Thursday, December 29, 2011

Back in the saddle.

Life has a way of running away from me when I am not looking.  The "Intentional Christmas" I had envisioned for myself and my family was not what I planned, but it was meaningful and enrapturing just the same.  

I am a "Let's-make-it-look-like-Christmas-threw-up-in-here-the-day-after-Thanksgiving" sort of girl.

That.  Didn't.  Happen.  

For obvious reasons, moving in December didn't accommodate that tradition.

Consequently, the Christmas season seemed abbreviated.  And simple.  That was sort of my intention, so perhaps God knew what was best after all. 

We were able to enjoy one full week of Christmas decor (which we wisely limited to the big tree, a small tree, the nativity scene and a wreath on the door).  Originally, my stellar hubby decreed that the tree, along with its accompanying decor would be up until the end of January since we'd hardly had time enjoy it.  However, thanks to my sweet princess (mostly my 2-year-old Lovey), I have a wiseman missing a hand, a wiseman missing his pointy hat, a box full of broken ornaments to fix and partridge in a pear tree.  


They will boxed up today.  With hubby's hearty approval.


We are finally starting to feel settled.  There are many boxes tucked away in the basement to be gone through later.  A large bag of Christmas gifts remains missing, but what a surprise it will be when we find it (unless, of course, it was inadvertently thrown away with all the other trash that amounts during a big move.)

 Coffee in hand.  And a lovely book awaiting me on the coffee table.  Now if it would just snow...



Monday, December 19, 2011

In the nick of time...

I'm back.

A few thoughts:

Moving this close to Christmas should be illegal.  (Still missing one large bag of Christmas gifts.  My sweet hubby asked if it could have been mistaken for trash.  Please, don't even go there.)

The novelty of a laundry chute will consequently produce more laundry.  And invite temptation to do things like send a ball hurtling down at whomever's head may be beneath aforementioned laundry chute.  (Here's hoping that both of these things will lose their sparkle soon...)

I should always ask for help before moving a dresser up the stairs by myself.  (And that's all I am going to say about that.)

I don't believe I have ever been this tired in my entire life.  

One of the best decisions I made in the last two weeks was packing my coffee machine last and unpacking it first.  (Probably the one and only thing that went according to plan.)

I have the most incredibly fantabulous friends who have 100% spoiled me by helping me clean and pack, moving an endless assortment of boxes, bringing me dinner so I didn't have to cook (more than once),  taking care of my kids and just letting me cry once in awhile, too. 

There has never been a better time for coffee...


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

I am not her.

It has recently come to my attention that I am not her.  (Come on now.  Don't act so surprised.)

I do not have a cape.
I do not wear tights.
I am not a masked avenger.

I cannot do it all.

At the present, I am drowning in boxes, tangled in packing tape, and barely finding time to breathe in between.

Consequently, I am on a brief hiatus.  

Perhaps only for a week or so. (If I can stand it!  I have so many stellar Christmas things to write about!)

 Live long.  Drink coffee.  And Merry Christmas. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Free Shipping Day!

I live in small town Iowa.   

(Read more about that here:  Going to Town.)  

Outside of Walmart, the farm store and the good ol' "five and dime," decent shopping is rather scarce around here.  You have to drive at least a good hour if you're looking to burn serious cash and I don't get to the city nearly as often as I'd like.  Consequently, I do a lot of shopping online... especially at Christmas.  (Armies of greedy people make me grumpy.) 

Friday, December 16 marks the 4th annual Free Shipping Day!  Over 2,000 merchants are participating.  A few that caught my eye in are:  Best Buy, Radioshack, Kohl's, Ulta, Snapfish, Apple Store, Walgreen's, Ghirardelli Chocolates, Melissa & Doug, Macy's, Helzberg, and Scheel's, just to name a few.  

You can check it out here:  Free Shipping Day.

To find more great shipping deals all year-round, check out www.freeshipping.org.

If you have Christmas shopping left to do, consider holding off until December 16 to save some extra cash.  (And if it were me, I'd use the extra to go splurge on an afternoon Starbucks...)


BONUS:  More free Christmas music!!!!  Head on over to www.Amazon.com for the 25 Days of Free Christmas Music event.  (My favorite free song so far is Celtic Woman's Ave Maria.)


There's nothing sweeter than a cup of bitter coffee.  ~Rian Aditia


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Monday, December 5, 2011

Focus.

Breathe in.  Breathe out.  Breathe in.  Breathe out.

"Hello, Monday.  How kind of you to drop by..."

I know full well that for me these next two weeks will be a challenge.  

I am:

a.  moving to a new house.
b.  directing a Children's musical.
c.  preparing to host all my family for Christmas in the aforementioned new house.

Not to mention keeping up with all the regular things like having clean clothes to wear or feeding my family.  Or all the Christmas things like addressing cards and wrapping gifts.  

*sigh*

After the kids were in bed last night, my handsome hubby looked at me and directly told me I was not allowed to talk about anything stressful for the rest of the evening.  We have two weeks of that to look forward to.  So he played a video game while I watched Cake Boss and played on Pinterest with a cup of hot peppermint tea.  Wonderfully relaxing.

And today we will tackle a massive agenda that rivals Santa's famous list.  At the top of that list is locating this:  Mocha Nog.  I love eggnog almost as much as I coffee.  Almost.  Anderson Erickson, an independent Iowa dairy, make the best eggnog.  Nothing comes close.  Last August, while attending the Iowa State Fair, I had the opportunity to sample this new creation.  Verdict?  Mocha Nog is pretty much heaven in a cup.  And it's officially beginning to arrive in Iowa grocery stores.  


So armed with a steamy cup of coffee, an iPod full of fresh Christmas music (just downloaded this one for $5:  100 Classic Christmas Songs)  and hopefully a tall glass of Mocha Nog later... I am ready to go all Chuck Norris on my list.  

"Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am"
Philippians 4.13 (MSG)


Think about this...



Friday, December 2, 2011

The Coffee Man.

"Look, Mommy, it's the coffee man!"

We were out for a day of shopping amid the masses of Christmas paraphernalia also out in full force.  Santa Claus, candy canes, Christmas trees and...

Coffee men???

I asked my little Lovey to repeat what she had just said and clear as day she sang, "Run, run, as fast you can.  You can't catch me, I'm the coffee man!"

Aha!  And then it clicked.  I have been sampling a new holiday coffee in the flavor of Boston's Best "Grandma's Iced Gingerbread" and of course, who would appropriately grace the package?  Gingerbread Man.  Apparently even my 2-year-old is keenly aware of my coffee habit. 

(Just for the record, the coffee wasn't too bad.  I thought it mediocre at first, but it grew on me.  This morning, I  opened a fresh bag of "Frosty's White Chocolate."  Not crazy about it, but maybe it will grow on me, too...  It's hard to top Starbucks or Cameron's.)


Forever:  Time it takes to brew the first pot of coffee in the morning. 

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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

On the move.

Well, I'm here.  And oh-so-tired.  As much as I am trying to keep things organized and relaxed during this Christmas season, I find myself completely worn out.  And December doesn't even begin until tomorrow.  

My alarm clock's snooze button has never experienced as much action as it has seen over the last several days.  Every morning for the last week, I have hit the snooze button incessantly and repeatedly, eating away my precious mornings... seven minutes at a time. I am just plain tired.

I ran into an acquaintance while out running errands a few days ago and she remarked, "You look tired."  How kind.  Did she not realize I had just spent the better part of half an hour applying my makeup, styling my hair and selecting the perfect outfit that day?   I am not sure that it is ever appropriate to tell someone they "look tired."  (Unless, perhaps they have just finished a marathon or are running around in their pajama pants at Walmart.  Two scenarios that will never happen for me.)

Everyone knows I am a planner.  And I have all those lists.  Gifts to make.  Goodies to bake.  Cards to write.  And on and on and on.  You might be thinking... "But you have nearly a month until Christmas." 

That is certainly true, however, there is one little thing that came up rather quickly and unexpectedly.  We are moving.  Soon.  Before Christmas.

Not like cross-country moving, just across town, but moving none-the-less.  Our family is pretty well-versed when it comes to this.  I'd say we have it down to an art.  Because of the nature of hubby's job, we have done a whole lot of it.  However, being good at moving doesn't make it any less work.  Especially with three kids in tow.

I am happy (Yay.  New house.  And more bathrooms.), but I find myself delaying the days as long possible (hence the alarm clock incident), because I know how much work each day holds for me right now.  Purging is hard, but necessary and a bit exciting. (I already have piles of clothes, toys, and shoes for Good Will.)  The idea of a fresh start is always a thrill. 

The Great Christmas Plan of 2011 is still in place, albeit consequently altered and already off-schedule.  So forgive me if my Christmas cards are late and my goodies are less plentiful.  (Seriously, it's just killing me to not have one single Christmas decoration up yet!)

Let's just say, I'm glad that no matter where my family will be or what we are doing, we will all be together... and there will be coffee.


Why would you ever complain, O Jacob,
   or, whine, Israel, saying,
"God has lost track of me.
   He doesn't care what happens to me"?
Don't you know anything? Haven't you been listening?
God doesn't come and go. God lasts.
   He's Creator of all you can see or imagine.
He doesn't get tired out, doesn't pause to catch his breath.
   And he knows everything, inside and out.
He energizes those who get tired,
   gives fresh strength to dropouts.
For even young people tire and drop out,
   young folk in their prime stumble and fall.
But those who wait upon God get fresh strength.
   They spread their wings and soar like eagles,
They run and don't get tired,
   they walk and don't lag behind.

Isaiah 40.27-31 (MSG)


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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Holiday Rhythm.

It's Tuesday.  

After Thanksgiving.  

I am vigorously downing my coffee and still trying to get back into the swing of things.  It's that time of year when things begin to race at me at a startling pace, but I am determined to remain calm and just enjoy every moment.  I am determined not to burn the candle at both ends this year.  I have a pretty good plan.

Recently my friend commented that I seem amazingly calm considering all that has been heaped onto my plate this year.  I am learning that most of the things I tend to get worked up over, really are not that important (especially when it comes to Christmas) Influence the things you have control over and let God handle the rest.  It's all anyone can do... and it works.

My little Lovey will only be 2 at Christmas time once.  And I want to savor it.  Peanut and Ladybug are old enough that they will remember the magic of this Christmas well so fostering lasting traditions is high on my priority list.  

Mostly, its about time.  People will make time for what's most important to them.  And making memories with my sweet family is just that.  Very important.  

I am having an Intentional Christmas.


And it will be orchestrated to the tune of music.  Some of my best Christmas memories are eternally tied to the songs which seemed to be only background music at the time.  I have fond memories of decorating our tree, stringing lights and baking sugar cookies to the the rhythms of my father's classic Christmas records.  Yeah, that's right... vinyl.  (Sad to think that my children have no earthly what idea I am talking about.)

I am a sucker for good music.  Especially Christmas music.  And it's pretty cool when you can get it free.  Not too long ago I posted about Amazon.com's free monthly mp3 list. (You can read about it here:  Music To My Ears.)  As Christmas approaches, they are rolling out even more free holiday tunes.  

My iPod is going to love me.


Here are some of my favorite Christmas songs available at Amazon.com right now:

The Bell Medley (Nice children's choir version.)

Christmas Time Is Here (Awesome piano.)

Jingle Bells (Nice and jazzy.)

O Holy Night  (Pretty version of the classic song.)

O Little Town Of Bethelehem (A sassy saxophone rendition.)


I fully expect that as December approaches, Amazon will be spreading even more Christmas music love...

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This post is a part of Frugal Tip Tuesday and Simple Lives Thursday.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Dear Grandma.

It is the one time a year I purchase processed cheese, (usually in the form of Velveeta), in a vain attempt to replicate your famous homemade mac & cheese. 

I am pretty organic and whole-grainey these days.  It goes against nearly all I believe in when it comes to food, yet Thanksgiving dinner isn't quite the same without the creamy, indulgent richness of my favorite childhood dish.

My attempt has ended in utter failure yet again.  It has been 2 1/2 years since you passed and even longer since I've tasted such decadence.  (The dementia took you far too early...)  

I have followed your recipe with diligence and I have tweaked your recipe thinking something might be wrong and I just can't get it right.  I admit, I don't add all the food coloring you used to, but certainly that can't be it.  I am inclined to believe there were secrets in your head that you never bothered to write down.  How I wish I had the chance to glean more kitchen wisdom from you before you went home.

Perhaps it's just as well.  Maybe it's time the macaroni and cheese becomes shelved as a beloved childhood memory.  Sometimes new traditions are worth establishing...


Rest assured, however, Grandma... I have definitely mastered your yeast rolls and in that fact, I rejoice.


Love you forever and always.



Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Many Thanks.

Tomorrow's goodies are prepped and I am tired in a good way.  The aroma of pumpkin spice and hot yeast rolls wafts throughout the house.  My kitchen is a wreck, but that's okay for now.  

On this Thanksgiving Eve, I find myself taking a break, sipping a cozy cup of hot peppermint tea and counting the multitude of blessings in my life (none of which I  deserve).



There are far too many to list, but in particular, here are a few things I am thankful for:

1.  Restoration.  Nothing is ever truly set in stone.  Situations that at one time seemed impossible can irrevocably be changed.  I am blessed to see broken relationships mended and to experience true peace.  Stories are still being written...

2.  Good health.  After two major health scares in our little family this past spring, all seems to be well.  I could never put a price on the peace of mind that comes with health.  

3.  Family.  Immediate and extended.  Cliche, but pertinent.  I could not have asked for a more loving husband or sweeter daughters.  I am blessed to have two incredible parents who love and support me.  I have two beloved sisters whom I count as my dearest of friends.  I can't imagine it to be any better (except that maybe we all lived just a little bit closer to each other).

And tomorrow we will all gather around a large, roasted bird, delighting in sweet fellowship, and carrying on as if hardly any time had passed since we last chanced to meet.  

And it will be beautiful.  
And inevitably too short.  
But good.  
Very.
Very.
Good.


Psalm 100 (The Message)

A Thanksgiving Psalm
 1-2 On your feet now—applaud God! Bring a gift of laughter,
      sing yourselves into his presence.
 3 Know this: God is God, and God, God.
      He made us; we didn't make him.
      We're his people, his well-tended sheep.
 4 Enter with the password: "Thank you!"
      Make yourselves at home, talking praise.
      Thank him. Worship him.
 5 For God is sheer beauty,
      all-generous in love,
      loyal always and ever. 




This post is a part of Simple Lives Thursday.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Talking Turkey.

2 days and counting.  I am entirely giddy for the impending holiday.  The menu is set and grocery lists are made.  This is one of my top two favorite grocery shopping trips of the year (the other being Christmas, of course).

Normally, I would have my Thanksgiving goody shopping done by now, but planning my little Ladybug's birthday party so late in November really threw me for a loop this year.  

(You can read more about the shindig here:  Pinkalicious.)

I did manage to purchase a turkey and presently the 22-pound bird is already thawing in my refrigerator.  (I know.  BIG bird.)  I don't know why I don't make roast turkey all year long... it's entirely delectable, everyone in the family will actually eat it, and it's usually quite economical.  Our family can feast for days, turkey freezes well, and I can make a load of turkey stock from the bones. 

I don't think anyone really sets out to be wasteful and squandering the deliciousness of a Thanksgiving turkey should be completely criminal.  Thus... the list.


My Top Ten Ways to Use Leftover Turkey:


1.  Turkey Sandwiches.  Need I say more?  There is hardly anything better than a sandwich piled high with savory roast turkey.

2.  Salad.  A lettuce salad loaded with fresh veggies (and turkey!) is a light (and delicious) way to atone for Thanksgiving gluttony the next day.


3.  Turkey & Noodles.  Use turkey stock (I like to thicken mine with cornstarch), season and add egg noodles.  Serve over leftover mashed potatoes.  Comfort food at it's finest.


4.  Turkey Glop.  A friend told me about this idea a few years ago and it's perfect!  Take all the leftovers:  stuffing, mashed potatoes, turkeys, gravy, corn, green bean casserole, etc and layer it in a casserole dish.  Heat in the oven and voila!  Turkey Glop.


5.  Turkey Enchiladas.  Turkey is a good alternative to almost any chicken recipe.  


6.  Sloppy Joes.  Shred leftover turkey and add your favorite sloppy joe sauce.


7.  Turkey Pot Pie.  One of my favorite comfort foods on a cold day.  Here is my favorite recipe:  Turkey Pot Pie.


8.  Turkey Tetrazzini.  Another of our family favorites.  This recipe from Martha Stewart is incredible and makes enough to freeze some for later:  Turkey Tetrazzini (I swap the chicken for turkey.)

9.  Freeze.  I purchased a 22-pound turkey.  There will be leftovers.  And some cold day in January, I will be thrilled to be feasting on roast turkey that I didn't have to cook.



And my favorite way to use leftover turkey...

10.  Bill & Tutu.  Bill is my 80-something-year-old, next-door neighbor.  He lives alone.  And he has a teensy, puff ball dog named Tutu.  Come Thanksgiving day (and well into Christmas), he will be showered with our kitchen concoctions.  Always gracious and well-deserving.  We love you, Bill.




One more coffee, and off to the market I go...



Our oak tree hanging on to the last of it's leaves...




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Monday, November 21, 2011

Pinkalicious.

That was the theme for my Ladybug's 5th birthday party over the weekend.  

I just can't help myself.  I love any excuse to throw a party.  And I like to party big.  And I love themes.  And my girlies' birthdays are no exception.

If you are not already familiar with the story, Pinkalicous is a book about a girl who eats too many pink cupcakes and acquires a serious case of Pinkititis, meaning she turns pink.  The cure is to eat green food.  Anything.  As long as it is green. 

All my girlies are wild about Pinklalicous.  They have Pinkalicious dolls and we've read all the books about 187,000 times (roughly).

The party was perfectly pinkariffic and everyone seemed to have a good time.  


Mental note for next year:  Plan this party much earlier in November (her real birthday is November 9).  Much too close to Thanksgiving, but our schedule simply didn't permit it any sooner...




A few highlights:


Setting up. 




Green food goodie bags.




Ladybug guarding her pink cupcakes.




Lola.  An unexpected guest, thanks to my sister and her family.




 Birthday girl working on her Pinkalicious crown.




Getting ready for "Pin the Cherry on the Cupcake."   

(Which seems to be a staple at our parties.  In recent years we have also played "Pin the Nose on Larry the Cucumber" and "Pin the Heart on the Tinman."  My girls really love this game...)




My sweet hubby is such a good sport about all the pink...




Party time.  Putting my game face on.





 And now that the party is over...
Grabbing a coffee, working on my grocery list and making a mental shift to turkey and pumpkin pie.  

Happy Monday, Friends.





Thursday, November 17, 2011

Purging.

National Clean-Your-What Day???

I saw it on CNN.   This past Tuesday (2 days ago) was National Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day.  Have you ever heard of such a thing?  I suppose it's a great effort.  Way to go, People-who-think-of-these-rather-obscure-things.

What I find especially disturbing is that we are encouraged to perform this task... once a year.  Maybe some people need this sort of yearly reminder, but I am pretty vigilant about thoroughly cleaning out the fridge very week or two, right before I make my big grocery trip.  (Can't stand the thought of putting fresh food that just cost me an arm and a leg into a grimy fridge).

I am not saying my fridge is always pristine (believe me, a week or two is all some things need to cause trouble in there).  And there is occasionally the thing that falls down behind the other thing that I completely forget about until it has gone all  "science experiment" on me.

I guess I'll embrace this occasion to think about food safety.

Hubby and I are entirely obsessive about food safety...  especially leftovers.  (When in doubt, throw it out!)  I also really can't stand being wasteful, so there has to be a healthy balance.  When it comes to leftovers, I never make more than what we will eat in the next two days.  Any prepared food older than two days gets tossed.  (Most experts say 3-4 days, but I use the two-day rule to play it safe.)  Generally, I am pretty good about making sure our leftovers get eaten so we don't waste anything.  If I make a big batch of something, I freeze a portion of it right away to save for another time.  (Really, most everything can be frozen.)


I have a couple of trusty friends that help me out:  "Masking Tape" and "Sharpie."  Everything in my fridge gets a dated label.  Everything.  Ketchup.  Mayo.  Leftovers.  Nothing is exempt from the treatment.  I used to think I could remember when I prepared everything, but when life gets busy (which is pretty much always), time rolls by like a steam locomotive and before I know it, I have no earthly idea if I hard-boiled those eggs yesterday or last week.

With Thanksgiving fast approaching, I can't help but think of all that food coming my way.  More than probably any of us can handle.

Freeze what you can.  Be safe.  And happy eating to all.


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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Socks.

Heaping.  Mountainous.  Overflowing.  

These are just a few words to describe my ever-growing pile of things to be mended, sewed, or patched.  I actually don't mind grabbing a pile of such work and planting myself in front of the tv for a couple of hours to catch up.  It's just that I've really let it go this time.

And then there are the socks.  

I am pretty good about using a small, mesh laundry bag (like the ones intended for lingerie) to corral the family socks (especially the little ones!), but no matter how hard I try... there are stragglers.

The ones that don't match.  The ones that are missing.  The ones that are entirely too worn out, but have a perfectly good mate.  What's a girl to do?


(Read more on laundry shenanigans here:  Laundry Quandry.)

If the sock is not too worn, it makes perfect sense to stitch it up.  It takes about 10 seconds and it's good as new.  I am careful to make the seam on the outside of the sock or my girls will complain of discomfort. 

In the old days, women would mend holes in the toes of socks indefinitely.  Consequently, the sock would become shorter and shorter and continually be handed down to the next child in line!  I do this, too.  They also did something similar with sheets.  When bed sheets became worn in the middle, they would cut them down the center and sew the outsides of the sheets together to make a new "middle."  Ingenious.  

Eventually a good sock gets so worn out that it is impossible to mend and seems of no use at all.  Nonsense.  This is when our socks get a second life in the rag drawer.  I love using old socks to clean with.  Turn the sock inside out to use the warm, fuzzy side for maximum scrubbing power.  You can even wear the sock like a glove.  (Great for those really disgusting jobs that you will inevitably encounter when you have kids!)


Back to the kitchen for coffee round 2.  Perhaps I will get to my sewing today.  Perhaps not.  Either way, there will be coffee.  



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Monday, November 14, 2011

The Best I Ever...

Hey, Coffee Lovers!  

This cozy little blog is featured today over at Tales of a Trophy Wife.  So grab a steamy cup of joe, go check it out here, and leave some comment love. 

Happy Monday!






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Friday, November 11, 2011

Oops.


It was Monday.  

Peanut would be away most of the day for a school activity.  We were to leave at 8:45 am.  I was sipping my coffee at 7:00 am when it suddenly occurred to me:  I was supposed to send a snack with her.  

Normally, that wouldn't be a problem, but my life has been in a bit of top spin and grocery day was still a day away.  

I.  Had.  Nothing.

Raisins?  (Yeah, right, Mom.)
Pickle spear?  (No thanks.)
Leftover spaghetti?  (This received that sort of a menacing glare that my 7-year-old is notorious for.)

Ay yi yi.

Then, I remembered this recipe for homemade graham crackers I had been dying to try.  At first, I was skeptical, but judging from the way my kids gobbled them up, I would say they were a success.  They were super simple and done just in time for my daughter to walk out the door.  Tossed in an apple as a side and she had a snack for mama to be proud of.  


Honey Graham Crackers

1/3 c. honey
1/2 c. butter
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. water or milk
3 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
pinch of salt
(1 tsp. cinnamon)

1.  Cream together honey and butter.  Add vanilla and milk.  Add dry ingredients.

2.  Knead gently into a ball.  Roll thin on greased baking sheets.  Prick with a fork.  (If using cinnamon, sprinkle on top before baking.) 

3.  Bake at 350 degrees for 8 - 10 minutes.  The cooking length will depend on how thin the crackers are. 


NOTES:  In hindsight, I would have rolled them thinner.  My baking sheets have sides, so that was difficult.  I think they would do better on the sheets that are flat with no lip around the edge.  I made some plain and some with a sprinkling of cinnamon (and a smidge of organic sugar) on top.  My girls preferred the cinnamon crackers, but they ate all of them anyway.  Either way, these were a simple, healthful snack.  I'll be making these again!


Check out my Recipes page for a downloadable copy of this and many more recipes.


As always... a perfect compliment to an afternoon coffee.







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This post is a part of Real Food Wednesday,Simple Lives Thursday, and Fresh Bites Friday.
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Once in a lifetime...

Or at least once in a century.  11/11/11.  You will never see this happen again.  Unless you are under the age of 12 or so, then I suppose it's a slim possibility.

So what to do on a such a significant day?  Get married?  Already done that.  Buy a lottery ticket?  No thanks.  Perhaps we will just carry on.

It is Veteran's Day.  And for that I am unwaveringly grateful.  So very proud to be an American.  And that is how I choose to mark this memorable day.

Thank you to all the Veterans in my life (and even the ones that are not).  You are my superheroes.  


 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Happy Birthday, Ladybug!

She is 5 today. 

Am I the only mom that feels infinitely emotional about every one of her kids' birthdays?  They seem so eager to grow up.  And I long to keep them small.  I expect this will only get more difficult with time...

She is my ladybug.  That is what we have called her since birth.  She is so snuggly, sweet and sensitive.  Her tenderhearted spirit is unmatched.  And she is silly.  Oh, how this child makes me laugh.  Her giggle is entirely infectious and everyone who knows her, loves to hear her laugh.


Ladybug is sophisticated in her tastes.  When planning her special day today, I asked her about all the things she would like me to make.  I was thinking along the lines of chocolate cake and pizza... but no.  

For her cake, she requested our family's favorite pumpkin cake recipe, Harvest Bars(Not gonna complain about that!)  For dinner she has asked for "Daddy's Chinese."  My dear hubby rarely cooks, but not because he can't.  He is just too darn busy all the time.  When he does, "Daddy's Chinese" is one of his specialties.  I don't know what else to call it.  It's a combination of rice, chicken, steamed veggies, and our favorite classic stir fry sauce.  And its yummy.  (And I don't have to cook dinner!!!)

She also asked that I take her to my favorite local coffee shop for spumoni gelato!  I'm telling you, this kid has great taste!  (I really must post about this newish coffee shop in our quaint little town.  It's fabulously cozy and they serve gelato, gourmet chocolates and to-die-for cupcakes!)

We are planning a "Pinkalicous" birthday party (Ladybug's favorite book character) in a couple weeks.  More to come on party planning later.


Going off the grid today to spend some time with my little lady...


 


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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Music to my ears.

"Mama, put on your listen ears."

At first, I wasn't sure what she was trying to say.  Then, my loveable 2-year-old brought me the earbuds from my iPod.  She wanted to listen to music.  (Consequently, as a family, we now affectionately refer to all listening devices as "listen ears.")

As a musician, it thrills my soul for my young girls to have an appreciation for good music.  And in our family our tastes are very broad.  You name it, we probably listen to it at some point.

My sweet girls love their Bieber (gag) however, they often beg me to turn on Ella Fitzgerald, Beethoven, and Bing Crosby.  And oh, how we dance.

I spend a lot of time in the kitchen (like most mothers, I suspect) and it's often quiet and tiresome.  Good listening is a must.  (Old time radio shows are my guilty pleasure.)  If I am not careful, I would spend good wages on too much music.  

Thank God for Amazon!  Each month, they come out with a new selection of free mp3 albums(Yes!)  Currently there are 11 pages worth of free albums.  There are some real gems hidden in those pages.  Over the course of the last year, I have acquired some really great stuff from here!


Some of my favorites currently available for free:

Chacra World Music Holiday Sampler
Native American Flute Lullabies
Allegro Classical Fall 2011 Sampler
Cedarmont Kids Sampler for Moms
The Wiggles Summer 2011 Sampler

Amazon.com also had a great selection of featured albums available for download for only $5.00 (Norah Jones' Come Away With Me is on this list for November!) 

One more great free resource can be found at ancientfaith.com  The Chronicles of Narnia books by C.S. Lewis audiobooks are available for FREE download!  Check it out here.


Now it's back to my coffee.  The Christmas music is on... and the homemade cinnamon rolls are fresh out of the oven.  It's gonna be a good day.


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This post is a part of Frugal Tip Tuesday.





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Monday, November 7, 2011

Falling Back.

Time Change.  One of my favorite moments of the year because it's a sign of things to come.  Things like early darkness, (I find this incredibly cozy), colder weather (an even better excuse to sip more coffee), and the holidays.  

It can also be a time to "fall back," and re-evaluate and prepare for the upcoming excitement of all things homey, sparkling, and smelling of cinnamon spice.

I am a planner so I adore the list-making.  Christmas cards. Gifts.  Party Planning.  Menus. Holiday goodies.  Even a list for the grocery store to buy those ingredients you only buy once each year is special.

It's easy to get caught up.  Distracted.  By the parties.  By the sales.  By the the things that don't really matter. 

This year I have decided to have an Intentional Christmas.  This means I choose to intentionally set my own priorities.  It seems that there are so many demands thrust upon me during this time of year:

Host this event.  Send this many cards.  Spend this much money on that person and that much money on this person.  Bake treats for this and bring hot cocoa for that.  Go caroling.  Build a snowman.  Buy cute Christmas frocks for my girls.  And a partridge in a pear tree.

And then I wake up December 26.  And it's over.  And I'm exhausted.  And although we had a great time, sometimes it feels like I just finished running a marathon.  It's easy (and dangerous) to reduce Christmas to a series of lists.

My priorities are revealed in the places where my time and money are invested and this year I plan to make some adjustments.

I want to make sweet memories with my little ladies and my sensational husband (like letting little hands measure out all the ingredients to our traditional Buche de Noel even though it will take three times as long to make).  I want to be a blessing to someone less fortunate than us (because I remember what joy this kindness has brought to our family through others when we needed it most).  I want to teach my sweet girls the value of a thoughtful gift (and not merely a trinket haphazardly snatched from the Walmart holiday gift aisle).

I want to remember the birth of my King in the most intentional way that I can.  My darling 4-year-old said to me last week, "Just forget about the presents, it's really about a baby."  Perhaps I have demonstrated something right so far, but even so...

We are well on our way to the grand crescendo of Christmas and things are going to be delightfully different this year. 



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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The rake.

I adore my dear husband.  Really.  And I love that he is frugal like me.  Really.  And I love his stubborn streak.  Really.  Or most of the time.

However...


When it comes to the fiasco that has become of our one-and-only rake, I must simply shake my head.

Let me begin at the beginning.

We have trees.  Loads of trees.  A plethora, if you will.

Which means that come autumn, we have even more leaves.  Legions of leaves.  At first, it's great fun with all the piling and jumping.  For the kids it's a wonderland and the colors are spectacular.  

But now it's November.  And they simply must go.  But our rake...  *sigh*


The handle on our dependable rake failed.  Broken, completely in two.  Naturally, I thought it was time for a new rake.  After all, old faithful has certainly served us well and it was time for him to retire.  Silly old me.  

"Nonsense," said dear hubby, "I have just the thing!"  After disappearing into the basement for several minutes, he emerged with a long metal pipe (consequently calling to mind the lead pipe from our trusty Clue game).  The pipe was taller than me.  (To this day we have no idea where it came from.  My husband might argue it was gift from above, a fall miracle.)  Surprisingly the pipe was threaded on the end like a screw and was a perfect fit onto the end of the rake.  Imagine that.


So now we have this monster of a rake.  I swear it weighs at least 25 pounds and its much taller than me.  I can barely wield it at all.  On the bright side, it's a pretty intense workout just to rake the leaves.  And judging from the size of our yard and the amount of leaves on the ground, one of us is going to be looking pretty awesome by the time it's all done.  But I don't think it's going to be me...  


Have at it, Sweet Husband.  I think I'll sip my coffee and watch you from the window seat.  


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