2.11.2016

Breakfast


This post is going to start the same way all these posts do - the rush of getting out the door in the morning, the temptation to grab a non-healthy breakfast item for the car, the sugar crash a couple hours in, the feeling of self-loathing for being such a horrible wife/mom/human being for not providing a nutritious, quick, easy breakfast that rivals Fruit Loops in your children's eyes.

Enter the solution - baked oatmeal muffins. Perhaps you've seen them on your own daily self-loathing trips to pinterest in search of solutions. And while these haven't solved the problem of missing shoes and toothpaste in the hair, it has worked for my routine. I can't say the kids are ready to give up their Fruit Loops for chai seeds and unsweetened applesauce, but I played around with various recipes until I found one that the husband finally agreed was edible. (That is, until he started making his own smoothies with kale, DHA oil and freshly grated ginger. Talk about a show-off.)

So good. Even at 10 at night.

Here's the thing I like about these muffins. I make a 12-batch and freeze everything in big ziplock bags. The night before, I can pull one out and let it thaw in the fridge. Come morning, I either zap it for 20-30 seconds for a delicious, warm breakfast. Or (more likely in this place), I can toss it in my bag until I finally get around to remembering/eating it, usually in front of my first graders during reading groups. (Don't worry, they are used to this behavior. We often play "find Mrs. Loughman's coffee cup" as I continuously set it down and forget where I left it.) Honestly, I could and have pulled these babies straight out of the freezer (because I forgot to thaw the night before) and by the time I remember to eat it, it has thawed itself to room temperature just fine.

Had to make sure you caught a glance at my smug organic fare. This is the batter before the milk.

A few things you should know about this recipe: For one, it is not very sweet. These aren't going to be your grandma's muffins or a muffin-shaped oatmeal cookie. The applesauce is unsweetened, there is no added sugar (although some recipes I've seen call for brown sugar). You will use a good-sized dollop of honey, and because I'm fancy like that, I used my sister-in-law's organic raw honey infused with organic elderberries (can you feel the smugness rolling off that last sentence?)

Makes 12 dense, little bites of health and happiness, plus some extra.

But because I like sweet things (I'm only human), I prefer to opt into the chocolate chips that get sprinkled on top. They make things just a bit yummier, especially if you warm things up. Blueberries work too, but it's okay to just go for it with the chocolate. No one is judging.

Baked Oatmeal Muffins
makes 12 plus some leftover
adapted from here

1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup applesauce, unsweetened
2 bananas, mashed
1/4 cup honey 
2 1/2 cups, Old Fashioned rolled oats 
1/8 cup chai seeds (optional)
1 tablespoon flax seeds (optional)
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups milk 
Optional toppings: blueberries, raisins, walnuts, chocolate chips, pomegranate seeds, etc.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix egg, vanilla, applesauce, banana and honey together in a bowl.
Add in oats, seeds (if using), cinnamon, baking powder, salt and mix well with wet ingredients.
Finally pour in milk and combine. Mixture will appear loose, but don't freak out. It will set up fine in the oven.
Line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper liners. (I spray the paper with cooking spray - it seems to help the muffins slide out of their wrapping just a bit easier.)
Divide mixture evenly into muffin tin cups. I use a 1/4 measuring cup and fill to almost the top. Any extra batter I'll pour into a ramekin to bake alongside the muffins.
Add the toppings. Obviously chocolate chip is the least healthy, but also my favorite because it adds a touch of sweetness you won't get from the muffins themselves.
Bake 30 minutes. Cool, eat, freeze, you choose!

2.06.2016

Good Start

So, how is going around here?

Well, I'm continuing to love getting creative with color. There is something weirdly therapeutic about it. The girls will be driving me nuts, I'll give up on bedtime and make Matt take over, I'll go color for ten minutes, and suddenly I'm ready to deal with things again. If I end up needing to take another trip upstairs, I am able to do it with a rather positive attitude. Strange what a few minutes of self-centered (not in the egotistical way) zen will do for you. So I'll be keeping up the coloring.



I got creative in the kitchen when I cooked up some quinoa and subbed it for the usual rice I serve with various recipes. The results were mixed. All agreed it was far healthier, some had no problem making a swap, others (like me) couldn't quite make the leap due to the textural differences, so I think I'll keep offering both. What food should I tackle next?

And thanks to a timely invitations, we even had the chance to create new relationships when we were invited to dinner by a lovely family we know through church. We have kids the same age and have gotten to know them a bit on Sunday mornings (us moms were on the same volunteer schedule for a while). But being invited into someone's home, breaking bread with them, talking life with them, really lets you form a new bond. We talked Disney World trips, school issues, and I heard about this book, which has totally inspired me, regardless of the fact that I only read the synopsis.

So January got off to a good start!

Now I'm off to create some Valentine's for my class. That counts, right?!

1.31.2016

35

#tbt to that time I was born... 
So I turned 35 today. It was a good day. A good weekend, in fact. My dad called from Paris to wish me happy birthday. My brother sent flowers. My mom texted the above picture. Also, let's pause for a moment to marvel at the awesomeness that is the above, and the completely shellshocked look on my dad's face. I imagine that's how most first-time dads feel. Moms seem to handle it better; the nine-plus months gestating seems to give them a leg up. He recovered well, though.

Beautiful flowers, mildly insulting card digging at my middle-aged-ness.
On Saturday at book club I was surprised with a dozen homemade cupcakes, gifted by my dear friend (and fabulous baker) Shannon. They were delish. I may have eaten two. But to be fair, I had to sample the lemon and the strawberry. Then that evening a group of girls from the neighborhood (there are six of us with January/February birthdays) went to the Melting Pot. It ended up being a complete fiasco in every way, but the company was good and the chocolate fondue at the end covered a multitude of sins.

My cupcakes!
In between book club and dinner, I came home to find a string, inspired by Disney's Frozen Fever, duh. For those of you who haven't watched it 483 times like we have, here is a synopsis. It's Anna's birthday, and Queen Elsa has set up a treasure hunt of sorts. Anna has to follow the string as it leads her to all her presents. Hmm... maybe you have to see it to understand:


Anyway, I followed the string through the house, upstairs and down, all the way to my gallery wall, where my present was hanging. Matt got me a photograph print, taken and signed by Ben Folds (the musical god himself) featuring the sheet music of my favorite Ben Folds song.


Fun fact: the first time I heard this song was in the car as Matt drove us to what ended up being a surprise trip to San Antonio so he could propose. I cried. When I heard the song. When he proposed, I was too gobsmacked to do much of anything except say yes. Here, just take a listen. I dare you to keep a dry eye.


Anyway, the rest of the weekend has been spent just hanging out with these noodleheads, doing our quiet family stuff like making pizza, riding bikes, hanging out. It's been a lovely way to usher in the second half of this fine decade of mine. I really am the luckiest.


The Luckiest

I don't get many things right the first time
In fact, I am told that a lot
Now I know all the wrong turns
The stumbles and falls brought me here

And where was I before the day
That I first saw your lovely face?
Now I see it everyday

And I know that I am
I am, I am the luckiest

What if I'd been born fifty years before you
In a house on the street where you live?
Maybe I'd be outside as you passed on your bike
Would I know?

And in a wide sea of eyes
I see one pair that I recognize

And I know that I am
I am, I am the luckiest

I love you more than I have
Ever found a way to say to you

Next door, there's an old man who lived to his 90's
And one day, passed away in his sleep
And his wife, she stayed for a couple of days
And passed away

I'm sorry, I know that's a strange way
To tell you that I know we belong

That I know that I am
I am, I am the luckiest

1.22.2016

Color

For the record, when you say yes to kids, they just keep asking for more.
So I did it. I totally jumped on the coloring book bandwagon. I'm such a trend follower, sigh. But it falls under my new resolution to be more creative this year, so I'm giving myself a pass.

And you know what, it's just as lovely and relaxing as everyone keeps saying it is. I opted for this book because it was co-authored by an art therapist, lending it a bit of legitimacy. And it is organized into areas of life where one might need a bit of stress relief - relationships, work, health, commuting... (that last one makes me laugh, but it is so true. Just don't color while commuting, perhaps.)

I opted for a page from the chapter on "time". Yes, I'm stressed about the amount of time (or lack thereof) in my life. So ironically, I used up some of those precious minutes on this:


But it worked! I felt lovely while coloring away. It was a way better activity than, say, scrolling endlessly through facebook or falling down a click-bait rabbit hole. At one point, I even realized how much more rested my eyeballs felt, staring at these soothing, mellow colors instead of the harsh glare of the screen. And while I can't say I had any super profound thoughts while coloring, it was actually kind of nice not having any thoughts at all. It was a great way to disconnect for a few moments. So, I'm a believer. Here's to more coloring!

1.20.2016

Create

I've been feeling like I've been in a rut lately. Nothing deep or dark, just kinda stuck. I feel like I'm in survival mode and have been that way for a while. There hasn't been much time for anything beyond getting through the daily grind.

The other day, a fellow teacher came to me with a request. She knows I like to write, perhaps she even reads here, I don't know. But she wanted me to take a look at her niece's application essay. I asked if I was editing for grammar or style and she said both. So without hesitation, I picked up my pen and got to slashing and rewriting. It felt wonderful, like I was stretching muscles long out of use, but delightfully still ready. There wasn't a moment when I felt doubt about the creative decisions I was making.

I miss being creative. I used to work in a fairly creative field. I got to write on a daily basis. I was paid to make pages beautiful and string words together in a way that made you want to keep reading. That's not to say teaching isn't a creative profession. I'm constantly thinking on my feet, creating learning opportunities, directing the day. But it's not the same.

I've been wondering what my Word should be this year. Something to focus on, some lofty Idea to steer towards. And Create has been in my mind for a few days now. Today, driving to church, listening to some NPR (nothing like listening to other brainy, creative people to get the juices flowing) I had this little thought. What if I picked a different creative arena to focus on each month? Create with Food one month, create with Words the next, and so on. It takes the vague "be more creative" goal and gives it something solid to grasp. It gives me a smaller, more achievable timeframe. It keeps things loose, but still within some boundaries.

So, what are some tools to employ? Keep in mind that some skills are just not my jam. I'm not going to be composing any songs, picking up any instruments, or enrolling in any classes, as much as I'd love to become a fancy photographer or speak fluently in another language. Also, baby steps people. I'm still a full-time working mom of two, with a fairly demanding job and a house to run, husband to keep happy and cat to curse. Let's be realistic. Push outside the comfort zone, but not so far off the ledge that I lose it. Here's what I'm thinking...

Create with Food - cook one new recipe a week. And/or, cook something intimidating. Like a butt. Or exotic type of fish. Or something that has to be impaled on a beer can. You know, just to keep it classy. I'm not cooking my way through Julia Child here, I just want to add a few recipes to my repertoire and become a little more adventurous in the kitchen. Considering I am really only comfortable cooking about five things, this is a legitimate resolution. Ooh, I could even learn to grill! Or at least turn on the grill. Also, I want to get more comfortable handling raw meat. I hate raw meat. So, lots of opportunity to get creative with food.

Create with Words - This one is probably what sparked it all. And should be the easiest, the most second-nature. I just need the discipline to do it. Perhaps I'll set a goal to blog every day. Publishing the world wide web would certainly keep me accountable in a way that "keep a daily journal" would not. Plus being forced to find something to write about on a daily basis would get the juices flowing, especially since my life isn't interesting enough on a daily basis to provide the content.

Create with Yarn - So I used to knit. Nothing fancy, just scarves, the odd poncho, once a hat when I wanted to master double-pointed needles. But there is something inherently soothing about the repetitive motion of working yarn. Or maybe I'll pick up a retro cross stitch project. The time factor, and the fact that it takes two hands and makes multitasking infinitely more difficult, will be the biggest hurdles here.

Create with Paint - I could participate in another "paint and partake" event, which I totally would anyway, Word of the Year or not. Or I could interpret this as "go paint the bathroom already". Either way, I would be satisfied. It was quite fulfilling to get the laundry room redone over Thanksgiving, so I'm up for more. Along that vein...

Create with Color - Or more accurately, "I've been wanting a coloring book and this is the perfect excuse". Perhaps I'll get one now and call this my January theme.

Create Something DIY - This one is a little more vague, but basically gets at the idea that I want to make more things out of nothing. It might mean finding a cool craft on Pinterest and bringing it to life. It could be practical, like these, or just something pretty, like this.

Create with Music - This might be a stretch, but since I'm not about to take up a new instrument or join the church band... what if I made it a goal to listen to a different type of music every week for a month. And like, really let it infuse life. Listen in the car, in the classroom after the kids go home, at home while making dinner. I mean, could an intensive week's worth of classical music make me feel smarter, calmer, more inspired? What about some chanting monks? A week's worth of Kidz Bop? Nothing but REM for seven days? Although technically I'm not creating anything, so perhaps this one won't fly...

Create Community - Intentionally invest in new relationships. Maybe go out to eat with a different family every Sunday after church. Maybe invite a different family over for a Saturday night dinner for an entire month. Maybe a combination of the two. I feel like I have a pretty good community here with my neighbors, and my work family is strong too, but it would be nice to widen our social circle to include other families with children the same age as ours, or start building stronger relationships with the people at church, as opposed to just waving at each other on the way to the nursery.

Create Outdoors - This one is easily accomplished via our garden. Or I could suddenly get excited about yardwork, but that's unlikely. Maybe I'll get a themed garden, like everything I need for salsa. Or mojitos. Whatever. Potato potahto.

So that's nine ideas. I can't think of anymore, maybe something to do with the kids? Create some Space and take a vacation by myself? There are possibilities here, but for now, I think I've bitten off plenty. Off to get myself a coloring book and start creating!


1.09.2016

Anything You Can Do...

The mild temperatures from Christmas have given way to a cold, wet January, but there have been a few days pleasant enough to take the girls out for a spin on their new bikes. It took Violet a few tries to feel comfortable on her big girl bike (she still doesn't fully trust that the training wheels will keep her from tipping sideways) but the more she rides, the better she does. Not to be outdone, Annie insists on hopping on her tricycle, even though she prefers to peddle the Flintstone way of feet to the ground rather than on the peddles. Baby steps.

Trying out the new bike!

Not to be outdone, Annie insists on riding her bike.
Annie has decided she has an opinion and that her opinion matters. Here's a sample conversation:

Me: Annie, lay down next to Violet. (The girls share Violet's room now.)
Annie: I sleep in my bed!
Me: Okay (carrying her into her room).
Annie: (shrieking) No I sleep in Violet's bed!
Me: Then get in Violet's bed!
Annie: I sleep in MY bed!

Oy! The things she's cried over. The purple lid (it was the wrong color). Not being allowed to pull dirty knives out of the dishwasher (how dare I). All the clothing choices I make for her in the morning. The number of ponytails (too many? not enough?) I'm not sure how much of these opinions to attribute to her 2-year-old-ness, and how much to blame on the example her highly-dramatic older sister is having on her.

Although, for all the bad habits Violet is passing down, she sure is a good big sister. She hasn't complained about suddenly having to share her bed with Annie, and she is generally quite generous and sweet with her. I hope they always love each other this much.

1.01.2016

Hello 2016!

Happy New Year!

New Years 2016

New Years 2015 - off our our PJ party

New Years 2014

We have had the great pleasure of attending New Years parties in our neighborhood ever since we moved in, and it's always nice to be able to walk home after a long night. This year, for the first time, we had a kids party at a different house and partied with our adult selves until 11:30, when we let the kids join us for a celebratory toast. Best idea ever. There was poker and Cards Against Humanity and noshes and bubbly and a wonderful time had by all. Annie woke up during the transfer to the adult party, and Violet had staying power the whole night, so we were able to ring in the New Year as a happy family.

2015 was good. Here's to an even better 2016!

#best9
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