Snow and Salads

This post went live yesterday at the Green Phone Booth, but I thought I’d share it here too! We are finally home and settled back into our regular routine (which I love!!!). Yesterday we were hit with the first major snow storm of the year… I guess 2012 was just too mild that Mother Nature was in a hurry to pack it in for the year. And with 8 inches of snow in a matter of hours, I’d say it was successful.

I don’t plan to leave the house for a few days and that’s ok. The fridge is stocked and we have plenty of coffee. In the meantime, we’ll be having a salad loaded with cranberries, grilled chicken and kale for lunch. I bought some kale on Christmas eve so I’d be ready to detox all the rich foods we’ve been consuming over the last few days! The salad is filled with magnesium, calcium, iron and vitamin C. All of which are beneficial for healing bodies that have been thrown for a loop by eating foods we don’t typically eat while celebrating the holidays!

Cranberry and Chicken Salad with Millet
• 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast (grilled or baked)
• 2 cups kale, washed and stripped from the ribs
• 1 medium onion, diced
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 1 cup dried cranberries
• 1 cup millet, rinsed
• ½ cup balsamic vinegar
• ¼ cup. roasted sunflower seeds
• ½ tsp. paprika
• 1 tsp. dried mustard
• Salt and pepper to taste
• 2 Tbsp. olive oil
Place millet, a tiny pinch of salt and 3 cups of water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. When the water is absorbed, remove the pan from the heat, fluff the grains and cover until you are ready to add it to the rest of salad.
Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a skillet and bring to a medium heat. Add in the onions, kale, and garlic. Sauté until the kale is limp and the onions are tender. Sprinkle with paprika, mustard, salt and pepper. Toss thoroughly. Slice the chicken and add to the skillet. Stir so that the contents are well mixed. Reduce the heat to low and pour in the vinegar. Simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the millet and mix the ingredients well. Serve in bowls topped with the cranberries and sunflower seeds.

On Christmas organization

Christmas is a mere three days away and my Facebook feed is filling with friends and acquaintances declaring victory over the to-do list and sitting down in front of a tree surrounded by beautifully wrapped gifts and drinking an egg nog. I just wrapped my last gifts last night, programmed my children’s Leap Frog gifts and checked the piles one more time.

Canning cellar = Super secret present location

In our home, we wind up traveling a lot for the holidays. My in-laws live an hour away and we usually make two trips in a week because the reunion typically falls within days of the holiday (for 2012, it’s tonight). If we are going to my grandmother’s, she also lives an hour away and in the case of this year, we’ll also be going there twice in a week: Christmas Eve to celebrate with her, my father and youngest brother and then next weekend to celebrate with my uncles and cousins. Between November and January, we will have had 6 separate Christmas celebrations. It gets a little overwhelming and now I know why my parents would forget gifts at home or lose hidden ones!

For me, I start an idea list in the summer. Two of our nephews have birthdays in December and so we also have a birthday party to attend. On my list, I have the gifts grouped by event and when the date is known, I write that as well. Once I’m sure I know what we are purchasing for people, I write that item down and then I make an additional note: purchased/arrived/wrapped. I try to do as much of my shopping online as I can since I hate going into stores this time of year, hence the “arrived” slot. I cross each off as it is applicable.

All those shipping boxes sure come in handy since that’s what I use to separate out the gifts. Of course, I box them based on date needed and then when we are ready to leave, I just grab the appropriate box and head out the door! And believe me, when it’s a struggle to get your children convinced that a drive in the car won’t end in disaster (both kids detest their car seats), any bit of easy I can get is right up my alley!

I do Christmas cards, and this year they were done prior to Thanksgiving only because Hallmark had a sale in October and I had nothing to keep my hands busy one night while we watched a movie. Even though I printed photos to include in some of the cards, my total for 80 cards and photos was still less than $20. It’s the postage that gets you though… Anyway, I was happy with my cards and photos until I saw some of the photocards we were sent and I remembered why I always do those instead. Next year. There’s always next year…

Christmas has gotten easier for me over the years, even though we’ve had to add more celebrations and we’ve had our children. This year was the easiest, lowest stress and most enjoyable we’ve had in the 8 years since we started dating! Although, I should mention that I got to do it all by myself. Neither child was interested in choosing gifts for others and Matt has been working a lot lately, so I was able to just do my own thing. For me, doing my own thing, wrapping gifts alone in the basement after the kids went to bed made for a practically perfect way to usher in the holiday celebrations!

Snickerdoodle spin

Who loves snickerdoodles? Me!!! And when I’m in a pinch, breakfast becomes cookies. I’ve been adding as many nutritional factors as possible so I feel less guilty when those days do happen. Ahem.

Pumpkin Snickerdoodles

  • 1 cup butter, room temperature soft
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup pumpkin (or butternut squash) puree
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 cup wheat germ
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/2 ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
With your electric mixer, beat together the eggs, butter and sugar. Beat until the ingredients are light and fluffy. Stir in the vanilla and pumpkin. Sift the flour, wheat germ, baking powder, salt and spices together and then stir into the pumpkin batter.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and butter/line baking sheets. Mix together half a cup of sugar, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. ginger, 1/4 tsp. nutmeg and a pinch of salt. Scoop the dough in equal scoops (ice cream scoop still my favorite method to do this) and then roll the ball in the sugar/spice mixture. On a standard cookie sheet, you should be able to fit 12 cookies evenly spaced apart. With the bottom of a clean glass, press down the cookie so they are slightly flattened. Recoat the tops of the cookies with the sugar mixture if necessary.
Bake for 12-14 minutes. The recipe makes 3 1/2 to 4 dozen cookies.

 

Nutella does it… AGAIN!

There are some people who don’t think that oatmeal belongs in cookies. I on the other hand, think they make the cookies. This recipe makes almost 4 dozen GIANT cookies, so consider yourself warned. I used dark chocolate chips and mini m&ms because that’s what I had in the cupboard, but you could use any combination of mix-ins you like. Nuts. Chocolate: white, dark, semi-sweet. Heck, you could even make a mixture of dried fruit and chocolate.

I love this recipe because I added Nutella and used both smooth and creamy peanut butters. So the cookie is crispy around the edges, but the center is chewy. They pack well and the batter stores very nicely until you’re ready to use it.

Nutella Monster Cookies

  • 1 stick soft butter
  • 1 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  •  3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup Nutella
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup wheat germ
  • 4 cups rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 cups mix-ins: chocolate, candy, dried fruit, nuts
Cream together the butter, sugars and eggs. Then, blend in the peanut butters and nutella. Stir in the rest of the ingredients and mix the candy in as evenly as you can. Scoop the dough onto a lined cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

On cookie baking, chaos and children

Growing up, cookie baking for the holidays was a big, family event. Mom would put it on the calendar and we’d all gather around the kitchen table rolling, cutting, dusting… whatever needed done. We usually started in November and froze the cookie which were then pulled out and thawed in time to be shared with friends and family. We always made Bethlehem Star Cookies, Sour Cream roll out cookies and Thumbprints.

My first Christmas in my own home was far different than I had anticipated and so I baked. Almost 12 dozen cookies. I wasn’t really good at making decisions that year. Over the years, my cookie baking has decreased and one year I even used store bought cookie dough (gasp!). Last year, the cookies I baked were thanks to a cookie exchange with my MOPS table. If not for that exchange, I doubt I would have even tried.

This year, my children are both interested not only in the baking process, but the eating of the cookies. In fact, Sylvi who applies a less-is-more attitude to speaking has been fairly vocal about her love of “kee-kees”. Liam, having a few years experience, is more than happy to help me usher in all the baked goods. In theory, this is the makings of an idyllic Sunday afternoon spent baking with adorable children, holiday music in the background and plenty of photographs to look back on and smile. Note that I said “in theory”.

Perhaps it’s just my kids. Perhaps it’s their age. Perhaps my enormous kitchen isn’t really all that helpful when it comes to holiday baking with the under 4 set. I’m not sure. But the first cookie baking attempt with both children as helpers ended with all three of us in tears and a dozen organic eggs smashed on the floor. Upon scrubbing the floor, I decided we needed a new plan and got to business.

So far, I’ve baked 5 different kinds of cookies. And aside from that first experience, they’ve all been peaceful.  I used one afternoon to whip up several cookie doughs, packed them in tupperware and labeled them with a post-it. Then, I hung all the recipes on the side of the fridge and waited until we needed an activity. This way, the kids are helping me put the cookies on the sheets, but no one is fighting over who gets to do what. It’s also worked out that I’ve baked each batch with the kids separately. And what a blessing that is! It’s been a mini date with Mama every time we bake… Sylvi hasn’t gotten the same amount of one-on-one during the day (believe me though, all those loooong nights she got plenty of mama time, I just like to hang out with her when I’m not struggling to stay awake.) so I was grateful for the time with just her.

Sylvi and her mini-me mixer helping bake

Liam isn’t as into baking this year as he has been in the past… he just wants to eat. But it’s all new to Sylvi, so she’s been my helper far more often than Liam. We have one more batch of cookies to make for the neighbors and our mailman and then I think our sugar fest will take a break. At least until Valentine’s Day anyway.

In My Own Handwriting

Welcome to the December 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Childhood Memories

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have talked about memories of growing up — their own or the ones they’re helping their children create. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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During this carnival, you’re probably going to read a lot of warm, fuzzy posts about the amazing memories harbored from childhood or the ones hoped to be created in their children. Perhaps there will be some here and there that talk about wanting to create a better life for their own children. Mine… well, I struggle with memories. I love my family and the memories that are good, but I also recognize that the memories that I will never share with them have the power to make me very fearful.

My baby book is filled out in my mother’s precise script. Her journal has entry after entry with details about my milestones and our life. My brother’s baby book had almost nothing written in it. And it’s not because I was the first born, it’s because my mother was very ill when my brother was born and the detailed memories weren’t recorded for him like they were me. When I put together my youngest brother’s baby book, I pulled the information from my own journals and not my mother’s because she wasn’t recording things anymore.

Christmas brings the most vivid memories of my childhood to light: The stockings hanging on the staircase in our home on Maple St. Lighting the Advent candles Sunday afternoons after church while Dad read aloud from Luke 2. Sneaking around in my parent’s bedroom hunting for our gifts… unwrapping and re-wrapping so they wouldn’t know. My mom baking a cake on Christmas Eve so we could have it for breakfast the next morning.

Perhaps, I’m a little nutty about documenting our memories. I have scores of digital files neatly organized and dated, baby books carefully filled in for each child… including the date I discovered each tooth. I have stacks of journals from as far back as 1989. Each book written in my scrawling, haphazard penmanship is filled with the minute details of my life as a child, as a teen, as a college student and as an adult. I write lists and notes and save my calendars so I have a reference for my children if something happens to me.

In part, I write all these details down for myself. I’ll never get to share the fun things the kids say and do with my mother or my grandpa, but I can write them out for myself to read over and over. And when I’m old and gray and my memory isn’t as vivid as I wish it to be, I can flip to the appropriate book and find the answer to the question my daughter could be asking about her toddlerhood temper. Perhaps, her daughter will love the stories about her mama and will curl up in my bedroom to read. Regardless if I ever share my memories with others, regardless if anyone tries to decipher my handwriting, it’s written down. Nothing needs to be forgotten if we don’t want it to be.

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be updated by afternoon December 11 with all the carnival links.)

  • Childhood Memories of Peace, Support, Joy, and Love — Amber at Heart Wanderings wants to make sure the majority of the memories that her children have as a part of their family are ones that are positive and help support the amazing people that they are now and will become as adults.
  • Hand Made Baby Books — Destany at They Are All of Me talks about why baby books are important to her for preserving memories of her childrens first years, and shows how she made one by hand for each child.
  • Can your childhood memories help you keep your cool?Here’s To A Boring Year uses memories of being a child to keep her on the path to peaceful parenting.
  • Inter-Generational Memories {Carnival of Natural Parenting} — Meegs at A New Day talks about her own childhood memories, and what she hopes her daughter will remember in the future.
  • Snapshots — ANonyMous at Radical Ramblings reflects on the ways our childhood memories appear to us, and hopes her own daughter’s childhood will be one she remembers as being happy and fulfilled.
  • What makes the perfect parent? — In a guest post on Natural Parents Network, Mrs Green from Little Green Blog reflects on camp follow and camp no-follow…
  • In My Own Handwriting — Laura from Pug in the Kitchen talks about her journals and the hope that they will be able to keep her stories alive even if she isn’t able to.
  • Candlelight, fairylight, firelight — Lucy at Dreaming Aloud re-discovers the ingredients for bringing magic to life, especially at Christmas.
  • Making Memories (or) How We Celebrate Christmas — Rosemary at Rosmarinus Officinalis talks about creating new memories at Christmas, and the joy their adventures bring to her whole family.
  • The Importance of Recording Feelings and Emotions and Not Just the Experience — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares why she puts pen to paper every day to record more than just her experiences as a mother and her daughter’s experiences as a child. Jennifer looks at the importance of capturing feelings and emotions that accompany the experience.
  • Dredged up — Kenna at Million Tiny Things has been forced to recount childhood memories at bedtime, due to the failure of her middle-aged imagination. She resists, of course.
  • Crafting Memories — Handmade is what makes the holidays special for Christy at Eco Journey In the Burbs, and she wants to create the same connection with her daughters that she remembers with mother and grandmother.
  • My Childhood Memories; beacons of light in the darkness Stone Age Parent shares the impact of her childhood memories on her life as a parent today, listing some of her many rich childhood memories and how they now act as beacons of light helping her in the complex, often confusing world of child-rearing.
  • 10 Ways I Preserve Memories for My Children — From video interviews to time capsules, Dionna at Code Name: Mama wants to make sure her children have many different ways to cherish their childhood memories. Dionna’s carnival post features ten of the ways she preserves memories; check out her Pinterest board for more ideas.
  • Memories of my mother — Luschka at Diary of a First Child remembers her mother and the fondest moments of her childhood, especially poignant as she sits by her mother’s sickbed writing.
  • Creating Happy Childhood Memories through Family Traditions — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells why family traditions are so important to her and her family and shares how she’s worked to create traditions for her children.
  • Traditional Christmas Tree — Jaye Anne at Wide Awake, Half Asleep remembers the great times spent with her family driving for the Christmas Tree and the lessons learned.
  • Wet Socks and Presents — Kat at MomeeeZen writes about her favorite Christmas childhood memory and why it’s so special. And she hopes one day her kids will also have a feel-good memory of their own to look back on.
  • Stuff does not equal memories — Lauren at Hobo Mama learns that letting go does not mean failing to remember.
  • A Child’s Loss- Will They Remember Dad? — Erica at ChildOrganics writes about their family’s loss of their husband and father. She trys to find answers to the question: Will they remember their Dad?
  • Childhood Memories – Hers and Mine — Jorje of Momma Jorje wished for her daughter the same passions and experiences she loved as a child, but learns the hard way to accept whatever passions strike in her child.
  • Holiday Non-TraditionsErika Gebhardt enjoys her family’s tradition of not having traditions for the holidays.

 

Cranberries: food of power!!!

Today, I wrote a food spotlight for the Mommy and Me Fitness Blog on Cranberries… gosh I love them!  So check out the blog and then go make a batch, or two of these muffins.  You’ll thank me, I’m sure of it!

Cranberry-Citrus Power Muffins

  • 3.5 cups flour
  • ¼ cup flax meal
  • ¼ cup wheat germ
  • 2 tsp. Baking powder
  • 1 tsp. Baking soda
  • 1 tsp. Salt
  • 3 cups raw cranberries
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups plain Greek Yogurt
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 3 tsp. Orange extract
  • zest of half an orange

In a large bowl, combine the wet ingredients and mix well.  Sift together the dry ingredients and stir into the wet ingredients until well mixed.  Pour in the cranberries and stir to combine.  Fill 3 dozen muffin cups with batter about 2/3 full.  Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

The first cookies of the season!

I have a beautiful cookie jar, but I don’t usually keep anything in it until Christmas comes along. Actually, I have a different cookie jar for Christmas cookies so… I guess I don’t use it. But then, I don’t often make cookies these days. They’re too easy to eat mindlessly.  At least if I bake a cake I have to put forth effort to go get a plate and a fork and hide while I eat it. Yes. I have to hide while I eat cake.  If I don’t, I won’t get any of the cake due to my children’s sudden and intense interest in anything sweet I eat. Occupational hazard, I suppose.

All that said, I may just have to keep this cookie on hand. I never tried butterscotch chips before and they were on sale one day while I was wandering the bulk food store so I bought a bag. Why not, right?  I love how filling this cookie is and the kids gobble them right down, so at least they get plenty of fiber from it too. You can always swap the wheat germ for flour if you don’t have it: the texture and taste of the cookie isn’t impacted at all. I leave it in because in the event that this cookie is a hasty breakfast, I have much less regret.

Oatmeal Butterscotch cookies

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup wheat germ
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup. butterscotch chips
Beat together the butter, egg and sugars. Stir in the rest of the ingredients by hand, adding the chips last. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees while you to line/butter your baking sheets. Scoop the dough onto the sheets, I use the medium Pampered Chef scoop, but if you don’t have one you want to use a scoop about equal to 2 Tablespoons. My baking sheets are standard size, so they hold a full dozen cookies. Bake for 12-15 minutes and cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet before removing. Finish cooling on a wire rack.
Cookies will store in an airtight container for 2 weeks or you could freeze them for up to 3 months. They do freeze wonderfully, by the way!

Long over due link love

So what’s going on around your home?  Here it’s been primarily sickness, but I am hopeful that we’ve gotten it all behind us so we can enjoy all the holiday events without incident.  I mean really… is there anything more pathetic than a preschooler laid out on the couch, miserable?

However, in the midst of all this, I’ve managed to finish my Christmas shopping, yay!  And sent out all our Christmas cards. We had family photos taken last weekend, but Sylvi was sick with a high fever and I’m not totally in love with the product.  But oh well, we’re documented as we are.

I’ve been sewing a lot… a LOT. I made a new pincushion… that was long overdue. I was using a pincushion my mother had in 4H. She would have been 59 right now. Mmmm, I hate to say this, but my new one is way cuter than Mom’s.  Sorry 4H. And then, I whipped up this adorable top. Almost can’t wait for summer now! Also, working on a crib sheet for my cousin’s baby and I have a skirt in the works for Sylvi.

I’ve been learning about myself in the last few weeks, too. PhD in Parenting had an awesome post about introversion and I felt compelled to purchase the book she mentioned. I don’t have tons of time to read anymore, but I bought the book Quiet on Nook so that I can read it on my phone or my Nook whenever I have the time. If you are the kind of person who isn’t energized by social situations and have always felt like something is “wrong” with you as a result, I highly recommend this book. In a society where the Queen Bees and Kingpins are idolized, it’s important to value your needs even when they don’t match everyone else’s.

I also discovered Etsy. Not that I didn’t already know about it, it’s just that I’m in love with the creativity I’ve found! Gretchen of That Mama Gretchen hosted a Scarf Tour on the blog and I just absorbed everything she wrote. And then I bought this scarf and this scarf from her Etsy shop. I also bought a scarf from Global Girlfriends in support of women in India. Gretchen changed my ideas about accessorizing. I have worked hard to get myself into the gym and continue working on my health and I tell you sometimes, it just takes an updated look to remind you that you’re not just mom.

So as I spend this week working on Christmas gifts for my MOPS table, finishing my sewing projects and hopefully working out a few new posts… I’m crazy about cranberries and I feel the need to share. But that’s just a teaser to keep you interested. Hopefully.