isn't it? The next class, I mentioned grabbing lunch sometime, we exchanged numbers and met up for a playdate a week later.

These kind of interactions do take a little bit of "going out on a limb" to reach out and extend an invitation. Who knows if the other person is going to think it's strange or be a total mismatch when you actually get to know their personality? But I think more often than not, we are open to solidarity in Motherhood and womanhood in general. We welcome connections with others who make us feel good and those we can call on when we need something. Those who can empathize, making us feel less alone in all of life's challenges.


Ronan has definitely allowed me to become more extroverted and candid with new people and if you're willing to expand your social circle, I think children offer so many opportunities to meet a lot of amazing women who may end up being in our lives forever in one way or another. He has also allowed me to become closer with many of my longtime girlfriends, by making me more vulnerable and strengthening our bonds. Outside of my husband and immediate Family, it is my girlfriends who have been the biggest support system during these first few years of Motherhood. I have relied on them for so much, whether it was their shoulders to cry on, breast feeding how-to sessions, text threads with free advice that's worth so much, a million playdates at each others houses and a few moments we have spent childless together, relishing in our (cocktail-fueled) temporary freedom that was previously under appreciated.


But even if you're not a Mother, the moral of the story is the same: Girlfriends simply make our lives better. Instead of being close-minded about opening up your circle, try finding a little extra room. Compliment another woman's shoes in line at Starbucks. Tell her you also read that book and how it became a fast favorite. Schedule a yoga meet-up. Say hello. Smile. You never know who you will meet and how a little extra kindness and shared connections can make the difference.

- - -

How do you make friends as an adult? 
If you ARE a Mama, do you find children have made it easier?


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Baby Lately: 17 Months

It's been awhile since I wrote a baby (toddler 😂) update and more than anything, I just like to document things here now and then because it's an online diary of sorts and I enjoy coming back to see what we were doing together. Ro was 10 months in the last post of this series and needless to say, a lot has happened and changed in that time. As he's grown, I have claimed many stages to be "my favorite," but here I am, saying it again. He's just shy of 18 months (which seems like one of those WHOA milestones) and continuing to morph into the sweetest little man with a big heart and lots of opinions

When I ask him to give me a kiss, he plants a big slobbery wet one on my lips. He walks over to give me hugs all day long and waits for me at the bottom of the stairs, yelling until I come back. He certainly doesn't like when I leave the room and follows me every time I do, often times gnawing on the bottom of my shirt or scratching at my pants. He's definitely in a strong Mama phase, though if we're being honest, I secretly hope this is one he never grows out of. Here's hoping he still loves me this much at 18 years old...minus the shirt eating ;) He's becoming much more independent, acting upset when I try to feed him because he can do it himself (or so he tries) and is also very proud of his nightly teeth brushing routine, pushing his stool to the sink and brushing up and down, just like Mom. It's fair to say we spend almost every waking minute together and yes, there are some inevitable moments where I'm grinding my teeth, counting down the seconds until I get a break (especially after cabin fever builds up during the polar vortex)!. But, then the break comes, and I just end up looking at pictures of him or blogging about him ;) He's growing up beautifully and is the love of my life.


What He's Up To...

Eating:

Fruit: Even when he's going through a food freeze and refusing to eat, he'll still chow down on fruit. He almost never refuses it, especially its blackberries (obsessed), strawberries, blueberries, grapes and most recently, cherries. We've started going to Costco for our weekly fruit haul because he goes through it so fast and we can't keep up. Also, I don't remember the last time I had a damn strawberry because there's none left by the time I get to them. Just sayin!

Mac & Cheese: The bane of every parents existence. I try pretty hard to diversify his eating habits and choices but when it comes down to it, his taste is pretty simple and he just wants to devour Annie's mac which I've come to love as well because let's be honest, I usually scarf his cold leftovers for lunch. Gotta rotate between the white cheddar shells and the classic blue box to keep things fresh and interesting over here.

Meatballs: Loves 'em. The ones from Buona Beef are his jam but he doesn't discriminate. 

Pizza: Makes sense, because we've been participating in "Pizza Friday" with Mike's parents for as long as I've been in the Family (and his whole life before me!) so it's basically in Ro's blood/DNA/all that jazz. On new years eve, he ate an entire mini pizza and still had room for appetizers and dessert. When he wants to, he can certainly pack it away!

Dino Chicken Tenders: Because who wants to eat them in a normal shape?

French Toast Sticks: I won't lie - These have become a Family favorite. Frozen box from Aldi, pop them in the micro (but better in the oven) and enjoy. Holy cow, are those good! Remember when I used to eat healthy for breakfast? Me either.

Playing:

Overall: Ro is slowly getting better at independent play. Though, because I am home with him 3x a week, he is used to me being around him alllll day long so he still prefers me to be close, if not, directly interacting with him in whatever he is doing. I have noticed recently, his attention span has improved and he will play with one toy for longer periods of time instead of moving from thing to thing every 2 minutes. He is MOST interested in whatever I am doing at the time - If it's dishes, he tries to take them out/put them in...If it's baking, he HAS to stand at the counter with me, so I pull up his helper stool and he helps me add ingredients in and watches the mixer...If I'm drying my hair, he follows me into the bathroom and flushes the toilet incessantly. As frustrating as some of these things can be in the moment (because everything takes 10x longer), I also think it's adorable how he wants to imitate us and very sweet watching him try and often, clapping because he's so proud of himself .



Hape Toys: If there was a "Mom's favorite children's toy" category, this brand would definitely win mine. I am a HUGE fan of their products and if I had to start over with our toy collection, I would probably buy exclusively from them. Hape Toys is one of the world’s largest producers of toys made from sustainable materials. The products are creatively designed, eco-friendly and so good at fostering imagination and age-appropriate learning basics; social, sensory, physical and emotional skills. 

Ronan currently loves playing with the pop up toaster set and to be honest, so do I. We spend a lot of time in the kitchen together, baking and him, just watching me make breakfast/lunch/dinner/clean so he's very interested in everything that goes on in there. 
That's why he also enjoys the coffee maker which they have at our library and the grill, which we recently played with at Waterlemon. These kid-size version of adult accessories and appliances are some of the cutest and most inventive products and they definitely didn't make them like this when I was little. On our Hape wish list? The Smoothie Blender, Cash Register and Waffle Maker. Ok, I'm starting to wonder if these things are higher on my wish list than his but they're SO DAMN CUTE. 

Visiting: 

Our Library(ies): We are very fortunate to be surrounded by some of the BEST libraries in the area. Our town's library is amazing and before kids, I never knew how much I would end up utilizing it. We are here on a weekly basis, enjoying the play area, attending a story time or checking out books (which I've started to do for myself as well. Why was I buying so many for my Kindle?!). In addition to this one, we have 2-3 others in neighboring towns that we love going to and since our library card works at all of them, it makes it really convenient to check out and return no matter where we are. The Darien Library is another one of our favorites because Ro loves the kitchen setup and different baskets of activities they have to offer. The library is great when you just want to get out for a few hours and save money...you know, the opposite going to Target just to "walk around" and end up spending $100 in their dollar section. Whoops! We've also visited Woodridge, Elmhurst (mostly because there's a Brew Point inside!) and next on our list is Hinsdale. I love seeing how different they all are.



Kidstreet: This little gem is one of my favorite places to take him because there's a wide variety of things for him to do there so he's always engaged and big PLUS, the Grounds for Hope Cafe that's attached is super convenient, not to mention delicious. I typically let him play for an hour or so, meandering to each of the different rooms and then we break for a snack (and an iced coffee for Mom), before playing a little more and heading home for a nap. The rooms are huge and organized by age group so that kids can get social interaction with their own age groups, but they have the opportunity to go wherever they please. It's always clean, safe and well tended to so I feel good about bringing him here.



Waterlemon: This adorable play space is new to downtown La Grange and we're already big fans! This place is definitely a one-of-a-kind concept because it includes a boutique featuring unique children’s clothes, toys, party décor and gifts. There is also a café which serves coffee and snacks and the play place, suited for children 0-5. The decor is basically a Mom's Pinterest board dream come to life, carefully curated in trendy and stylish way, appealing to both children AND parents. Seriously, I wish our house looked like this and I'm not just talking about Ronan's play areas. Everything is clean, modern and the space is filled with every cool toy you wish your child had at home. We could spend all day here and next time we come, I fully intend to. Plus, I love that it's a Family owned operation and you can tell they are really pouring their heart and soul into it.



Funzone: This is place you go when you have cabin fever and have been stuck inside for 5 days because it's -6 degrees out and you're losing your mind (aka us recently). It's pretty close to us and is by far the cheapest of our outings at just $5 for the whole day. It has an arcade, playground for bigger kids (though Ro loves this part the most, giggling as we chase him throughout it), toddler area, bumper cars, laser tag and a decent-ish restaurant and bar inside. We recently wanted to hang out with some our friends (half who have kids and half who don't) so we all met up here for dinner because it allowed all of us to talk and have a few beers and those of us who are parents didn't have to find any babysitters. Plus, some of my guy friends got pretty into the arcade games- seriously, there really is something for everyone.


Dupage Children's Museum: This place is also in our top 5 but I feel like it requires a solid commitment because it's a bit of a hike for us to get there and there's so much to see so we just don't get there as often as I'd like. We are members because it's a great option to have in the Wintertime and they have so much to offer in addition to the museum staples. For example, we're doing "Breakfast with Daniel Tiger" soon and I look forward to trying other things like Family Night Out or Playshop. I feel so lucky to have so many amazing kind resources so close by!


Working On:

  • Transitioning off the bottle: I know Mom's opinions are all over the place on this topic but for us PERSONALLY, I am not in a huge rush. Our pediatrician suggested we continue with it until at least 18 months and then see how's he doing so I've bought a few different kinds of sippy cups and try to offer milk in there sometimes. I can't say there's been a lot of (or any!) success with that so far because this kid is obsessed with his "ba ba" and my soft Mama heart just isn't ready to go through the process yet. Much like everything else we've done together, I feel he will let me know when he is more ready. That or, his 2nd birthday will come around and I'll have to put my foot down 😂
  • Talking: Ro's always been more mobile than vocal and from what I've seen from friends kids and stories from our parents, it seems that one usually develops more heavily than the other first. He understands everything we say and impresses me every day with how smart he is, yet is still slow on saying a lot of actual words. There's a lot of new sounds these days and I can tell how hard he is trying and that he sometimes gets frustrated he can't accurately convey his feelings but 99% of the time, I know exactly what he wants and give it him within seconds so really, how hard does he have to try? Mike and I are being more conscious of making him say the word before doing what he wants though nothing is cuter than seeing him make the sign for "please" before everything :) 
  • Staying in the crib! He has climbed out the pack and play at my parents house and has figured out how to climb in and out of almost everything else so we're just praying this doesn't happen for AWHILE. If he lays in there too long in the morning before we get him, he will try to lift his leg over but he's not nearly tall enough...yet. Oh, the anxiety! 

- - - 

When people ask me lately how I'm doing, I feel like my answer is always, "busy." Every time. But, I would be lying if I said anything else. We're truly in that phase of life where everything seems chaotic and nonstop all the time but I am trying to embrace it for everything it is and p.s. if I feel this way with only one kid (and a very needy albeit loving, dog). I can only imagine how much more we will be able to charge for our circus whenever we decide to add to the Family. Ah, another post for another (future) day. For now, we are happy, healthy, exhausted and blessed.

Mama's with babies/toddlers at home: What are they currently loving/hating/getting into? 
Should we add any places, foods or toys to our list? Tips and tricks? I want to hear it all!

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