Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Pumpkin Maple yummy goodness!

This recipe falls into the "keep, and make frequently" category: Pumpkin Maple Muffins.

Photo credit

*Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Whisk these ingredients together in a large bowl:

1 3/4 C. whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 C. pecan meal (don't let this intimidate you - just throw some pecans into the blender until crumbly!)
2 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 t. cinnamon

In a separate bowl, whisk together these ingredients:

1/3 C. maple syrup
1/2 C. evaporated cane juice
1 C. pumpkin puree
1/2 C. sour milk
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/4 C. coconut oil, melted
1/3 C. raisins

1. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon until just combined.
2. Immediately spoon batter into a lined 12-cup muffin tin. (I actually found that the recipe made 15 muffins rather than 12.)
3. Place in the center of a preheated 375 degree oven and bake for 25 minutes.
4. Let cool for five minutes in the pan and then remove muffins and let cool completely on a wire rack.


I made only minor substitutions (such as coconut oil for butter and evaporated cane juice for brown sugar). Thanks to Nicole at Pinch My Salt for the original recipe!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Advent, day 2

A tradition with fond memories from my growing-up years: the count-down-to-Christmas chain!

I have more pictures from the process, but I can't post most of them because one of the neighbor children came over to make her own chain with us. We've been inviting her over all fall for various "school" projects, so it was natural to invite her in for this one. It was neat to get the chance to talk about Advent and the coming of Jesus while she was here.

We're counting down the days to Jesus' birth!

Sing with your kids!

I'm not sure there is anything sweeter than your little one singing along with you. Josiah is just starting to sing along with his night time lullaby, and it is darling. He can't quite match this child's ability, though! Enjoy...

HT: Mommy Life

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Advent, day 1

Setting up the advent wreath:

Apparently Advent makes Jonathan think of angels, because that's what he wanted to be tonight. With wings, Mom! The wings were a joint effort between Gabe and I, since I am spatially challenged. :) I think they turned out pretty well!

Thursday, November 25, 2010


This song has been part of our itunes playlist today. Love it.

We had intended to spend Thanksgiving with my family (even my sister, flying in from Boston!) but a really bad storm in Nevada County left my parents without power and water for the foreseeable future. So instead, we had our very first Thanksgiving entirely on our own! It all came together really well, and I'm quite proud of myself. :)

Jonathan created this centerpiece for our Thanksgiving Day table. Isn't it nice? The boys picked out their favorite gourds at the store yesterday. Then on the way back, we stopped in a residential neighborhood full of lovely liquid amber trees, and ambled around finding the most beautiful colored leaves and "prickly balls."

Today we dipped the leaves we collected in beeswax to preserve them. They turned out quite well! I found a post at Small Things that convinced me to try it - the result was so pretty and she made it sound easy...and it was!

I managed to smile while washing the turkey. This is definitely a first for me. I must be growing up or something. :)

Thomas thought the trussed up turkey was hilarious!

Josiah and Thomas helped make the pumpkin pie filling. I've found that it is easier to move the mixing bowl down to their level, rather than having them stand on chairs to reach the counter.

Jonathan played softball with Daddy,

and later he helped set our beautiful table. He was very proud.

Josiah spent a surprisingly long time standing beside me while I was cooking, carefully using my Grandma's salt spoon to transfer salt between a silver shaker and a crystal salt cellar. He was so careful and gentle and precise.

The turkey followed most of the rules and browned nicely

and my number-one turkey carver did a great job! :)

I managed to get everything finished and warm at the same time!

The boys practiced their very best table manners, because dinner was a "special feast!"

We finished off with the most amazing pecan pie that I have ever tasted. Instead of corn syrup, it is made with maple syrup! I added chopped pecans to the filling, and then put the traditional pretty layer of whole pecans on the top (Sarah, I thought of you as I added all those pecans!) It was incredible...quite possibly the perfect pecan pie.

And after all that? I collapsed on the couch and let the boys "tuck me in" to bed. :)

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Double shifts

Yesterday evening, as we were getting the kids ready for bed, I was called away to the hospital. I spent all night there with a client, helping her through her labor and birth. I got home this morning just before 7am...just in time to kiss Gabe goodbye and start my "day job".

Mothering and doula work combined. Sometimes I wonder about my sanity. :) But oh, the joy of the birth! And the pride in a job well done!

Image credit

Monday, November 15, 2010

Morning meditation

I have a hard time understanding the Jesus of the gospels. I think a lot of this has to do with the manner in which the gospels are written: read alone, they tend to present a man, wandering the land with a band of disciples, saying and doing incomprehensible things. I read the gospels and I think "no wonder they thought he was crazy and dangerous." Jesus' life on earth only makes any sort of sense in context of the whole history of God with man. The overarching story of God's dealings with his people, entwined through the Old Testament, helps me get a sense of why Jesus was there in Nazareth, Galilee, Jerusalem. But it is John's vision in Revelation that helps me the most.
Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I was seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white like wool, as white as snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying "Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades."
This is a vision of power, beauty, flaming strength, awe-fulness so profound that the best John could write were similes. Jesus like a flame of fire, like burnished bronze, like the roar of many waters. Jesus in whose presence you fall as though dead. And then I am reminded that this Jesus, this awesome being, scrunched himself down into the broken and glorious and pitiful form of a man. Walked among us. Loved us. Let us kill him.
"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!"
I understand this passage best, actually, when I think of Mary. How her heart must have ached over her son. How much she must have wished she could gather him into her arms again like she did her toddler boy. How she must have yearned to hold him in safety and love. It isn't the same, of course; Jesus was doing God's work and Jerusalem was killing the prophets. But the aching heart that yearns to protect and draw near those it loves? That is Jesus.

It is in the juxtaposition of these images that gives me the most solid understanding of Jesus the Messiah. Not just an incomprehensible wandering prophet, but one like a Son of Man, flaming burnished bronze and roaring waters, loving us with the tenderness and compassion and sacrifice of the most perfect form of mother. Jesus who gently touches those he loves, and for our sake says, "fear not".

Friday, November 12, 2010

Coldwater Creek Groupon deal

Have you seen this Groupon deal for Coldwater Creek? $25 for $50 worth of clothing/accessories! I think some of their clothes are just gorgeous, and I've already purchased mine. Take a look at some of the awesome bargains in their outlet section (and yes, the groupon can be used on outlet and sale items!)

Groupon deals (for those not familiar) are only good for a very limited time. At the time of this posting, you have about 29 more hours to grab it.

A good day

Today had some really lovely moments, and after yesterday's depressing post I thought it might be nice to share them. :)

Sometime last June (or thereabouts) I put away all the Brio trains. They were taking up space in the boys' room, and hadn't really been played with for months. No one noticed that they were gone. Today I realized that Josiah is smack in the middle of a major train phase. He wants to wear Thomas the Tank Engine shirts, watch Thomas the Tank Engine videos, and read every book in the house that has a picture of a train on it. So out came the trains!

All three boys spent a good 45 minutes playing together, and Thomas continued after the others lost interest.

I call that a success! Yay for disappearing/reappearing toys. :)

Later in the morning, while I was working with Jonathan during tabletime, Thomas called me over to see what he'd been working on. (He's becoming more and more inclined to do "school" of some sort along with Jonathan.) Isn't this interesting?

He's had a good grasp of which letters are in his name for quite some time, but has never put them in the correct order. We've been working on which letters are next to each other, and slow but noticeable progress has occurred. This is the first time he's successfully arranged all the letters according to which goes next to which. Makes me wonder if we're going to have a bit of dyslexia on our hands? Oh, but he's so proud, and so am I!

After nap-quiet-time, Jonathan and I finished the last of his schoolwork for the week, with the promise of clay modeling afterward. Aren't these fun? I enjoyed creating with him.

(It's a duck, and a dragon, in case you couldn't tell!)

-- Um, there aren't really any pictures of Josiah today. He was in a rotten mood. I think he may be getting sick. --

I started today with no expectations for "getting things done", having come down with a very sore throat last night. Got up late and let the children watch a video before breakfast! (Basically, broke all my own personal rules - ha!) Sometimes I think that the best thing I can do is to back off of my expectations, for myself and for the kids, and just let the day unfold.

(However...would someone like to come do my laundry?) ;)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Worn wheels

Have you ever watched Thomas the Tank engine videos with your children? There is one episode where another engine plays a trick on Thomas, and he has to run much faster and much farther than he usually does. "Oh dear, oh dear," he says, "my wheels shall be quite worn out!"

That's kind of how I feel right now.

When we started home schooling in September, we were ok...barely. I remember telling a friend that I was doing well, but I felt like I was balancing a lot of spinning plates and if anything extra happened, they'd all come crashing down.

You know what? Extra stuff happens. In the past few months, a LOT of extra stuff has happened. An extra, unplanned Wednesday night meeting (ongoing for 13 weeks). Sewing for Halloween. Doctor's appointments. Potlucks for which I need to bake. My grandmother's death. Decisions about her belongings. Family in town for her service. Sewing for (and being at) a boutique sale that I planned months before all of this happened. Endless phone calls regarding Josiah's speech therapy and insurance coverage. Endless letters and calls regarding an incorrectly billed $500 medical bill. A three day conference that took Gabe away from home. An afternoon spent swapping summer clothes for winter clothes.

My kitchen is a mess. My bed isn't made. There are half-filled clothing boxes in my living room awaiting laundered summer clothes, some of which are lying wrinkled on the couch (the rest are in the mile-high pile, along with sheets and blankets from two recently wet beds.) My desk is full of stuff, most of which I should probably put away or file or do something about.

Because it is a holiday, the neighbor children are outside playing with my kids. And I know that I should take advantage of this time, to keep the laundry moving and wash all my dishes and bake bread and clean the bathroom.

But I think that my wheels are quite worn out.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

If you're looking for kid Christmas presents...

you might want to check out the awesome deal at Kohls - good ONLY today and tomorrow (Wednesday and Thursday). You can get all the details at Hip2Save, but here's the low-down:

45% off select Fisher Price toys (this includes things like Imaginext and Little People)

Then, if you have a Kohl's charge card, use the following codes.

30% off coupon code: HOLIDAYGIFT
Free shipping code (no minimum): FREE2MVC

I just bought Christmas gifts for the boys, as well as some small toys to donate to our Awana store. Spent $53 including tax, and will receive $10 back in Kohl's cash. :)

Happy shopping!

Corruption by aunts and uncles

When certain aunts and uncles,

(names removed to protect the not-so-innocent)

do this:

A few days later, little boys do this:

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Baked rice

I know, doesn't that title sound boring? I almost wouldn't blame you if you didn't read any further. But I hope that you do. :)

I'd like to have more brown rice in our diet, but I've never been good at cooking it on the stove. And I've tried the crock pot...but that has been even worse. It ends up mushy or bland or oily or all three. Ick!

This, my friends, is the solution. Baked rice.

1 T. butter
1.5 cups brown rice
1 T. spice mixture (I used Mrs. Dash garlic/herb, along with some parsley and I forget what else.)
3-4 cloves garlic
1/2 t. salt
2.5 cups liquid (I used my veggie bouillon)
approx. 3 cups chopped veggies (I used carrots and celery, because that's what I had)

In a cast iron skillet, melt the butter and toast the rice until just golden. Add spices and cook for 30 seconds. Add garlic and saute for about 3 minutes. Add salt and liquid. Cover and transfer to the oven. Bake at 375 degrees for about 1 hour.

You just won't believe the results! This is perfect rice.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Green mac 'n cheese

My very favorite blogger, Auntie Leila, has a homemade Macaroni and Cheese recipe that is amazing. Simple, quick, NOT orange, and everyone loves it. I've made only one change: adding spinach (and thus turning it green). :)

Aunti Leila's Macaroni and Cheese, modified

1 lb. pasta (I use whole wheat from Trader Joe's)
1.5 cups milk
3+ cups fresh spinach
1 T. cornstarch
2 T. butter
1.5 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese (trust me, it is SO much better with sharp cheddar!)
garlic powder to taste

Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, blend together milk, spinach, cornstarch, and garlic powder in a blender. Melt butter in a saucepan, then stir in green milk mixture. When hot, stir in grated cheese and simmer until smooth and just slightly thickened. Pour over pasta and stir. Let sit a minute, then stir again to distribute the sauce evenly. Serve and enjoy!

Monday, November 01, 2010

Giveaway winner!

I used random.org to choose a winning number out of the 12 entries, and the happy number is 3! Lasselanta, can you please send me your new address? And I'll send your Starbucks card on it's way.

Thanks, everyone, for your comments! I had fun writing this rant, and enjoyed seeing who came out of the woodwork to chime in.

Oh, and Lasselanta, this is for you: "that is so random!" :)