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{Day 23} Newspaper Snowflakes

IMGP1704These are the only kind of snowflakes I want to have this time of year.  I could tell you that I’m dreaming of snowflakes tenderly falling to the ground blanketing the world in white wonder, but the truth is I hate the cold and am glad I can wear my t-shirt today.  The grass is still green, the wind is blowing, but it’s not chilly.  The sun peeks its head out every now and then but otherwise it’s lovely.  But whether you’re shut in because of blizzard conditions or wish you could see real snowflakes in your window, do this craft with the kids and I promise you’ll have a good time!

All you’ll need is a newspaper, a ruler, a pencil, scissors, and string or ribbon.

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With your ruler measure out a perfect square (mine was 6″ by 6″) and cut it out.  Find some interesting pages of your newspaper, maybe with bright colors or an interesting picture.  Fold your square in half down the diagonal so it makes a triangle.  Do that two more times.  Then cut out interesting shapes along one of the open edges and along the folded edge.  Open and enjoy your snowflake!

IMGP1706It’s fun to see how your shapes turn into designs on the paper.  Experiment with different shapes and patterns on each piece of newspaper so each snowflake will be unique.

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Hang your snowflakes on a ribbon or string in a window or on a wall and as you do remind your kids (and yourself) that just like each snowflake is unique and no two are the same, so God made you unique and special.

 

{Day 17} Holiday Baking with Oats: Warm Oatmeal Bread, Brown Sugar Oat Bread and Oaty Pecan Rounds

Yesterday we woke to rain pounding on our roof.  It poured like it hasn’t in I can’t even remember when.  The sky was gray, the house was cozy.  It was a day made to be spent in the kitchen.  For my birthday, I was given a hand-me-down vegetarian cookbook and I have quickly fallen in love with it.  Unlike many cookbooks now-a-days, it gives homemade, old-fashioned bread making a significant role in nutrition and in the rhythm of daily life.  This is where I got the recipe for oatmeal bread, best warm from the oven.  While I’m not going to duplicate the recipe here, what you can do is find a good, simple whole grain basic bread recipe and begin substituting part of the whole grain flour for whole grain rolled oats and wheat germ.  The coarse whole grain rolled oats (old fashioned, not quick cooking) magically disappear into the flour and adding honey lends a perfect touch of sweetness; it is not unlike a “honey wheat” variety you would purchase at the supermarket, but superbly and incomparably healthier, tastier and fresher.

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Lately, my absolute favorite thing to eat is baked beans on toast.  Maybe this is due to our time spent in the UK, where this dish shows up pretty much everywhere, but it truly is something worth trying if you haven’t.  I know most of here think of baked beans along with Summer days and barbecues, but hot baked beans on warm whole grain bread (with butter of course) is wonderfully filling, especially for breakfast.  Instead of leaving Santa another tired plate of frosted sugar cookies, perhaps you could leave him this hearty dish (I know he won’t be disappointed!)

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I made these Oaty Pecan Rounds a little while ago, but they went fast.  They are essentially a homemade granola bar recipe sprinkled with dried cranberries, pepitas (soaked and dried pumpkin seeds) and pecans.  After they are firm and cooled you can use a cookie cutter or mouth of a mason jar to cut  them into rounds.

IMGP1668Even my husband got into the spirit of baking with me as we had to make bread for his work’s holiday potluck.  We thought we’d try something new and found a recipe for Brown Sugar Bread.  It begins as a basic quick bread- flour, eggs, oil, water, baking soda and powder, and salt with the addition of 3/4 cup brown sugar and 1 cup quick cooking oats (I ground up old fashioned rolled oats into a flour). The result was so good, my husband declared Brown Sugar Bread our new Christmas bread tradition (with the stipulation that we could also have it every other week of the year!)

IMGP1681No Christmas season could possibly be complete without a day of baking with the family.  When I think of baking for the holidays, like you, I almost immediately think of white sugar cookie cut outs, smiling gingerbread men, artificially dyed frosting and sprinkles likely finding their way in all the nooks, crannies and corners of my kitchen.  But “holiday baking” can be something worth sinking your teeth into; something warm and nourishing.  Something filling and memorable.  Try it and you’ll see.

 

 

{Day 14} Send.

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We only sent a couple of Christmas cards out this year, but it was fun to watch Marlee help me “write” the notes inside!

 

{Day 11} Wonder.

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{Day 9} Homemade Pink Peppermint Lip Balm

IMGP1608Homemade.  All natural.  Fresh.  Minty.  Shiny and flirty pink, need more reasons to make your own homemade lip balm?  Well, it’s actually pretty quick and easy too.  After balking at a $6.oo tube of all natural lip balm (really?…)  I decided to make my own.  Here’s what I did:

Gather ingredients:

You’ll need beeswax, coconut oil, almond oil, peppermint essential oil and hot pink lipstick for the color (but the flavoring and color are optional).

I already had a block of beeswax I had bought at the craft store, and I already cook with organic coconut oil so it was pretty easy after that.  We keep peppermint essential oil for various ailments so the only thing I had to buy was almond oil.  It was about $4.00 at the health food store, and I found a hot pink lipstick in my make-up bag.  If you’re into natural remedies you might already have all these ingredients, if this is your first go at doing anything D.I.Y instead of store bought you might have to start from scratch.  It’s not cheaper in the short term, but you need so little amounts of each of these ingredients that in the long run I’m sure it would cost you much less than buying store bought all natural tinted lip balms.

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Gather supplies:

Fork or small whisk, stainless steel pot, glass measuring cup, cheese grater, measuring spoons and small containers to keep your balm in.  You can find little pots or tubes at your craft store.  Whenever I go to LUSH they will usually give me small samples of their products in small black pots.  I saved them, cleaned them out and that is what I used to hold my balm. (Yay for free!)

I followed the recipe for a small batch of lip balm from this blog and it turned out great.

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Be prepared:

Have your pots ready, cleaned out and open near where you are melting your beeswax and oils so that you don’t have to go looking for them.  Once it is off the heat and you’ve added your flavor and color you will want to quickly pour them in their containers before it begins to harden.

Once it is hardened, apply and enjoy!

 

{Day 4} Light.

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“…let the light of your face shine upon us, O Lord.” Psalm 4:6

Grain-Free, Sugar-Free Sweet Potato Breakfast Spread

Eating seasonally is great.  The produce is fresher and almost always cheaper than it would be out of season, plus if you begin to listen to your body you will find that you crave the fruits and vegetables in season.  As the weather has turned colder, my thirst for raw salads and tropical fruits has died and been replaced with a craving for warm, hearty, filling and heavier dishes like beans, squash, soups and apples.

Today our grocery store had sweet potatoes, 4 pounds for $1!  So as you stock up, know that you don’t just have to eat the iconic sweet potato and marshmallow dish, but can enjoy sweet potatoes in a myriad of ways- for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  I got this idea from a health magazine from my local health food store- sweet potatoes for breakfast!

Need:

– 1 good sized sweet potato

– 1 ripe banana

– a little bit of orange juice (all I had was pineapple juice and it worked)

– cinnamon and nutmeg to taste

– chopped pecans or walnuts

– dried cranberries

– raw honey (optional)

Place sweet potato on a microwave safe plate and poke a few holes in it with a fork.  Heat for about 5-6 minutes until very tender.  Scoop out flesh and put in a bowl.  Add the ripe banana and a little bit of juice.  Add cinnamon and nutmeg to taste.  Blend with an electric mixer until uniform and fluffy.  Spoon into a bowl and add chopped nuts, dried cranberries, more cinnamon (if desired) and honey (optional).  I ate it without the honey and was surprised at how yummy this was!  You can easily eat this right off the spoon and is especially great for those on a grain-free or grain limited diet.  I really like it as a spread though.  I toasted some sprouted organic bread and slathered it with butter, then topped with a spoonful of the sweet potato.  Top with nuts and cranberries and you have a filling, seasonal nutritious breakfast!

 

Simple Rosemary Quinoa and White Bean Soup

I love soup anytime of year.  I think it is one of the most nourishing things you can eat, especially if it is homemade.  But this morning we woke up and it was actually a little cold outside!  Oh, how I love soup weather!

This is  a really simple soup.  I sort of just threw together what I had on hand (that is another beautiful thing about soup).  I based my recipe off of this recipe I found.

First, cook your quinoa.  After rinsing the quinoa well, I just followed the directions on the package.

Heat 1-2 Tbsp oil in a large pot over medium high heat.  Add half of an onion, diced and one carrot sliced.  Heat until tender.

Add 1/2 tsp sea salt, black pepper to taste, chopped fresh rosemary, one can of white beans (drained), 2 cups vegetable stock and one cup of water (more if you like more liquid).  Bring to a low boil, simmer for 15 minutes.

Add 1 Tbsp fresh squeezed lemon and 2 cups of cooked quinoa, stirring to combine.  Let simmer for a few minutes or let warm off of the heat to blend the flavors together.  Serve hot.

Enjoy! (And I know you will!)

 

 

The Healing Puddle

It was late in the day.  I finally decided I should change out of my pajamas and into something appropriate.  The day seemed nice.  I decided we would take a walk.  At the sound of the word, Marlee impatiently waited by the door.  She grabbed a toy to play with outside and carefully stepped over the threshold, reminding me how well she can do things on her own now. How is it we’re just now breathing this fresh air?  The sun shone cheerfully in the clear blue skies, soft cool wind blew against our skin, the signs of Fall just barely showing: crunchy brown leaves strewn across the sidewalks, trees beginning to be bare.  We go about our usual way of walking.  She holds my hand and we walk down the sidewalk, she is barefoot and I in my sandals.  I begin to take in the day.  Our neighborhood is nothing fancy but on days like this I believe it is the most beautiful place I have ever seen.  The trees dance a little in the wind, leaves fall, I breathe in the welcome cool air, everything is bright and perfect.  I needed this today.  I forget how healing beauty is.

We keep walking, but there is always a place where we turn and cross the street.  This place on the sidewalk is littered with a layer of acorns and since we’re not big on wearing shoes, it hurts her tiny feet to walk on them.  Our street is quiet and we cross it, unhurried.  On the other side there is a place where the sidewalk is not level.  One piece of concrete juts into the air a couple of inches more than the piece next to it and perhaps because of that, a puddle of water is forever settled there.  A nearby tree sheds it’s yellow and brown leaves and they end up in the puddle too.  Marlee loves that puddle.  I have resigned to let her play in it whenever we come to it and so she eagerly steps in.  Not wanting to get wet or dirty myself, I watch her from behind splashing her feet in the shallow water, sinking her toes in and feeling the slightly muddy water with her hands.

This beautiful day just surrounds me.  I breathe in deeply.  I look up at this glorious Fall sky and watch a single leaf, wildly fluttering in the wind.  It spins and spins for a long time before finally soaring to the ground.  Today I felt like that leaf.  I just wanted to feel settled today, rested and calm, but instead I felt frustrated and tired.  It was one of those days I wished I could call in sick.  But who would I call?  Motherhood is a job that never ends and never rests and sometimes that thought overwhelms me.  But then I look at my daughter and I am once again overwhelmed with love by this beautiful child.  Her hair shines like gold in the sun.  Her milky skin is soft and warm.  I slip off my sandals and feel the cold concrete on my feet and remember how healing it is to touch the earth.  I am content.

Just then, as if somehow, she knew what I needed, my little girl backs up to where I am holding out her dirty, wet hand dotted with pieces of wet grass.  “Join me, mama,” it was if she was saying.  I looked at my clean hand but her took hers anyway and she leaded me into that dirty puddle of water.  I lifted my skirt a little so it wouldn’t get wet.  The water was much colder than I thought, but it felt good between my toes.  Fallen leaves swirled around my ankles; my daughter’s hand still in mine.  We walk in and out of that puddle leaving a trail of wet foot prints on the side walk.  A few neighborhood girls are walking towards us.  Marlee steps out of the way as they gingerly step over the puddle, but when they leave she wades right back in.

My frustrations are rinsed away in that cold puddle of water.  I smile at the simplicity of my daughter’s happiness and am reminded to be happy too.  Sometimes the days feel endlessly long, but I know, just like the falling of leaves and the changing of seasons, it will soon be over and I will wonder what happened to the days when all my daughter wanted to do was play in puddles of water.

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