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Monday, December 31, 2012

Homemade Mondays, Week 9

Homemade Mondays is a series for people that are on a journey to better living, via healthier eating and a more natural lifestyle.  We realize that there are different paths that we all take to get to that place, and this bloghop celebrates that.  Whether you’re a seasoned raw foodist who has banned all things unnatural, or a rookie who is starting out by cutting out junk food, we’d love to hear from you! Link up with your favorite recipes, projects, crafts, or rants and raves.

The Hosts


Aubrey of Homegrown & Healthy 
How to
Homemade Mondays will open every Monday. You have until Thursday to make your submissions. We will share our favorite posts on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and shout it from the rooftops.
  • Link up. Use the submission form below to add your blog posts to our gallery below. You can add as many links as you’d like, as long as they’re on topic. What’s eligible? Recipes, crafts, DIY projects, gardening, fitness, green ideas or just plain old advice. We’re pretty open.
  • Tell us about yourselves. Leave a comment telling us a little about your site and what you’ve shared. Of course this isn’t mandatory, but it’s a good way to stand out.
  • Link back. Share the love by adding a link back to this party with your readers so they can see all of these great ideas as well.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Meal plan for December 31st - January 6th

This post was going to start out with an amazing photo of a Lego firetruck that I spent two hours building.  Right as I grabbed the camera, Jack said "cool firetruck Mommy" and then dropped it on the kitchen floor.  Yippee skippy!

How was your Christmas?  Ours was wonderful, but crazy as always.  Three days of Christmases gets a wee bit exhausting.  Wednesday night, after Christmas number three, Jack lost his ever loving mind at bedtime and ended up falling asleep as he was sobbing in my arms.  One second sobbing.  The next second, snoring.  Checking on him later, we found him burning up with a 103 temperature.  He was so pathetic I asked him if he wanted to sleep in our bed.  He nodded yes.  That was the first sign he was really sick.

In three and a half years, Jack has never chosen to sleep in our bed.  He loves his space and refuses to be next to anyone else.  When he was first born, I was all about bed sharing, attachment parenting, etc., but the little butthead wouldn't cooperate from day one.

A trip to the ped the next day resulted in the diagnosis of "throat infection".  His tonsils (already giant) were red and throbbing.  I'm glad he is seeing the ear, nose, and throat doctor next Wednesday.

Speaking of ENT doctors, we got the bill for Jack's sleep study today.  The good news is, we've met our family deductible for the year!  The bad news is, there are two days left in the year, and it's going to cost us $3,300 out of pocket.  Gulp.  We have a health savings account that gets automatic deposits each month, so hopefully they'll allow us make payments.  Sucks that we couldn't have waited until January to do it so that the sleep study would have paid for the ENT and tonsil surgery that is coming down the pike.  Sigh.

Yesterday afternoon, bored with my birds pillow cases, I whipped up a few new ones, and am liking the change.  My mother-in-law referred to them as "happy pillows".  These cases are seriously so easy to make.  If you got a sewing machine for Christmas and barely know how to use it, this is a great project for you!

And just because I never relate to bloggers when they post photos of their lovely homes and pretend that they're perfect, here is what was behind me on the floor while I was taking the above photos.  Jack got the TAG book system for Christmas, and my large cutting board has been commandeered for the foundation of many Angry Birds Star Wars castles.  The blanket is an old one I made for him last year, and no other blanket seems to replace it.
Speaking of Christmas presents, I was incredibly blessed this year.  I received some awesome new cookbooks and sewing books, and some fun kitchen gadgets as well.  My three favorite gifts were a magnetic knife bar, a new paring knife (mine broke in October and I've been lost without it), and a fancy chef's knife that I've been lusting over for a very long time.  I'm quite easy to please my friends - knives and books!

Jack opened his superhero quilt on Christmas day, and fell in love with it, but since then he has refused to touch it.  Brat.

When Jack was about 18 months old, Troy's grandma, GG (Great Grandma) gave Jack a kitty that he named GG Kitty.  Jack and GG Kitty go everywhere together.  For Christmas, I made GG a photobook from Shutterfly about Jack and GG Kitty's adventures.
Judging by the sobbing on Christmas morning, I think it was a hit.

I like making old ladies cry.

Clearly.

Ok, enough jibber jabber, here is our meal plan for the week.  Reminder, I only plan dinners, because breakfast is always smoothies or eggs with something, and lunches are always leftovers.  We rarely eat dessert during the week, and our dinner drink of choice is water kefir soda.

Monday:: World's Second Best Baked Potatoes, salad, and tomato soup (canned from the garden).

Tuesday:: ASS (Awesome Sarah's Soup) which is a soup I used to make, and my in-laws named because they loved it so much.  I haven't made it in years, so I'm busting it out this week!  Will be paired with salad, and dutch oven bread.

Wednesday:: Breakfast dinner.

Thursday:: The sauce from this tilapia dish, but on chicken, roasted Brussels sprouts, and skillet potatoes.

Friday:: Popcorn dinner.  Yes, seriously we eat popcorn for dinner.  It's popcorn, leftovers, cheese slices, fruit, and cut up veggies.  Everyone gets as much as they want, and no one leaves hungry.  I adore Fridays because it is the easiest night of the week for making everyone happy!

Saturday:: Baked potato soup.  Made this a few weeks ago from an idea in my head.  It was good, so this time I'll measure and share the recipe with you.  With the soup, we'll have salad, and fruit.

Sunday:: Family dinner at my parent's.

This week I spent only about $12 on groceries from the store, and $3.50 for a half gallon of raw milk.  How I love a well-stocked fridge, pantry, and freezer!  All I bought this week were bananas, celery, cilantro, ginger, and a jalapeno.  Oh, and eggs.  Our local farm seems to be out of them a lot these days.  Lazy chickens aren't laying as much because of the reduction of daylight.  Feathered jerks.

How was your Christmas?  What are you eating this week?

Friday, December 28, 2012

Winner(s) winner(s) chicken dinner(s)

I meant to post the winner of the immersion blender and the sock monkey stamps last night, but I found myself in bed at 7 pm with a feverish 3 year old attached to me like he was an amoeba and I was his host cell.  I didn't feel it was appropriate to say "get off me with your 103 temp.  Mommy has to blog!"

Anyhoo, we have two winners to two giveaways today, and I'm excited to share their names with you!

1) Winner of the Red Heel Revue sock monkey stamps set is lucky number 3, Mrs. Dixxxon, who said:

These are so cute! I'd love the To and From stamp, but I'd be stoked to have any of them. Sock monkeys rule!

www.mrsdixxxon.blogspot.com.  twitter - @saradixxxon

2) Winner of the immersion blender (one of my favorite things) is lucky number 2 (what is with all these low number winners?), Jaime Wasser, who said:

Carrot peeler. I'm way too lame to peel veggies any other way.


Congrats!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

See you in a few days

I'm taking the rest of this week for family time.  Have a wonderful weekend, and see you soon!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

The last few weeks have been heavy for so many of us.  There has been such a feeling of despair and sadness over this country.  In the midst of everything going on, a friend of mine had two experiences  that were so powerful in proving the goodness of humanity, that I asked her if I could share them with you guys.

Backstory: My friend was laid off with one week left in to her maternity leave.  Mortgage, two kids, expenses, etc.; such overwhelming feelings.  One day, she was reading a website where people could write in requesting help with Christmas presents, etc.  Not knowing when she was going back to work, she emailed in.  This was a turn of events for her, as she had been a contributor to this effort for the last two years.

About three weeks ago, she got a new job.  She's thankful and happy to be back to work.

About a week ago, she was at the grocery store buying diapers and other staples.  The cashier rung everything up, and then told her that the man in front of her had paid for her purchase.

Tears.  Gratitude.  People are good.

A few days latter, she received over $200 in gift cards from a random stranger from the website.  This woman didn't even know her, but wanted to help out her family.

Tears.  Gratitude.  People are good.

On top of that, since she now has a job and the gift cards were no longer necessary, my friend and her husband took them to Target to buy presents for teens at a local shelter.  My friend, a random stranger doesn't know those kids, but she wants them to have a Merry Christmas.

Tears.  Gratitude.  People are good. 

Those last tears are mine. 

The hope belongs to all of us.

People are good. 

Merry Christmas.  May you all be blessed.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Homemade Mondays week 8

Homemade Mondays is a series for people that are on a journey to better living, via healthier eating and a more natural lifestyle.  We realize that there are different paths that we all take to get to that place, and this bloghop celebrates that.  Whether you’re a seasoned raw foodist who has banned all things unnatural, or a rookie who is starting out by cutting out junk food, we’d love to hear from you! Link up with your favorite recipes, projects, crafts, or rants and raves.

The Hosts

Aubrey of Homegrown & Healthy 
How to
Homemade Mondays will open every Monday. You have until Thursday to make your submissions. We will share our favorite posts on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and shout it from the rooftops.
  • Link up. Use the submission form below to add your blog posts to our gallery below. You can add as many links as you’d like, as long as they’re on topic. What’s eligible? Recipes, crafts, DIY projects, gardening, fitness, green ideas or just plain old advice. We’re pretty open.
  • Tell us about yourselves. Leave a comment telling us a little about your site and what you’ve shared. Of course this isn’t mandatory, but it’s a good way to stand out.
  • Link back. Share the love by adding a link back to this party with your readers so they can see all of these great ideas as well. 
Even though it is Christmas Eve (day), Aubrey and I are hoping that you might link up posts (even if they're old) for homemade holiday items.  I'm sure a lot of our readers who are still trying to figure out that special gift would appreciate seeing things you've made (even if it was last year)!

My favorite post from last week was Tinted Mason Jars from Repurpose My Life.  I have mad Mason Jar love, and knowing another thing I can use these guys for, was pretty cool!


Sunday, December 23, 2012

No meal plan this week, but lots o'stuff

This is going to be a bit of a jumbled post because I have so much to talk about!

1) I got a 4.0 in my fall class!
2) I'm DONE with Christmas stuff.  WOOT!!!!  My sister and brother-in-law are idiots angels, and offered to take Jack overnight for not one, but TWO days.  Friday I made food presents for the neighbors, 8 loaves of bread and started a Christmas present for my mother-in-law (see below).  Saturday I spent ALL day finishing up my mother-in-law's present, and making cloth gift wrapping (more about that below), and finishing up other last minute gifts.

My in-laws have a small beach house at Ocean Shores, and they have a guest bedroom that is blue, cream, and yellow.  I decided it needed a quilt for the end of the bed from their favorite daughter-in-law (I'm their only daughter-in-law).  The quilt is my new favorite style from Patchwork Style.



This photo shows the back.  Love those little boats!
3) Food for neighbors.  I made two super easy things to give to the 10 families on our street.  Peppermint Bark, and a treat so ugly that my sister and I named it "Reindeer Poop".

Reindeer Poop
-2 cups of barely chopped walnuts (you want chunks)
-2 cups of mini marshmallows (try making your own!)
-1.25 lbs of dark chocolate (I use the huge 1 lb Plus bars from Trader Joes)

1) Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and sprinkle the walnuts and marshmallows on top.
2) In a double boiler, or in a microwave bowl, melt the chocolate, stirring often.
3) Pour the chocolate over the walnuts and marshmallows.  It's going to get really ugly, really fast.  Mix it all up with a spoon until there is a huge pile in the middle of the parchment.  Spread it out a bit (it will NOT cover the whole surface of the baking sheet), and then freeze it for 30 minutes.
4) Break in to chunks

It is seriously super ugly, but extremely tasty.

Also, Troy mashed up the candy canes this year, and did such an efficient job that the peppermint were like shards of glass.  Breaking up the bark after it came out of the freezer cut my hands up pretty badly.  Peppermint Bark injuries.  So lame.

4) Without Jack around, Troy and I went to dinner and a movie last night.  It was so nice!
5) Who needs toys?  Jack played with some chopsticks we had around the house for 30 minutes the other day.  He said he was Wolverine.


This is the only photo we own where Jack looks like Troy instead of like a male version of me.
6) Troy's family takes Christmas to a whole new level.  Picture an insanity filled present orgy.  Now multiply that by 1,480, and that is Troy's family's Christmas.  I can't keep up with all of those presents, so I don't even try. The ones who really get in to it, enjoy it, and we don't dare try to tell them otherwise.

Every year they fill multiple huge garbage bags with wrapping paper, and then in-between the present opening (it takes about 4 hours) and eating, the boys head out and burn all the wrapping paper.

Last year I decided that this year, I would try my best to not contribute to that burn pile.  Except for a very few presents, everything under our tree is wrapped in cloth bags.  I collected a yard here and a yard there over the year, and then went a little crazy when JoAnns had their 60% off snuggle flannel sale.  The cost and time involved will hopefully be just a one time thing, because I plan to collect these bags and reuse.

Here is how things will go:

Giftee: "Oh Sarah, thank you so much, I love this xyz!"
Me: "You're so welcome!  You can keep the bag if you want to."  That statement will be made in a way that it is very clear that I'll cut a bitch if they try to keep the bag.  Merry Christmas!

I know it seems like a big undertaking to make all the wrapping, and while it was time-consuming, it was much less painful than watching me wrap with paper.  My old roommate once watched me try to wrap Christmas presents.  After about 5 minutes, she said "do you want me to show you how to do that"?  I'm helpless with wrapping.  Cloth bags at least are stupid easy.

1) Lay down some cloth after it has been doubled (folded in half), and put the present over it.  You're gauging how much fabric you need.

2) Cut a few inches or so past how much you think you'll need.

3) Find the part that will be the top of the bag.
The tip of the scissors is pointing to the top of the "bag".
4) Then fold a seam over where you've identified the top.  Pin.

5) Sew a simple hem.

6) Fold the bag in half so that the pretty side of the fabric is facing itself, and sew so that only the "top" of the bag isn't hemmed.  You're making a pocket.

7) Fold it right-side out, and voila, a gift bag.

Tie a pretty bow, and decorate with a homemade gift tag.  We used a cut up grocery bag.  I made these snowmen, but only had the patience to make 8 of them.  We primarily used the "To: From" Sock Monkey Stamp from Red Heel Revue.  Want to win your own?  Sign up here!
8) Still a few days left in the giveaway from the immersion blender!  Enter here.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

So, I'm kinda a big deal - Top 50 finance blogs for ecollegefinder.org

You may now refer to me as "your highness", or "your Majesty".  Or, if you're my friend Mary, you'd call me "pasty beanpole".  I also answer to "hey mommy, get down like a horse so that I can ride on your back to the bathroom so that I can go poop".

I'm fancy like that.

A few weeks ago, I received an email saying I had been nominated as one of ecollegefinder top finance blogs, and would I like to answer a few questions to be put in the finals?  Um, yes, yes I would please.  Part of the application was the offer to write a blog post about college finances and include that in your submission.  I didn't have time to get it done before the deadline, so I said I would be writing a post and was told that was fine, but could I write a few thoughts about what the post would entail?

I am paraphrasing here, but I pretty much submitted: "healthy, cheap, easy food, home remedies that save you money, and fart jokesRamen bad."

You can imagine my surprise when I received an email saying I had been placed in the top 50.  I kinda felt like Elle Woods in Legally Blonde getting in to Harvard.

So, college students, come worship at my feet of cheapness.  I will lay down the gauntlet of wisdom and edumacate you in staying fiscally sound during your time in higher education.

First things first - don't get into consumer debt.  Kinda a no-brainer, right?  I know it's easier said than done, but there are very few people who aren't able to work a little bit during college.  I delivered pizza while going to Washington State University full time.  I worked a few nights a week and made an enormous amount of money doing that.  I saved all my coins from tips and that would net about $100 a month.  That money would go in to savings.  I lived (food, gas, etc.) off of my cash tips, and put my paycheck and the mileage fee that the company gave us in to the bank.  It wasn't fancy work, and it wasn't challenging, but it was a great way to keep extra money in my pocket.

Ok, so I said the obligatory "don't get a credit card" speech, but saving money in college is so much more than just not getting in to debt.  Most of the rest of this post will focus on ways to save money as someone living on their own for the first time.  Many of the tips won't apply to dorm living because when you're at the mercy of a food plan and dorm fees, there isn't a lot of wiggle room.  In my experience, people don't live in dorms forever, so consider these your "Sophomore year" tips.

Cleaning your new place
Don't waste your money on conventional cleaning supplies.  Not only are they expensive, but often they're full of fragrance and other harsh chemicals that can harm your health.  It's so easy and inexpensive to make your own.  I buy many of my ingredients at Costco, but even if you don't have a membership, these things are cheap at grocery or other big box stores.
Furnishings
I wouldn't buy a mattress second hand, but I sure as hell would (and have) bought clothes, dishes, kitchen items, home furnishings, etc. at thrift stores, garage sales, and off of Craigslist.  You don't need new.  You want new.  But you don't need it.  Besides, new is boring; used is fun and full of character!

Food
Food is what I think about a lot throughout the day.  If you don't want to put all that effort in to it, check out my posts every Sunday to see my meal plan, and how much I spend on groceries.  You'd be surprised at how much delicious food you can get for such a small amount of coin.   Spices, herbs, and a few go-to sauces will make you the king or queen of your apartment complex.  People will always ask what you're cooking, and perhaps would there be enough for one more person to come to dinner. 

Simple and healthy food can be a no brainer.  To accomplish a lot of my easy recipes, you're going to need a few things, all which are readily found at thrift stores.  Get yourself a crockpot, at least one cast iron skillet, and a dutch oven.  For tips on refurbishing thrift store cast iron, click here.

Ramen and processed food are full of sodium and crap you don't need to be eating.  I'm also a huge proponent of "cook once, and eat multiple times".  Make yourself a giant batch of soup in your newly acquired crockpot, and then freeze in small portions.  Voila, you now have an instant meal to take to campus to eat between classes (assuming you can access a microwave).  And the best part is that you don't need to pack it with a ice pack, because it is its own ice pack!

One of my favorite easy/cheap/"get a lot out of this meal" meals is roast chicken, skillet potatoes, and a vegetable.  Roast the chick in your dutch oven, roast the spuds in the your cast iron skillet (bonus you don't have to wash cast iron after cooking in it!), and make a side salad.  That night you'll feast like the royal family.

After you've eaten your fill of the chicken, put aside a little for lunch in a container with the leftover spuds.  Then pick the extra meat off of the chicken and set aside in the fridge.  Tomorrow, you're having taco bowls!  Put the chicken carcass in your crockpot with water and some veggies, and cook on low for 12 hours.  Then, strain, and freeze in 2 cup portions,  You just made 3 meals (dinner, lunch for tomorrow, and dinner for tomorrow), plus about $4 worth of chicken stock for just the price of your chicken and a few other ingredients.  Mind blown, right?  Right!

Before I close, here are a few of my favorite dirt cheap, but healthy recipes.  Enjoy, and feel free to email me or leave a comment if you have any questions!

Lentil soup
Frittata
Skillet potatoes
Chicken stock
Black beans in the crockpot

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Another fun giveaway!

If you remember a giveaway I did from Asspocket Productions last summer, and were bummed that you didn't win, you have another chance!

Stacey has another Etsy shop for stamps - this one focusing on all things sock monkeys.  Can you even freaking imagine?  Well, you don't have to any more; check out Red Heel Revue.  When she sent me the link, I couldn't even handle the cuteness.

These stamps come in a flat sheet so that you can mount them as you wish.  That's what she said, right?  They're so flat that they can be stored in a CD case. They're so flat, you'd think they were my boobs.

I was sent this stamp set, and we put it to good use within a day.

Troy was wrapping Christmas presents and we didn't have any gift tags.  Well...we did, but they were dirty santa gift tags, and we agreed that they weren't so appropriate for Jack's presents.  You know, cause we're parents of the year like that.

Anyhoo, Troy used the "To: and From:" stamp from this set, and the presents are currently sitting under our tree look adorable!

Want your own?  Um, of course you do!  Go to Stacey's website and simply leave a comment saying which set you're coveting.  That is your "entry" to this giveaway!  Please leave an email or a link to your own blog so that I can contact you if you're a winner!  And as if Stacey wasn't already supah cool, she is opening this giveaway to anyone, anywhere in the world.  How awesome is that??

Giveaway will be open through Thursday the 27th at 7 pm PT.  Good luck, and may the odds be ever in your favor!

Monday, December 17, 2012

When the dog bites, when the bee stings...these are a few of my favorite things

Heads up, there are plenty of affiliate links in this post, but all links are things I truly love myself and would gift to my own friends.  Well, not my friends because none of them would love this shit, but you get the idea.  Scroll to the bottom for a kick ass giveaway!

Need last minute gifts for the hippy or nerd in your life?  Don't worry, your Fairy Dorkmother (me) is here to help.

Inexpensive - under $20
  • Microplane grater.  I use this thing weekly and love it! 
  • Lamb.  This book about the "real" story of Jesus Christ, as told by his best friend Biff, made me almost pee my pants.
  • At Home.  This book makes dorks so very happy.  It sounds lame, but it is fascinating.  It's the history of how every room in a house came to be.  I know, boring right?  NOPE.  So good.
  • Cowboy and Octopus.  Hands down, one of the weirdest kids books ever.  Troy and I fight to read this one to Jack.
  • DIY kid's food pouches.  We fill this with applesauce for church.  Pouring applesquish in my kid's food hole keeps him occupied.
  • The Homemade Pantry.  Love this cookbook so hard.
  • Press Here.  This kids book is so fun!
  • Apple peeler/corer thing-a-ma-jing.  Makes processing 2 or 200 apples a cinch.
Medium priced - $30 ish
Eh, starting to make my wallet sweat - under $75
  • Dutch oven.  You NEED one.  I can't remember my life before Dutchie and Little Sprout came in to my life.
  • Yogurt maker.  This little dude has paid for itself tenfold.  Well, it was a gift, so I guess it paid for itself as soon as I opened the package.  I love it!
  • Large crockpot.  For the life of me, I can't understand why people don't have one!  I use mine weekly.
  • Good knives.  We got a set similar to this for our wedding over 8 years ago, and I use them daily.  Thanks Auntie Lulu and Uncle John!
  • My pressure canner! It expanded my canning potential so much.
Ack, my mother-in-law is a hag and I'm desperate for her approval, so I'm willing to spend the money:
  • Grain mill.  Expensive upfront costs that pays for itself fairly quickly.
  • Mixer.  My life was incomplete without her in it.
  • Food processor.  So many of my "make it yourself" recipes start with this bad boy.
  • Reel mower.  Cut the gasoline addiction and get a workout at the same time.  This baby has one speed - you.
I made a lot of homemade presents this year, but I still love to gift some of my store-bought favorite items to people I love.  Like you knuckleheads.  Let's do a giveaway, shall we?

Soooooo...in the comments tell me your hands down "I'd go back in a burning building to grab this" kitchen or house tool, and I'll draw a lucky winner next Wednesday at noon to win an immersion blender.  US residents only; sorry other dudes!

Edited to add: PLEASE leave an email address or a blog link so that I can find you if you're the big winner!

Homemade Mondays, week 7

Homemade Mondays is a series for people that are on a journey to better living, via healthier eating and a more natural lifestyle.  We realize that there are different paths that we all take to get to that place, and this bloghop celebrates that.  Whether you’re a seasoned raw foodist who has banned all things unnatural, or a rookie who is starting out by cutting out junk food, we’d love to hear from you! Link up with your favorite recipes, projects, crafts, or rants and raves.

The Hosts
Aubrey of Homegrown & Healthy 
How to
Homemade Mondays will open every Monday. You have until Thursday to make your submissions. We will share our favorite posts on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and shout it from the rooftops.
  • Link up. Use the submission form below to add your blog posts to our gallery below. You can add as many links as you’d like, as long as they’re on topic. What’s eligible? Recipes, crafts, DIY projects, gardening, fitness, green ideas or just plain old advice. We’re pretty open.
  • Tell us about yourselves. Leave a comment telling us a little about your site and what you’ve shared. Of course this isn’t mandatory, but it’s a good way to stand out.
  • Link back. Share the love by adding a link back to this party with your readers so they can see all of these great ideas as well. 
For the next few weeks, Aubrey and I are hoping that you might link up posts (even if they're old) for homemade holiday items.  I'm sure a lot of our readers who are still trying to figure out that special gift would appreciate seeing things you've made (even if it was last year)!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Meal plan for December 17th - 23rd

This post is hard for me to write.  I don't know where to begin, and I don't know what to say.  My heart is having a hard time reconciling the news that happened on Friday.  I cried in the car on the way home, and snuggled my boy for as long as he would let me (about 5 seconds before a request of "stop squeezing me mommy so that I can go play").  My heart is broken for the community and those families.  Nothing about this makes sense.

Jack asked why I was crying, and I said a very bad man hurt a lot of kids and adults.  He asked if it was The Joker.  I said no, The Joker was pretend, and this bad man was real.

Since the dawn of time, there has been violence.  There was violence before bombs, guns, the internet, and 24 hour a day cable news.  There has always been violence, and no matter how and what we legislate, there will still be violence.  And that makes me sad, and exhausted, and could lead to extreme despair.

However, there has always been hope.  And goodness.  And kindness.  And love.  And today, when I snuggle my family a bit tighter, that is where I'm going to be focusing my energy.  Hope.  And goodness.  And kindness.  And love.

Switching gears here, because frankly typing the above left me sobbing.

On Tuesday, we got the results of Jack's sleep study.  I wasn't too surprised to hear the doctor say "significant sleep apnea", but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't hoping it would be a different diagnosis.  After confirming that he wasn't in any danger while he was sleeping, I made an appointment for January 2nd to see an ear, nose, and throat specialist.  This is going to be an expensive endeavor (we have high deductible insurance), so I want it to "count" for the next year.

The doctor who called me after reviewing the results has only met Jack for a few minutes.  Without really knowing Jack, he said that if the apnea wasn't treated, "as he ages, he'll become very hyper and have a hard time focusing in school".  Become hyper?  That boat has sailed!  Jack has the energy of multiple kids, and exhausts me on a daily basis.

People like to say their kids have energy, but then they meet Jack.  My friend came to stay with us in June, and has always said her daughter was energetic.  After one hour of playing with Jack, her daughter sat on the ground and refused to move another step because Jack had exhausted her.

The likely next step after the ENT appointment will be a removal of Jack's tonsils.  His tonsils are so large that they touch his uvula, and impact his sleeping and cause his extreme snoring (like a tiny bear cub with a chain saw).  The removal will hopefully allow him to have a restful sleep.  When adults aren't rested, they crash and get super sleepy.  When kids aren't rested, their exhaustion comes out in the form of being "active".

I keep picturing "post surgery" Jack as a neutered cat, sitting quietly around the house, getting fat, and being a slug.  We'll see.

This week I started and finished up this quilt for the daughter of my friend.  



The back
I have a confession to make...I haven't planned what we're eating until I started writing this sentence.  Here is what we're having for dinner this week (maybe).  Reminder, I only plan dinners, because breakfast is always smoothies or eggs with something, and lunches are always leftovers.  We rarely eat dessert during the week, and our dinner drink of choice is water kefir soda.

Monday:: Baked potato soup.  This didn't get made last week because I was too tired and made popcorn instead.  Go me!  With the soup, we'll have roasted Brussels sprouts, and some fruit.

Tuesday:: Quesadillas, salad (from the garden), tomato soup (home canned), and fruit.

Wednesday:: Breakfast for dinner.  We'll figure out what that means Tuesday night.

Thursday:: Popcorn dinner!  Jack won't be around on Friday, and I'm off work on Friday, so Thursday will be our "Friday".

Friday:: I have no freaking clue.  My sister and I started a new holiday tradition where we swap kids for a night.  Friday, my sister and brother-in-law are taking Jack overnight so that I can focus on last minute Christmas presents and doing it alone.  Sunday, we're taking my nephew so that my sister can do the same.

Saturday:: homemade pizza, salad from the garden, and if you guessed fruit, you're correct!

Sunday:: family dinner at my parent's.

What are you guys having?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Whole Wheat Orange and Chocolate Madelines

Last Saturday, the whole family found ourselves at home.  This is a very rare occurrence on a weekend, and while I was cooking up a delicious dinner, I had the idea that we needed to celebrate with dessert. 

But which dessert?

I flipped through my cookbook, and found this recipe that I had printed out years ago.  As in, like six years ago.  Mmm...madelines.  I once made myself sick off of eating so many of them, and yet I still love them.  That is the sign of a great cookie!

I remember the recipe calling for lemon zest.  Well, I didn't have any.  What I did have were satsumas.  With a declaration of "oh what the hell", I set off on a journey that ended with one of the best cookies I've ever made.  Troy declared them "dangerous". 

Oh, and I also made them a little bit healthier.

Yeah.  You're welcome.

You need a special pan to make these in to the shape of the madeline.  I can't speak to what they'd turn out like without the pan.  I will say the batter is delicious as is, so you maybe don't even need to bake these.  I've seen madeline pans at Goodwill often, so check there too!

Whole Wheat Orange and Chocolate Madelines
Based off of this allrecipes submission.

2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla (try homemade)
zest of 1 satsuma
1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter, melted and cooled
3/4 cup of whole wheat pastry flour
1 heaping tblsp vital wheat gluten
1 cup powdered sugar, preferrably organic
1/2 tsp baking powder

1) Melt the butter, and stick it in the fridge to cool down.  And then go and heat your oven to 375 degrees.

2) Zest your satsuma in to your mixing bowl.  I used my microplane that I love dearly, but any small grater will work!
3) Add the vanilla and eggs to the mixing bowl
4) Mix for 5 minutes with the whisk attachment.
5) Slowly add the powdered sugar.
6) Mix for another 5 minutes.

7) Mix up your dry ingredients (flour, vital wheat gluten, and baking powder), and add to the egg and sugar mixture slowly, about 1/4 cup at a time.  Mix until just incorporated.
8) Add your melted/cooled butter, and mix until just incorporated.  Don't go overboard scraping the bowl out with a spatula.  Set the bowl aside cause we're going to use it later!
 Your mixture should now be thick and fluffy looking.  That's right, fluffy.
9) Use a pastry brush, and spread some of the melted butter left in the bowl in your madeline molds
10) Then, sprinkle a bit of flour over everything.  As you can see, being neat and tidy while I cook is uber important to me.  (insert fart noise here).
11) Spoon a scant tablespoon of batter in to each mold. 

To get the batter spread out, I use an ancient french technique called "Le Finger."
12) Bake for 10 minutes.  Let sit in the molds for one minute, and then remove and let cool on a baking rack.

Now, you can enjoy as is.  Or, you can take it one step further, and make a great cookie an awesome cookie.

13) Melt some dark chocolate chips, and a scoop of shortening.
14) Dip one side in the chocolate, and lay on a tray lined with parchment.  I like to put them in the freezer to allow the chocolate to set.


I bet you wish you could see a lovely staged photo of these cookies in a pretty bowl, right?  Well, sorry.  I don't stage photos.  I didn't have time, and my hands were full from double fisting these bad boys in to my grub hole.

I'm thinking next time, I'll sub out the vanilla extract for peppermint, and sprinkle crushed candy canes over the chocolate before it dries.

Heads up, this post contains Amazon Affiliate links.  If you purchase the item through my link, I get a tiny little kickback.  But I only recommend things I truly love myself.
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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Roasted Garlic Brie in Puff Pastry

A title like that gives me a chick boner. 

Garlic?  Check. 

Cheese?  Check. 

Carbs?  Check

This is a great appetizer that takes very little hands on time.   I'm all for the lazy hors d'oeuvres that look fancy, but don't take much effort on my part.  And don't think that brie is a hoity toity cheese; I bought this wedge at Trader Joes for $3.65.

Roasted Garlic Brie in Puff Pastry
-1 frozen puff pastry (yes yes, I bought the frozen kind) thawed
-1 wedge of brie
-2 heads of garlic
-Olive oil

1) Cut the top off the heads of garlic, and place in an oven-proof bowl lined with foil.
From my garden!
2) Drizzle olive oil over the top - about 1/2 tsp or so.
3) Bake for 35 minutes at 400 degrees.  Let cool for about 25 minutes.
4) Lay out your puff pastry, and place the wedge of brie in the middle.
5) Squeeze the garlic bulbs over the cheese until the individual cloves come out.
6) Fold one side over.
Then the back.
Then the other side.
Then the front.
It kind of looks like a dude's bulge in Speedos, but you'll be able to get past that.

Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes.  Let sit for 15 minutes, and then serve with crackers.

Oh, and Speedo bulge.  Just in case you forgot.
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