Life Parenting

Hashtag, momlife

December 2, 2017

Hi there. Remember me?

Who am I kidding, after 7 weeks with a threenager and a newborn, I barely remember me.

I know, it’s been an eternity since I’ve written. My goal when I share here is really to share something of interest – a recipe or craft, a review or just…something helpful.

Do I do things now? Sure I do. But they’re done flying by the seat of my pants, usually with the aforementioned pants on fire.

“Quick! Before the baby wakes up! Stop jumping! Don’t throw that!”

#momlife

Fact is, I’ve got plenty I could write about. But it’s not fun useful stuff, it’s think pieces coming from a brain lacking in sleep and adult conversation. You want to know the kind of thing I think about?

You ever consider a Wubbanub? It’s a pacifier attached to a little stuffed animal (I thought they were ridiculous, but it actually braces it for the baby a bit). So when you think about it, my son is sucking on a dog’s nipple right now.

You see why I don’t share much?

Side note: have you seen the videos people do where they use the filters that make the eyes real big, the mouth real wide and the voice squeaky (you know, the one that makes you look like the Goombas in the Super Mario Bros movie from the ’90s)? I could do those videos. I say so many bizarre things normally, imagine if I could do it with some semblance of anonymity.

But anyway. Cough cough. Moving on.

So because I have nothing of real note to share with you, I’m going to share the story of The Day My Water Didn’t Break.

One night, back in September, we heard a bang in the middle of the night. My husband leapt out of bed, thinking Little Miss had fallen out of bed (I, being 8 months pregnant, rolled around awkwardly like a turtle on its shell). She was fine though, so we went to sleep and thought nothing of it.

The next morning I heard my husband leave for work. Then I heard him come back in; I figured he forgot his lunch or something. The suddenly he’s standing in the bedroom door.

“That noise last night. Someone* crashed into the car and drove off. Half the front of their car is in the street.”

*colorful language redacted

“My car,” I said, still groggy, “my baby?!”

Yep. My 2.5 month old, beautiful new Subaru, parked in front of the house, had been crashed into hard enough that it moved up onto the grass. [The damage wound up being about $6k] to repair.

My beloved car on her first day back.

Luckily, this was upsetting but manageable. We have good insurance, a good body shop nearby, and my husband knows his way around dealing with car insurance. So it was an inconvenience, but all we lost was a $500 deductible and about 18 days with a rental that smelled like cigarette smoke.

But anyway. Police officer comes to do a report, and even he is impressed that the other car drove off, leaving so many pieces behind.

The officer leaves and I’m on the phone with the owner of the body shop when Little Miss wakes up. Keep in mind, I’m 8 months pregnant, a little flustered, and shaking from adrenaline.

So my sweet 3 year old girl comes down the hall and finding me sitting on the couch on the phone, naturally climbs onto my lap, wrapping her little arms around my neck. And then suddenly I realize I’m sitting on a soaked couch cushion.

I feel around; my pajama pants are wet and the toddler’s shorts are dry. I’m trying my hardest to finish this conversation and retain some of the information I’m being given, but I can hear my voice getting higher and higher.

Now I’m pacing the kitchen, trying to figure out if my water just broke. The moment I’m off the phone, I run into the bathroom, shedding clothes as I go.

It turns out that no, my water hadn’t broken. Little Miss had peed on me, and in the position she was in, it had leaked out of the leg of her nighttime diaper and onto me without ever touching her clothing.

I was absolutely mortified for about a minute and then the situation got real funny.

#momlife

And this is why I have nothing of note to share.

Even when I do cool things, I’m doing it in a nursing tank top with spit up stains, and trying to do it as quickly as possible.

Maybe I’ll have a recipe or something to share one of these days! If I remember what I did. If I remember to take pictures. If the pictures are usable (who knows what state the house will be in).

Sigh.

#momlife

[This post was created entirely mobil, from the couch, with varying numbers of children on me.]

Life

Everything and nothing

August 1, 2017

It’s been nearly 3 months since we’ve posted. I know I know, complete dereliction of duty.

It’s not that I have nothing to say. I actually have a lot to say – about parenting, politics, social media, the world – I just choose not to say it. And truth is, I haven’t been doing that much of interest these past months.

It’s not that I haven’t been busy – it’s more than things have been fairly run of the mill. I planted a garden that got mostly eaten by the animals before it ever had a chance. I’ve tried more natural deodorants (if you want to know I’ll share my thoughts, but I feel like the state of my armpits just isn’t that interesting). I read the studies on how coconut oil isn’t good for you, and continue using it in health and beauty preparations as well as sparingly in cooking and baking, as I did before.

And I guess most notably, I’ve been working on cooking baby #2. Little Miss is desperately excited about being a big sister, and we are working on making way for him in our space – physical, mental and emotional. We’re doing plenty of actual cleaning and organizing (championed by me and a sudden and incessant need for organization), and I’m also working through a lot of feelings that come with my daughter turning 3 and the knowledge that both her and my world are about to change in a very big way.

And so, this post is about both everything, and absolutely nothing. L-I-F-E.

But, I’m not going to leave you with nothing but a couple lines of pregnant lady drivel! I’ve got a few recipes you should know about if you’re concerned with gluten free or dairy free baking (titles are links).

Dark Chocolate Raspberry Fudge Brownies

from Paleo Running Momma

These dark chocolate brownies are gluten free and dairy free, paleo (made with almond flour). They are moist and fudgy; the batter is layered with a quick and simple to make raspberry sauce. Hot damn, people. These are awesome, stay beautifully in the fridge for a couple of days (they’re actually really good cold), and they’re really quite easy to make.

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

from The Pretty Bee

I’m not being dramatic when I say this cake is outstanding. It’s gluten and dairy free (actually vegan, no eggs either), and the result is a rich, moist, awesome cake. Non-dairy cream cheese which is kind of nasty on it’s own is magically transformed into a sweet, creamy, amazing frosting. I have played with the recipe (subbing in a little almond flour for gluten free flour so it’s a mix), and flat out left out an ingredient by accident (the oil), and it still came good!

No-Butter Snickerdoodles

from The Frugal South

I actually just finished baking these. They are made with regular flour, but are dairy free (oil, no butter). They’re easy to make in a single bowl and bake in 8-10 minutes. The cookies puff way up in the oven then deflate a bit once they’re out; this isn’t a big, pillowy snickerdoodle, but as long as you don’t overbake them, they seem to retain a nice chewy texture and a lovely cinnamon flavor.

 

Baking

Christmas in May

May 10, 2017

What makes you think of Christmas?

Is it chilly weather, or the scent of fresh pine? For me, it’s cuccidati, the Sicilian Christmas cookies many of my family members make. The cookie itself is a light, slightly citrus flavored dough topped with a little homemade frosting and sprinkles, but the real star is the ground fig and date filling that rests inside, flavored with cinnamon and citrus peel and studded with little bits of chocolate.

The cookies are great, but they’re also a bit of work. And they’re for Christmas! Sure I may be thinking about them in early spring, but it’s a Christmas thing! What am I going to do with a huge batch of out-of-season cookies?

Then inspiration struck. It all started with this recipe, from The View From Great Island. It’s a Paleo Fruit and Nut Bread that is gluten free and dairy free, absolutely packed with dried fruit and nuts. Ripe bananas add sweetness so no sugar is necessary, and flour is replaced with almond meal, making a low sugar, high protein loaf that is well suited for a slightly sweet breakfast or a not too decadent dessert.

I’ve made it several times, following the recipe to varying degrees. It’s a dense, hearty bread that doesn’t rise much when baked. The original recipe includes suggestions for fruit and nuts to include, but notes that you can use nearly any combination. I’ve done “kitchen sink” bread, with cashew pieces, almond slivers, sunflower seeds, raisins, dried cranberries, dried mulberries, chopped figs and whatever else I have in the cabinet. I’ve also done a “tropical” style, with only cashew pieces, coconut flakes and chopped dried pineapple which was a hit (my grandfather even liked it, and he was at this point about as difficult about food as one can be).

My mother recently asked me to make a cake for brunch, and I thought this paleo loaf would be the perfect choice; not too sweet, with no refined sugar, dairy or wheat, so overall, not a bad choice. As I sat eating my slice, I got a chunk of dried fig and a thought popped into my head…

“Do a cuccidati loaf.”

Do it.

So I did. And it was honestly, just about everything I hoped for. It doesn’t mimic the cookies precisely, and the pieces are chunks instead of ground together, but the flavors I was craving were all present. After a day or two in the fridge, I think it may have been even better than the first day!

Did I mention it’s easy to make? Any version of this loaf is quick and easy to make, with minimal mess. You have your pan, your bowl (maybe an extra small bowl if your coconut oil needs to be softened), measuring cups and spoons, and something to stir with. This was fast and simple, with a toddler helping to dump ingredients and mix, no less.

So, here’s the recipe.

Paleo Cuccidati Loaf

Ingredients:

  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil
  • 2 cups almond meal
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp ground flax seeds (can be omitted if you don’t have)
  • 1 1/2 cups slivered almonds
  • 1 cup chopped dried figs
  • 1 cup chopped dried dates
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup mini dark chocolate chips (check they’re vegan, if that matters)
  • zest of one tangerine.

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a loaf pan and line with parchment if you like (I always put a strip of parchment that covers most of the wide edges so I can easily lift the loaf out once it’s begun to cool).
  2. Mash the two bananas well with a fork, then whisk in the two eggs and coconut oil.
  3. Stir in almond meal, baking powder, cinnamon and salt and mix well.
  4. Add the dried fruit, nuts, tangerine zest and chocolate chips and fold in until evenly distributed.
  5. Pour into the pan, trying to get it relatively even. This will not rise, so baked, it will look roughly like it does raw; smooth lumps and try to get it even thickness.
  6. Bake for 40-60 minutes, checking periodically. I’ve found that the time varies based on what’s in it, so watch for the edges beginning to turn gold, the center setting, and of course, check with a toothpick in the center; if it comes out clean, the loaf is ready.
  7. Let the bread cool before attempting to slice it; chill it overnight if you wish, then store any leftovers in the refrigerator since this is a moist bread.

And that’s it! If you missed it earlier, the original recipe is the Paleo Fruit and Nut Bread from The View From Great Island.

Now I’m not going to say this is a beautiful loaf of bread. It had nice marbling when you cut it, but it isn’t a glamorous looking baked good. However, it’s well worth it. So, if you find yourself craving Christmas cookies in May, or whatever month it may be, I hope you enjoy this cheat to get the flavor of Christmas cookies without all the work.

Cooking Uncategorized

African Chickpea and Peanut Butter Soup (Gluten and Dairy Free)

March 30, 2017

Happy Spring friends! Over in my neck of the woods, things don’t feel completely Spring-like, but there is a definite freshness in the air that wasn’t there two weeks ago when we had a historic snowstorm that kept us trapped in the house. Well, except for when my husband went to the grocery store to buy pie. Clearly, we did not plan well for Pi Day this year, and clearly we take food very seriously in this household. Don’t hate though, that Price Chopper pie kicked butt and I did not have to do any work for it. My husband brought it to me on a plate, heated, and with fancy whipped cream. Praise hands.

So, while I didn’t bake any pie that day, I did finally make this lovely soup that my friend introduced me to months ago. I saw this soup in a picture on her instagram and knew that I had to have it! It did not disappoint. It is unique and delicious and- you can totally use the veggies you have in the house to customize it and clean out your fridge.

I figured I better post this recipe now in case anyone wants to make it before the weather gets too warm for soup. We’re having a moment of rare quiet  in our house. Nine month old baby Indy started crawling last weekend, and if he isn’t sleeping, he is following me around the house, trying to eat dog hair and random carpet fuzzes, and touch the outlets and the cable modem. How does he know? Are babies born with the capability to zero in on gross and dangerous objects? Anyway, that little love bug is currently napping off a party he had in his crib at 2 am. I’ve already had too much coffee to do the same- but that’s lucky for you, because now you get this soup!

I used this recipe, and made only a few minor changes, based upon the ingredients that I had in my house at the time/ what I thought would taste good! Plus, this one mentioned using tomato paste instead of crushed tomatoes, so I did that as well, because I wanted a thicker soup. I will also mention that I’ve seen pictures of this soup served over rice and garnished with peanuts and cilantro. There are so many different ways to serve this.

African Chickpea and Peanut Butter Soup

Ingredients

Olive oil (for sautéing)

1 medium white onion, diced

2 cloves minced garlic

2 carrots, pealed and diced

1/2 big bag of spinach (like the ones that come in prepackaged salad bags at the grocery store)

1 15 oz can of chickpeas

1/4 cup of peanut butter

1 and 1/2 6 oz cans of tomato paste

2 cups of vegetable broth

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon of parsley

salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Start off by heating the oil in a pot (I used a pan because I wasn’t thinking, and enjoy doing unnecessary dishes apparently) and sauté the carrots. Once the carrots begin to soften,  add the onion and garlic and sauté until everything is soft.

Add the chickpeas, and sauté them with the veggies, just to give them some flavor.  Sprinkle on the cayenne pepper, and mix everything together.

In a blender (or food processor if you have one) blend together the peanut butter and tomato paste, then add in the broth and blend until everything is smooth.

Add the peanut butter mixture to your pot and stir everything together. Once the soup is heated, add the chopped spinach and cook just until it wilts nicely. Sprinkle in the parsley, and add the amount of salt and pepper that your heart desires.

I hope you guys try this soup! It really is delicious. It’s nice to be writing again.

Talk to you next time my baby naps;)

 

 

 

Baking

Traditions and cookies

March 12, 2017

Halloween is in October, but Purim is in March. I remember the celebrations from my childhood; packing baskets full of miniature bottles of grape juice, bags of cookies and little cherry candies then delivering them to friends and neighbors in costume. While I haven’t celebrated properly in synagogue since, well, childhood, there’s a little bit of excitement each year when Purim rolls around.

If you’re not already in the know, hang on, because you’re about to get a crash course in Purim. A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away – and by that I mean in the 4th century BCE in the Persian Empire, King Ahasveros was in need of a new wife. He arranged a beauty pageant, and during this, the lovely Esther caught his eye. Esther was Jewish, but kept that a secret, and the two were married. Meanwhile, the king’s advisor, one Haman, was appointed prime minister of the empire and demanded obedience from the empire’s subjects. Brave Mordechai, leader of the Jews and cousin to the new queen refused to bow to this power hungry, known anti-semite. In a rage, Haman convinced the king to exterminate the Jews. Mordechai organized his people who repented, fasted and prayed, while Esther revealed her background to the king and explained the situation. The king had Haman hanged, and made Mordechai prime minister instead, also granting to the Jews the right to defend themselves. On that day they defended themselves, and on the next they celebrated – Purim is that celebration day.

My father, in his infinite wisdom, says that Jewish holidays can be summed up in, “they tried to kill us, they didn’t succeed, let’s eat.” And I suppose in the cases of Purim, Chanukah and Passover, there is something to that.

Traditionally, to celebrate Purim you will hear the story read from the Megillah in synagogue (at least where we went, a somewhat raucous affair with shouts and noisemakers to drown out the name of Haman), giving to the needy (we would collect coins in small boxes to donate), bringing food to friends (the gift baskets mentioned earlier) and a celebratory meal.

Did I mention you dress up? Somewhere, and sadly I don’t have a copy to share, there is a photo of me at 6 months old, wearing a tiny gold crown and blue satin dress, all decked out as Queen Esther.

Now that you know the whole story, why am I telling you it? The answer is simply, hamantaschen. That’s ha-men-tosh-en. Now say it at normal speed. Hamantaschen.

This translates to “Haman’s ear”, which is kind of skeevy, but don’t let you put that off. Hamantaschen are the best; delightful little cookies stuffed with flavorful fillings. Traditional fillings include strawberry, apricot and prune jam, chocolate, and a sweetened poppy seed paste. Now, I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t buy hamantaschen this year, because I actually bought and dispensed with two batches before the holiday even started (the entire early part of March was hamantaschen time). But I’m really here to talk to you about making them.

My cookie dough follows the recipe from Tori Avey, for Dairy Free Hamantaschen. My filling was homemade blueberry and peach jams, from the stockpile I made last summer. The dough is just right, and because it doesn’t need to be chilled, it saves time. Instead of rolling the dough on a floured table, I did it between two pieces of parchment paper to avoid extra flour on the cookies and a little bit of mess in the kitchen. Take note than a batch is roughly 35 cookies and will take nearly an entire regular size jar of jam; a teaspoon per cookie adds up. The folding method described in the recipe is spot on, making neat and lovely three pointed pinwheels that hold their shape most perfectly.

At a family gathering last night the peach were the runaway favorite, with the blueberry not far behind. These cookies do take time, as do any rolled and filled cookie, but they are not at all difficult to make. With help from my toddler, I cut out my circles and filled them with only minimal mess (the dough can be rolled out over and over, so sloppy circles are no big deal).

Purim technically ends at sunset this evening. Nonetheless, if you’re a cookie person, I recommend giving these a try. They come out so good, it seems silly to only make them once a year!

Baking

Lets play, plantain or banana?

February 12, 2017

The plantains are on the bottom, bananas on top.

Let’s play a game. It’s called plantain or banana.

If you want to eat a sweet fruit by itself, what do you want? Banana.

If you want something a little starchy that can be used green or ripe, and is great to cook with, what do you want? Plantain.

If you want to make a gluten free, dairy free, low sugar, moist and yummy cake that takes no time to prepare, what do you want? Both.

Seriously though, hear me out. You may have seen plantains in the supermarket and walked right by them; they look like giant bananas and might be green or might be yellow streaked with black. They’re usually pretty inexpensive.

My personal experience with green plantains is limited, though I understand that you can cook them like a root vegetable in soups and stews. The green ones are starchy and hard, with a very plain flavor. The yellow ones have begun to ripen (or mature, hence their traditional title, maduros), and develop a sweet flavor reminiscent of banana, but not quite the same. They remain a bit harder and more starchy than bananas. My first foray into using maduros was simply peeling and slicing them in half, spraying them with a bit of coconut oil, sprinkling with cinnamon and brown sugar and then broiling until the top crisps up. It’s a quick and simple dessert (or breakfast!) that’s sweet and filling and just lovely.

But this time, this time I went wild, using plantains AND bananas to make a cake that well, takes the cake. I was inspired by my mother’s experimentation, and wound up devising this recipe for a cake that is…

  • Gluten free
  • Dairy free
  • Plant based
  • Low sugar
  • Ridiculously moist and tasty
  • Super simple to make in the blender

A couple of notes before I share the recipe:

  1. Sorry to disappoint, you get snapshots. There are no beautiful staged photographs here. But then again if you’ve read Old Fashioned Modern Living in the past, you probably know you’re not here for designer photos.
  2. I used white sugar simply because I didn’t want to use up all my maple syrup. Feel free to substitute other sweeteners, or add a little less; the bananas have a nice sweetness that will satisfy if you don’t have much of a sweet tooth.
  3. I sprinkled in a little coconut flour just to absorb some moisture. Oat flour, or even regular flour if you’re not gluten free will likely do the trick.

Just kinda looks like cake, right?

Look at that crumb! Seriously, when you consider what went into this cake, the look and texture is surprisingly spot on.

The ingredients:

  • 2 ripe plantains
  • 3 ripe bananas (not black, but ripe)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Scant 1/2 cup of sugar or other sweetener
  • Generous sprinkle of ground cinnamon
  • 3 tsp coconut flour
  • pinch of salt
  • a couple of handfuls of mini bittersweet chocolate chips

The method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Peel fruit and chop into chunks just so they fit in the blender, then drop them in. Add vanilla, sugar, cinnamon, salt and coconut flour. Add the eggs in (or wait until your main mixture has been mixed and taste it first, then add your eggs). Give it a whirl until it looks fairly smooth.
  3. Prep your pan – I used a 9×9 square pyrex but a deep brownie tin will work too. I spray with coconut oil then line with some parchment to make removal easy.
  4. Head back to the blender and mix (mix, not blend) in your desired amount of chocolate chips. Pour into the prepared pan and pop in the oven.
  5. Bake for roughly 35-40 minutes, checking periodically. Your cake is done with the center no longer jiggles and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out fairly clean and dry. Let cool a bit before enjoying.

This is a moist cake, so be sure to put any extra in the refrigerator to keep. And that’s that!

I am really pleasantly surprised by how this cake turned out. I made a smaller one recently (1 plantain, 1 banana and 2 eggs with a splash of maple syrup in a loaf pan),  that my husband and I destroyed, and then made this one for company. My brother had already begun eating his piece before he realized it wasn’t just regular old cake. I’d call that a success.

If you haven’t experimented with plantains, I’d say it’s time. Grab some bananas while you’re at it, and whip up this beauty. And if you do, let me know what you think!

Health & Home Life

Tallying up time

January 18, 2017

It’s funny, if you ask me how I’m doing I’ll say “good…busy, but good.” And I am busy. But doing what?

I spend a lot of time thinking about how I spend my time. As mommy to a toddler, a small business owner, and work at home mom, it’s important to be able to manage my time and try to achieve some sort of balance. And yet, thinking back on this month, I had to think hard about what I’ve been so busy with.

And while I doubt you care very much how I count my minutes in my day to day life, I’m going to share because all the things I realized are accomplishments. They may not be big things, or things that anyone else would take the time to note, but I’m proud of how much I’ve accomplished just in the new year. And maybe this will remind someone who needs it to be kind to themselves, and take the time to be proud of their accomplishments, no matter how small.

Momming

You know what they say, mommin’ ain’t easy. Also, mom life is the best life. I agree with both. I’ve got a stubborn, sweet, hilarious, ridiculously smart little toddler on my hands. Sometimes that means we’re laughing together. Sometimes it means I want to bang my head into the wall. But each day, her little personality comes out more and more and every moment we spend together, whether it’s working or playing or holding her while she falls asleep, is absolutely worth it.

Sawing

In early December I finally picked up a silver saw, and took my first foray into the world of cutting sheet silver. And it’s awesome. Not every piece is perfect, and I occasionally struggle with my solder, but this is a major step towards real jewelry fabrication. Considering I was told the learning curve is fairly steep, I think I’m doing really quite well. I just shared some recent pieces on the Seashore Design Studio Facebook page.

Cleaning

On a quiet weekend in early January, I reorganized the pantry and the linen closet, and tidied up the storage room. I’ve only been meaning to do this for about a year, maybe a little more. Once it warms up outside, garage, I am looking at you. In the meanwhile, the office needs some help. I get frustrated and decide I need to do a purge and make space…and then I fill it with more craft supplies. Tales of a compulsive crafter over here, it’s practically an illness. I can’t…help…myself.

Cooking. Eating. Dieting.

Starting on January 2, the man and I started the TLS 21 Day Challenge. The TLS system is a lifestyle plan that is based on the glycemic index, and teaches you how to change how you think about food, and thus, change your eating habits to make healthier choices. The initial stage is a “cleanse”, but not like what you typically think of as a cleanse. It’s a few days of eating simple, healthy foods to help you break bad habits and addictions, and give your body a chance to relax and reset. Then phase 2 offers a tailored eating plan that focuses on whole and healthy foods. The more aggressive plans are more limiting than the more passive of course, but it all depends on what your goal is.

Little Miss reviewing phase 2 food plans with me.

I’m actually very impressed. I’m spending a lot of time cooking and preparing, but we’re getting excellent results and I can see this as a very reasonable plan to follow indefinitely. It’s not a crash diet, and it doesn’t restrict you to the point of feeling oppressed. It’s simple, healthy eating, focusing not on calories but on how your body processes your food. The hardest shift, to my mind, is going from a standard “main protein dish and tiny sides” mindset, to getting used to having a smaller serving of protein and then filling up on healthy sides.

So we’ve got a toddler who (luckily) eats nearly anything, a largely vegetarian mom, and a carnivore dad who doesn’t do dairy, beans or nuts. It’s been interesting, but not impossible. I have a pretty good understanding of food to begin with, so the hardest part has been making two proteins to accommodate my own preferences.

There is a trade off here. We are spending slightly more on groceries because I’m buying even more produce, however with smaller servings of proteins, our meat purchases are going further. And rather than getting lazy and having my husband buy lunches (and often breakfast, if he eats it), I’m making and sending them for him. So when you consider buying versus bringing lunches, I think we’re saving money – and he’s losing weight at a very respectable pace! But it is taking up a lot of my time.

Of course, I make breakfast and lunch for Little Miss every day. But whereas I used to have an apple in the morning, I’m making myself something real now, which takes time. Then mid afternoon, I prepare for dinner. And breakfast and lunch for the next day for the mister. Then clean up after dinner and load the dishwasher. There are ways I could save time, but since I don’t have to, I don’t mind too much.

I joke around in the evenings that I’ve been cooking and cleaning all day. And some days it feels like it! I cook dinner, put away the leftovers, then prepare a breakfast, lunch and two snacks for the next day (the amount of tupperware my husband has to carry…)

But again, we’re getting results and it’s a sustainable plan. I’m actually delighted. If you’d like to learn more about the TLS system or 21 day challenge, I’d be happy to share some more details!

So anyway…

My January accomplishments aren’t extraordinary. They’re not really above and beyond what you could normally expect. I’m not looking to brag about my activities.

But a business coach I once worked with used to say, “celebrate all wins”.

Especially in the dead of winter, with cold winds and grey skies, I say it’s as good a time as any to celebrate all wins. I have been busy, and I have been accomplishing small, but important things. And I’m sure you have too.

So give yourself a high five and keep on keeping on. If you’d like to share whats been keeping you busy, feel free to drop it in the comments, and I’d be happy to give you a high five too!

Life Parenting

Hello, 2017

January 1, 2017

It’s been 17 years since my mom and I stayed up late playing Monopoly around the coffee table, waiting for my dad to come home. My two little siblings were tucked away in their beds, and I was happy to have my busy and very pregnant mom all to myself for awhile.  It was the year everyone in the tech field was anxious about the dreaded Y2K and what it would do to computers, so my dad and a few coworkers had to ring in the new year at work in case it all went to hell in a hand basket. We all know how that went down, nothing crashed, nothing happened. Our country still had many unknown trials to face in the future, but that was not one of them.

Last night, my husband and I spent our first new years eve with little Indy. We went to our favorite Italian place for a very early dinner with friends. My poor baby who is suffering from his first real cold pulled my hair and whined until he fell asleep on me. We got him ready for a bath at home and in the one minute that he was naked between diaper change and bath- he peed down my entire outfit, down to the shoes! After we finally got our poor munchkin to sleep, we watched Grand Tour and I read Dragonfly in Amber- the second book in the Outlander series that Ilana mentioned in her last post. We are both hooked! Despite all of the grand plans we had for the evening- these sleep deprived parents chose to sleep through the new year. Goodbye 2016. You brought us our son- the absolute light of our lives, some of our happiest moments, some terrible losses, and the worst election season that I’ve ever experienced. Last night I was more than ready to put 2016 to bed. I slept soundly through the transition of years right next to my best friend. I wouldn’t change a thing.

I woke up at 12:09 to the sound of Indy crying and got up to help settle him. It was officially a new year. This morning, as I write this, I know that the coming year won’t be easy. I am aware of the fear and suffering in the world, as well as the hurt and the pain that my family deals with as so many of us cope with loss. I have hope though, and that makes all of the difference. I hear my son’s little coos and I am determined to do my part to make this world a better place. I have so much hope for joy in the coming year. Today as we all lay low at home to recover from our colds, I’ll pack away our Christmas decorations and prepare us to settle into our quieter winter rhythms after the holiday rush.  I think I’ll leave out my little advent candles for a little bit longer, though. I’m not ready to put them away. I’ll light my candles as a reminder of the hope, peace, joy, and love that I long for God to bring to this world.

Happy New Year my friends! I hope to write more faithfully this year. I’m thankful to Ilana for keeping this blog going over the last few months as I’ve adjusted to new motherhood. Thank you, as always for reading.

Baking Life

A year that was awful, and a pie that wasn’t

December 29, 2016

The title of this post is perhaps a little misleading in that I don’t actually categorize things by year. New Years Day, to me, is just another day. I don’t make New Years Resolutions. But for argument’s sake, because everyone else is talking about 2016, I’ll refer to it that way.

In a lot of ways, 2016 was really hard, for my family in particular. My maternal grandparents passed away within 6 weeks of each other. We watched them struggle and suffer and ultimately go, and we barely had time to breathe between the two. This kind of loss doesn’t just go away after the funeral. You’re not sad for a few days and then you go back to normal. There’s a mourning period and an adjustment period and then…life. Some days it’s easy. Some days you cry in the supermarket. It’s difficult to accept that this is the “new normal”.

Yes, 2016 had been tough. It’s been an emotional year full of sad firsts.

And yes, I am aware of what is going on in the world. I force myself to read news articles on domestic and international concerns to stay informed. This election was quite ugly, and American politics hasn’t gotten much prettier since November.

If I got all my news from Facebook, first off, I’d probably see lots and lots of fake news…but secondly, I’d be pretty sure that 2016 was the worst year ever because lots of celebrities died. It is sad. Some, even tragic. Certainly many were major losses to the entertainment community and our beloved franchises. But forgive me if, standing where I’m standing, this doesn’t make 2016 any number of expletives or exaggerations I’ve seen it referred to as. I’m not impressed.

Everyone, feel how you feel. Seriously, I’m all about people working through things for themselves and I hate when something is used as a stand in to try to invalidate people’s feelings or concerns (ex: just because something is a “first world problem” doesn’t mean it isn’t profoundly affecting your life right now). But as far as 2016 being THE. WORST. YEAR. EVER. Unimpressed.

I’m big on perspective. 2016 hit my family hard. However…

  1. Little Miss is doing well, her speech is progressing appropriately and it’s becoming more and more clear how very clever she is
  2. My nephew, adorable little Indy was born
  3. My brother got engaged to my high school bestie
  4. My mother and I both got involved in an interesting business and are doing well and enjoying the products
  5. My own little business, Seashore Design Studio, has come together nicely and my sales have been the highest ever (out of 10 years on Etsy with various shops), and I now have an amazing group of “fans” who support and encourage me
  6. My husband remains gainfully employed, with good health insurance
  7. We are all, for the most part, healthy
  8. I discovered the Outlander book series
  9. I got over my fear of my canning kettle and learned to make and can jams
  10. I learned to make red beans and rice and arroz con gandules (it was a good year for rice and beans around here, I guess)
  11. I’ve been able to do more charitable giving than ever before, thanks to my little business
  12. I have continued to learn, research and grow as a person

I have good days, and I have bad days; the kind where everything reminds me of people I’ve lost or I can’t stop thinking about the atrocities happening around the world. But also this year I’ve learned that dwelling will accomplish nothing, but action will. Donating, learning, educating, can make a difference. Giving back in ways big or small make a difference.

Be kind, be generous, make someone smile.

Speaking of smiles, you know what makes me smile? Chocolate. So I’m going to finish this post out with a little story about a pie I made yesterday, as well as the recipe.


Vegan Chocolate Pie

This recipe was based on the Chocolate Raspberry Coconut Almond Tart by BlahnikBaker (link to original HERE).

I had pinned this recipe on Pinterest, into my “Naturally Gluten and Dairy Free” board. Today is my husband’s birthday – we had originally planned to see my parents last night, and his family tonight; due to a bunch of people being sick, that changed. But I was thinking I needed to make a birthday cake 2 days in a row, and no way was I making the same kind of cake for both! So, I thought, I need gluten free and dairy free. I headed to Pinterest and found this recipe, and sure enough, I had everything I needed in the house.

My version is slightly different from the original, but all credit really goes to the original recipe. I wish I had thought of vegan ganache! It’s lovely. My version is a pie instead of a tart, and I changed the proportions a little out of necessity. But still. The crust is tasty with great texture, and the center is dense and chocolaty and sweet, nearly fudgy and delightfully smooth. And vegan and gluten free, which perfectly avoided the allergens I needed to steer clear of. I topped it with candied sunflower seeds and served it with strawberries and blueberries to break up all the chocolate.

Now I do need to note…I didn’t know chocolate pie was a thing before I read The Help. And that’s a real shame, because chocolate pie is amazing. Really, what a great idea. But now, I can’t make it, or even really thinking about it, without thinking about The Help. It was hard not to make any off color jokes last night.

But anyway!

Ingredients:

Crust

  • 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 2 table spoons agave syrup (you can use maple syrup as well)

Filling

  • 1 cup coconut cream (canned or bottled)
  • 6-8oz semisweet chocolate chips (I had half a bag of mini chips, make sure they’re non-dairy if that matters to you)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3-4 teaspoons cocoa powder

Directions:

  1. Start with the crust. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix coconut flakes, almond meal, coconut flour (I assume another flour, gluten free or regular would act roughly the same) and salt in a bowl. Melt coconut oil and agave syrup then stir together with the other ingredients and mix well. Pat into the bottom of a pie plate (I used a glass Pyrex one) firmly, making sure the crust covers the bottom and goes slightly up the sides. Bake for 10-12 minutes until a little golden around the edges. Allow to cool somewhat.
  2. In a small saucepan, heat your coconut cream until it bubbles gently. Turn off the heat and add the cocoa and chocolate chips. Let sit a moment, then add vanilla and stir until smooth and even in color. Pour your awesome vegan ganache into the waiting shell, then pop it into the fridge for at least 2 hours to set.
  3. Keep cool until serving. Top with seeds, nuts, coconut flakes, some coarse sea salt or fruit (or serve the fruit alongside it, to keep extra moisture off the cake).

And that’s that! While the recipe originally seemed rather involved, it was actually fairly simple and quick.

So here’s to beautiful desserts, love and light and peace and giving, and a 2017 that doesn’t make people quite so miserable.

Life

I should be cleaning

December 15, 2016

I am hosting a party this weekend, a holiday get together for my husband’s friends from work. I believe all told, we’ll have 12 adults and 4 children in the house. I had planned to clean and prepare all week. The week had other plans.

Instead of writing right now, I should be cleaning.

An hour ago, when Little Miss and I were mixing cookie dough to make a surprise for a friend’s birthday, I should have been cleaning.

Yesterday, the day after I said I was no longer accepting orders for holiday delivery, when I stood at the workbench for 3 hours to finish orders for existing customers and excited new customers, I should have been cleaning.

When I sat on the floor and pretended to eat plastic pizza with my daughter, I should have been cleaning.

But I wasn’t cleaning. And despite everything, I think that’s actually okay.

To rewind a bit, one of the things I was most excited about when we bought our house was the ability to entertain. With a smallish kitchen and moderate sized living room, I’m still not able to host holidays and even family dinners with everyone are a stretch. But I appreciate being able to have people over for casual get togethers, pretty much whenever I want to.

Now I’m not going to lie here, I’m somewhat neurotic about cleaning. Things my poor husband has had to endure include:

  • “We need to clean the bathroom, it looks like someone groomed a long haired chihuahua in there!”
  • “Who decided black furniture was a good idea? I dusted yesterday and you know what I see today? Dust.”
  • “The kitchen floor has sticky spots, do you want the baby to get trapped like a rat?”
  • “Where is my stuff? You moved my pile! I knew what was in that pile!”

It’s not that everything has to be shiny and perfect, it just needs to be…as close as I can get it. I mean, don’t look at my windows because I’ve not cleaned them once in the 2 years we’ve been living here. But I want at least the public rooms of the house dusted, swept, vacuumed and CLEAN.

Typically. Typically I make myself crazy, running around for days before the company is due to make sure everything is neat and clean. I re-organize. I clean the kitchen, only to cook a full meal and make it a mess again.

I think I’ve come to a turning point.

No, I will not have company over with a dirty house. I’ll make sure the bathroom is clean and the tables are spotless and the floor has been swept. But the need to have everything perfect? Done.

Because you know what, I’m busy. I’m running a business from home. I’m raising a very sweet, very smart, suddenly very chatty little girl. I’m finishing my holiday shopping and getting the holiday cards in the mail. I’m grocery shopping and making sure my family has a healthy home cooked meal nearly every night of the week. And right now, I’m doing it with a not-serious-but-very-annoying back injury too.

I’m not commuting to work and working for someone else. I’m not making the big bucks. But I’m doing fairly important and good work nonetheless. I’m raising a really good little person. I’m running a business that is making people happy (and this holiday season, I diverted a percentage of sales and was able to donate a total of $355 to 4 different charities).

So the counters will be cleaned, but the cabinet doors can stay as they are. The wood floors will be vacuumed, but not polished. The bathroom will be cleaned and the towels washed, but do me a favor and don’t look too closely at the bathtub. Because you know what? This doesn’t matter.

It’s not about the sparkle. And who did I think was visiting anyway, who would criticize the books on my end table or dust I may have missed on a windowsill or chair back? Really?

I’m tired of running around doing busy work to satisfy some bizarre notion in my own head. I’m tired of focusing on things that don’t matter, and I’m tired of apologizing. How many times have I had a surprise visitor and said “I didn’t get to clean, don’t look at anything too hard,” with a self deprecating smile?

Be my guest. Any day of the week. With advanced notice, you bet I’ll be tidying up. But scheduling a week of my life to dedicate to cleaning for a party? So long to that notion, consider this your Dear John (Dear Broom?) letter because I am out. Take me and my house as we are. Instead of focusing on cleaning, I’m focusing on the things that matter.

Right now? I actually should be cleaning. I have a little more tidying to do, aside from the last minute set up. Then there’s the shopping. Then there’s the cooking! And really, cooking is more fun than cleaning anyway. Then hopefully, we’ll have a successful get together Saturday night, after which I’ll need to spend 2 days cleaning up again anyway.

And that’s that. Where do you stand on the cleaning issue?