Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Tales from a 3-year old

Life is Good: kids are creative

True story:
Today, I asked the little kid what he had for snack at preschool.
PIRATE Boooooooooteeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!
"Wow!" I said. "That's a big treat for you. Who brought snack today?
He told me Madeline did and I asked if they had anything else.
"Applesauce!" he announced.
I told him that sounded really good and asked if it was the kind in a little cup that you eat with a spoon or the kind in a pouch that you sort of drink.
"Umm. No." he tells me, "Just the kind you eat with your hands. You scoop it up with your fingers and put it into your leetle mouth. Then it goes down to your belly and turns into a bea-yooooooooooooooo-tiful butterfly. With lots of colors and wings and smiles and happy. Then it flitters and flutters and flies away."

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Night Before Preschool

Life is Good: and exactly the way it is supposed to be

How did this happen? How did three years whiz and zoom and zip by? You know how they show time lapses in old movies by the pages of a calendar blowing by? That feels like our life in so many ways. Life certainly sped up when we had our first child. ( Remember my favorite quote from Gretchen Rubin, “The days are long but the years are short.”?) And then time just rocketed into overdrive with the birth of our second. I would dare to say instantaneously.

I’m very solid in my faith. I am grateful to have what I call the "gift of belief". I accept that which I cannot always prove scientifically. And I try very much not to question God’s plan. He is the Great Creator. He is far more creative and inventive and wise than I. However, I often wonder why He made the precious, amazing, wonderful experience of childhood so short and adulthood so long? (And then I think about the sleep deprivation of having a baby and…okay, maybe I get it!)

The past three years have been wonderful. Won.der.ful. Truly. They have been full of ups and downs, like any family. But I can safely say that there were far more good times than anything. There was a lot of growing going on and I don’t just mean the children. These kids are teaching us everyday. They are making us better people. They are opening our eyes and our minds and our hearts.

Of course, I have regrets. I wouldn’t be Susie if I didn’t. Oh, when God was handing out guilt, I made sure to get seconds and thirds. And then, got back in line to make sure I filled all of my pockets, a backpack, and a purse, too. Feeling guilty and regretful when I’ve made a mistake is my kryptonite. I’m constantly working on it. Some days, I am harder on myself than others. But that’s another story. I’d dare to say that I am not alone in some of my guilt, though. I think a lot of mamas especially have “second kid guilt”. You see, I felt pretty confident as a mother with our big kid. I felt like I had found a good balance. I gave him my all and everything. I was grateful to be able to have a choice about working outside of the home and felt like, when I did take a project, that I was never taking away from our child or our family. We had a manageable schedule, a secure home life, a healthy social life. We got enough sleep.

However, baby #2 came along and it was as if the minute we walked into the house, I felt I wasn’t meeting anyone’s needs entirely. No one was crying or complaining, but it wasn’t like it had been. There were still just 24 hours in the day, but now they were divided by one more person and therefore, I knew that I wasn’t performing at the same level. Again, no one was crying or complaining, I brought the guilt all on myself. And it took a good year--or close to it-- for me to find our new groove and rest assured that I was doing my best. Not the best, but my best. And if I am doing my best, that is all I can ask for. Say that with me ten times. It is seriously one of my self-talk mama mantras. These kids are teaching me a lot about life. And so much about myself.

I always knew I wanted more than one child (okay, let's be honest...I really wanted several children) and Grant did, too. I was both ecstatic and relieved when we found out we were having our second child. Relieved? Because I really wanted our big kid to have a sibling. I wanted him to have that experience and that bond. I wanted him to have a cohort to experience life with. I wanted him to have someone to play a game with, catch a ball with, and ride a carnival ride with. Someone to conspire against us when holding a garden hose. Someone to commiserate with when we were being “so weird” or “so unfair”. And I wanted him to have somebody to cling on to and share this life with after Grant and I are gone. Yes, I was already trying to parent a 50-year old! My nuttiness is not lost on me. I promise.

As thrilled as I was to be having another child. I was also worried. Not non-stop, but rather, a healthier “concern” that appeared off and on. And mostly at night when I was experiencing prenatal insomnia (so unfair!). Oh, yes. I had the usual concerns about the health of the baby, getting to the hospital on time, and having someone to care for the big kid if my water broke in the middle of the night. But I had other concerns. Primarily, I worried about how this second child would fit in to our family. Or would he fit in? We had a pretty great little operation going on for three years. Life was good. Life was balanced. We had a schedule and a groove and a flow. Had we just made a decision that would totally ruin all of that? Just as soon as these thoughts flipped into my head, I would plop them out. We wanted this little baby so very, very much. Of course this was only going to make our family better. I believed this. Truly.

But, truthfully, the concern about this little baby fitting in continued to hover in my thoughts. And as an intentional parent, I think it was a fair concern. Our big kid was an extrovert. He loved attention. He was willing to engage in all kinds of talk and performance to get it. He was very verbal. He knew who he was and what he wanted. (Those of you who know me well are probably smirking right now. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.) How would a second child manage with an older sibling like that? I feared that this second child would be a shadow. He would yield to the older sibling. What if he never had his own opinions? What if he were shy, withdrawn, felt unheard?  What if he never fully reached who he was meant to be because of this attention-seeking, chatty older brother? Each time that this worry popped into my head, I would turn to prayer. I would ask God that this child would fit perfectly into our family and that these two children would be exactly what each other needed. And I would trust. I would trust that God was in control of things. And that He knew best.

And He did.

Oh, how He did.

Fast forward (literally) three years and we have a second child who: is an extrovert, loves attention, is wiling to engage in all kinds of talk and performance to get attention, is very verbal, knows who he is and what he wants. Times ten. Yes, this little apple didn’t fall far from the tree either. Grant laughs that for such a small person, my DNA is mighty!

I accept that God always hears our prayers, but that He often answers them differently than what we ask for. It’s not an easy acceptance. We humans want what we want, but history shows me that God has always known what is best for me and that even when I make a wrong turn or one of those guilt-ridden, regretful mistakes, He is there to crank the steering wheel back on the right path as soon as I am willing to let him take back control of the helm. (Yes, I just mixed a whole lot of transportation metaphors together. Apologies!) And indeed, my prayers were answered about our little kid. For sure, he fits perfectly into our family. He is exactly what we needed. And with each new day, he surprises us with his big words and silly, roundabout stories. He and his brother often seem like two peas in a pod and literally, often look like it as they smoosh together in deep, long, giggle-laden hugs. But he is definitely his own person, too. He knows what he wants and even before he could talk, made sure we were aware of it. He’s a constant reminder that everyone deserves an explanation, no matter how little they are, because he demands one! Not a day goes by that he doesn’t expect justice and respect. (Good for him!) And just when we think we have giggled all that we can giggle, he bursts into one of his original songs or a funny phrase that is dotted with an “A-da!” exclamation point (“Ta-da” to the rest of you.). And while I still wonder if everyone’s needs are being met, I do it less often, I ruminate on it for less time, and I have convinced myself that the addition of another family member might mean smaller portions of “me” for everyone from time to time but more of “us” all of the time, which I think, no, I know, that we are all better for.

So here I sit, on the eve before our three-year old little kid goes to preschool. It’s not full-time so we’ll still have plenty of time spent together, and thus, there’s really no mourning to feel. Instead, I am thrilled for him and all of the fun and growth and wonder that he’s about to experience. Socially, he’s so ready and has been for a long time. He’s going to have a blast. But I do sit and wonder where the time went. And as I do, I see flashes of pictures flip through my head like those old-time movie calendars blowing by. The photos are varied in subject and background, but the mainstay is smiles…and love that just bursts out of the frame like sunshine. And that is worth all of the sleepless nights, schedule juggling, occasional refereeing, and yes, worrying about “fitting in” and overshadowing and sigh, mama guilt. Our little kid is a constant reminder to me that God knows best. And that prayers always get answered in the way that is best for us. So we should trust in God’s plan and settle our feet firmly in our faith. Our little kid is also an on-going reminder that this family is less about “me” and all about us. I’m so grateful to have these little boys as my teachers. I only hope one day that they will say the same about Grant and me. And the next time that irksome mama guilt creeps in, I’ll try to remember to unload that "me suitcase" I’m carrying around because we’re managing. And we're getting through this life, with God's help and guidance, together


When in doubt, choose...

I love this! Found on Pinterest and credited to

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Best Eggless, Egg-free Sugar Cookie Recipe EVER

Life is Good: we have cookies!

I received a couple of emails and facebook messages asking about the BIG COOKIE first day of school tradition we have. When I was in grade school, my mom would bake a big heart-shaped chocolate chip cookie (it could be cut up like bars) for my teachers on special occasions and holidays. So when the big kid went to preschool at age 3 and I was trying to think of a special way to celebrate the first day of school, I remembered that cookie and revamped it into our own little tradition. It goes without saying that my mom (my parents) influence a great deal of the way I parent and the way Grant and I live our lives as a family. I am grateful for their love and example.

When your child has a life-threatening allergy to eggs, it makes baking a bit difficult. I feel grateful for recipes I have found on the web, moms of kids with allergies before me, the time to reinvent some recipes, and for help from my mom who happens to be Grandma of the Year (every year)! The sugar cookie recipe I use was found in my church's United Methodist Women cookbook as "Betty's Sugar Cookies" and with a little tweaking, have become "Elsie's Sugar Cookies". Thanks, mom!

Elsie's Sugar Cookies
Quantity depends on the cookie cutter you use. Plan on 30.

1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup sugar
1 cup vegetable or Canola oil
1 cup butter
4-4 1/2 cups flour (Start with 4 cups and add more if you need to. I use all-purpose.)
2 t. baking soda
1 t. cream of tartar
2 T. vanilla (I use Madagascar)
1 t. arrowroot (this is the egg replacement)

1. Mix the dry ingredients together.
2. Then, add the wet ingredients and mix.
NOTE: A Kitchenaid mixer works best for this recipe, but in a pinch, you can use a spoon. If you use a spoon, you may find that you need a little more "binder" for this recipe. Add a spoonful of milk until the dough sticks together, but is still stiff.
3. Cool in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
4. After one hour in the fridge, roll dough flat with a rolling pin and then use cutters to make shapes. NOTE: For my "big cookie", I roll the dough out flat onto a greased cookie sheet and then place a dinner plate over it. I use a knife to cut the circle and then bake it. I use about half of the recipe.
5. Bake small cookies at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes.
NOTE: As for the big cookie, bake for 12 minutes and then check every two minutes after that as all ovens and elevations are different. It takes my cookie about 25 minutes to bake.

This recipe has opened up a whole new world for us! It is our "go to" cookie recipe.
I keep a recipe in our freezer in a roll wrapped (in waxed paper and then in foil) so that I can cut off a few cookies when we need a treat in a pinch. glazing them with a powdered sugar "frosting" is simple, but my kiddos like them even without frosting! Enjoy!

Monday, August 25, 2014

First day of first grade!

Life is Good: and flying by!


"Where did the summer go?" seems to have been my mantra lately. Does everyone feel this way? Or is it only those of us who had (what felt like) a 10 month-long winter in Minnesota (!) who feel like summer only felt about three weeks long?

We had a wonderful, busy, fun-filled, slow-paced, friend-filled, just family, sleepy, active, laughter-infused summer. I have "sift through the past three plus months' photographs" on my to-do list. I found myself living in the moment (intentionally and not) so much this summer, that I don't think I took a chance to look back except to mark something off of one of my famous lists. Well, and to look in the rearview mirror, of course!

And that's okay by me. For someone who has spent a good portion of her life looking forward and thinking about tomorrow or the next event, it was a good exercise. I always say that my kids have taught me to "live in the moment". And for sure, they have. When I am with them, I make sure that I am present. They have my attention. My eyes are looking into theirs. My ears are open and engaged. But I typically spend the rest of my time (you know, after their bedtime) in a flurry of "tomorrow" and "next week" and mult-tasking. This summer, special circumstances (some self-imposed, some not) kind of turned me upside down and I found myself truly living day by day. Sure, I made lots of plans, but they were often changed due to others' schedules, etc. I can't say that I love that way of living, but we tried it! And the results were still the same. Mostly good days with a sprinkling of less than stellar, such is life. Plenty of smiles, laughter, and hugs. And each day ended with prayers of gratitude.

And so today comes and goes. Just like summer did. The difference? Today was the big kid's first day of first grade.

I boastfully said to my husband last night. "My, what a difference a year makes." Last year at the same time, I was practically a puddle. I didn't want this next step--kindergarten--to happen so quickly, if even at all! I knew our big kid was more than ready, but I wasn't! And I dreaded the bus. Oh, my.

Well, we made it through a year of kindergarten. And while, we did have a few bumps in the road (new words learned on the bus that had to be explained and then "forgotten" and even forgetting to get off of the bus at his bus stop on the second day of school!), we managed. We more than managed, actually, he thrived. Our little bird spread his wings and breezed through. We were grateful.

And so as the first day of first grade approached, I mourned the end of summer, I was sad not to get to have the big kid home as much, but I accepted that this is a natural occurrence in life and no amount of my protests were going to change it. Though, if I could, I would stick a brick on these kiddos' heads and make them stop growing! At least for a year or two!

So I went to bed last night just like any other. I sank into the white comfy-ness of Egyptian cotton. I breathed a sighhhhhhhhhhhhh. I said my prayers---both petitionary and gratitude. And the last thought of the night? "Oh, no. I hope I don't oversleep and miss the alarm!"

You've heard of manifest destiny, right? Well, it seems I manifested my destiny. Don't worry. I didn't miss the alarm. Because I. barely. slept.  I was so worried about messing up the first day of first grade or missing the bus or not having enough time for breakfast or who knows what, that I might have gotten 40 winks. At best. This is not a plea for sympathy. This is Lack of sleep due to worrying about missing the alarm could be the story of my life. Or at least a sub-title.

The morning couldn't have gone better (unless I had been able to sleep past the aforementioned 5:40 AM alarm). The big kid heard me head into the bathroom and greeted me with an excited smile, dimple blazing. "I don't know why I keep waking up," he said. "I'm just so excited for first grade!" Oh, lord. Hear my prayer. May it always, always be this way. May he always love school and the gift of learning and education.

And we were off! To the bus stop. Photo opp!

And then, Grant, little brother, and I jumped in the car and whizzed over to school where we met his bus and walked him into class. We gave his teacher a loaf of our favorite eggless pumpkin bread and wished her a great year with a great group of students. Smiles abounded. He was ready.

So we said our goodbyes, we walked out the school doors, and once again, I boasted, "What a difference a year makes." I was so proud of myself. I had this one down. He was in an excellent school, he was excited to meet new friends, he was ready to learn. And all of this made me calm and relaxed and...

All of a sudden, we are halfway home and the tears begin. And I'm holding my breath so that Grant doesn't notice that I am red-faced and streaming waterworks.

And then the three-year old asks me a question. Over and over and over. Until I must answer. But by this point, Grant has glanced over and discovered my secret. I admit it. I am sad! Or maybe not. Actually, I don't know what I am! I am just so emotional!

I'm so excited for the big kid and all that this year might mean for him. And I understand that this is part of the role of parenthood--teaching them about the world, setting them up for success, guiding them through the fields and valleys, and giving them strong wings so that, ultimately, they can spread them and fly, fly, fly.

But I am going to miss him. I mean, really miss him. I'm going to miss his crazy concoctions and inventions. His dimple that gets deeper as his laugh does. His twinkling eyes. And those hugs and "I love yous" that, as he ages, seem to multiply rather than fade away like you hear they do. And so very much more. Oh, I must seem like a whiney, sappy bore. My apologies. I just love these kids. This family. This life. This moment in time. I feel the need to say it and show it. This blog, this post, is for my kids. I want them to know that their mama loved them that much. And more! I know grown adults who never have and still don't get enough love or the kind of love that they need from their parents. I never want my kids to say that. (Instead, they'll just groan a lot about their mom's never-ending "I love yous".) And of course, "I miss yous".

But wait. He'll be home at 2:30 today. And so will the concoctions and inventions and made up words. The dimple will reappear within my sight and so will those sparkling baby blues. And you can bet that I will grab a big hug or two or three or more as soon as he steps off of the bus.

It's a new normal. That's all. Little brother and I have felt a little out of sorts today, but we will muddle through and my guess is, pretty quickly get used to our new schedule. Which will, for sure, include enjoying our alone time. Precious, precious, uninterrupted alone time. So it's not all so bad after all. It's not bad at all, really.

Our first day of school tradition, a big cookie, is ready and waiting. And so am I. I can't wait to hear about the details of the day. Surely the new normal will include that 2:30 PM will be one of my favorite times of the day again. The first day of first grade is just another reminder for me to savor this time. To be present and live in the moment. I guess the big kid isn't the only one in this house who still has some learning to do this year.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Where's Waldo? and Arnold Schwarzenegger? and Susie?

Life is Good: and unpredictable!


Well, hello there! It appears that I have taken the summer off. I didn't plan on it, but it just happened. While I haven't spent any time documenting it, I have spent it with three of my favorite guys and it has been a wonderful, fulfilling summer. Many smiles have crossed our mouths, many giggles have escaped our lips. It hasn't all been sunshine and ice cream, of course, but it wouldn't be real life it were.

As we approach the last week before the big kid goes to first grade (WHAT???), I have begun to reflect on the summer. And realize that I barely pulled my camera out (thank goodness for the iphone!). Summer break didn't seem long enough, but then again, it never does. Still, I am grateful. I am grateful for the time and the memories. So next week, I will try to carve out some time to document some bits and pieces of yet another wonderful time in our lives for these little dudes of ours. And if you are interested, stay tuned! Arnold Schwarzenegger and I WILL BE BACK!


(from me!)

Arnold and I make quite a pair, don't you think?!? WINK!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Family Rules

Life is Good: and full of technical difficulties!

Oopsies! I just discovered that only a part of my recent blog post made it onto the blog! Please forgive me while I try to find the missing pieces! : )

Friday, June 6, 2014

The Last Day of Kindergarten

Life is Good: and sometimes, a bit poignant


Today is the last day of Kindergarten for the big kid. And while he is excited for all of the fun we will have this summer, he's also sad that school is over. No more math, no more reading, no more homework. Is this really my kid? Needless to say, it's a happy day for this mama.

Yes, I am absolutely thrilled that today was the last day (for a while, at least) that I will hear the alarm sound at 5:40 AM. Thuh-rilled. (I am quite positive that everyone is sick of my talking about what time I have to get up on Monday through Friday). And I am really happy at the prospect of having my kids together to play and smile and giggle all summer. I'm happy for playdates with old friends, evening bike rides around the lake, running through the sprinkler and adventures through the neighborhood.

But, I'm sad, too.

Remember how emotional I was on the night before the first day of Kindergarten? Well, last night, the feeling was similar. My head swirled and flurried with thoughts of the past six years. Milestones, memories, moments that went by too fast. How did this little boy grow so fast? From bald to a head of curly hair, from someone who fit inside my belly to almost the height of my shoulders? How did nine months of school fly by so fast?  And six years? Why does this, the very best time of our life, have to whiz like a clock set to double time? It was a momentous year. It was full and wonderful and happy. Leaps and bounds were made. Skills were learned, increased, mastered. New friends were made. There were science fairs and field trips, music programs and art shows, bus rides and carnivals. And so much more. So much has happened since the end of August and yet, it feels like it has only been several weeks since we put him on the bus and then jumped into the car to meet him at the front door of the school.

We sent his teacher's gift with him yesterday and after school, he presented me with a lovely thank you note that made my heart swell. And yes, tears crept in. Because it was so kind. Because I was so pleased that she was touched by our gift. Because she called our family, "awesome". Because I had prayed for a teacher who would be engaged and gentle and supportive and encouraging and also sensitive and careful about his severe food allergies. His teacher was these things and more. And, because our big kid, after today, will never be in kindergarten again.  Sigh.

I often joke that if I could put a brick on my kids' heads to stop them from growing, I would. My husband, the black and white thinker, the literalist, shakes his head and reminds me that this is their job--to grow--and our job is to guide them through that. Darnit. I hate when he is right. Not to worry, it doesn't happen very often. ; )

The sadness is silly, really. It's not a real kind of sadness. It's a selfish, self-centered kind of sadness. It's a "I love my life so much right now that I don't want to give up a single ounce of it" kind of sadness. My heart aches for time to go slower, so I can enjoy every morsel, savor every breath, commit every single millisecond to memory. But my mind knows that there is more joy to come. Oh, so much more joy awaiting. That with their growth, these children just add more and more to our lives.

So this morning,  I pledged to indulge my melancholy no more, bidding adieu to Kindergarten with fondness and looking ahead to sunny days spent laughing, playing, and yes, enjoying every morsel.

Welcome, summer! Bring on the arboretum, the jungle gym, and the homemade popsicles dripping down over tiny fingers! Bring on the sunshine--in all its wonderful forms!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Easy, Fluffy, Egg-free, Eggless Homemade Pancake Recipe

Life is Good: especially on the weekends

We spent the day raking and reseeding both of our lawns yesterday. Well, in between chasing kids, that is. It was a beautiful, sunny day that we really needed after such a long winter in Minnesota and a wet, chilly spring. But when it came to making dinner, I sighed. I was a bit pooped. So what was something super easy that I could make to satisfy my brood? Something I hardly ever make at all...breakfast for dinner!

Turkey bacon, turkey sausage links (do you sense a theme here?) and my own eggless, fluff-alicious pancake recipe. Oh, I hear the groans. What is it about cooking and baking from scratch that makes some people recoil? Seriously, this recipe is just as easy as puling the pre-made mix out of the cupboard, measuring it out, adding liquid and an egg. Wait, my recipe might be easier! Truly, every recipe is hardest the first time you make it, but this one truly is simple. Here it is:

Susie's Eggless Pancake Mix
(adapted from this recipe)
3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted (you don't have to, but it makes them fluffier)
7 teaspoons baking powder, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons salt (I like Pink Himalayan)
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 1/2 cups milk (I use organic whole)
6 Tablespoons butter, melted
1/4 cup (heaping over) applesauce (I use organic, no sugar added)
1 Tablespoon vanilla (I prefer Madagascar)

1. In a small bowl, mix 1 teaspoon of baking powder into the applesauce and set aside. This will mimic 2 beaten eggs in the recipe.
2. In a large bowl, sift together flour (or at least distribute evenly), SIX teaspoons of baking powder, salt, and sugar. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients.
3. Pour milk, vanilla, and melted butter into dry ingredients and mix well.
4. Add applesauce mixture and mix well.
5. Oil (or butter) a griddle or fry pan. When heated, use a Tablespoon to measure out your pancakes. These are fluffy pancakes, so they need a lower heat and longer on the griddle to cook all the way through. Use the first couple of pancakes to experiment how long it takes on each side to cook all the way through without scorching the outside of the pancake. For me, it takes a couple of minutes on each side with a medium heat on my gas stove.
6. Serve with real maple syrup--and top with some fruit, if you want--and enjoy!

This recipe makes between 24-30 half dollar-sized pancakes. Add-ins to the batter like bananas or blueberries or a teaspoon of cinnamon make for an extra yummy pancake!

Friday, May 16, 2014

How to talk so your kids listen

Life is Good: thanks be to God!


Grant and I have found ourselves giggling through our dinner prayers lately. Luckily, I think God has a sense of humor. See, we have each child say a short prayer before one of us says grace before we eat. A few weeks ago, after it became apparent that the big kid was reciting the same "Thank you, God for this food. Thank you, God for this family." prayer over and over, I asked the children to say a prayer and "speak from your heart".  This proved to be the right words for the moment. The big kid was grateful for something that happened that day and a few other things "from his heart". I was relieved. I don't want my children just to repeat rituals. I want them to grow a relationship with God. And I think much of this comes from prayer, which I refer to as "talking to God". It doesn't have to be formal or articulate or perfect. Just an on-going conversation with Him, our Great Creator. The One who made us and loves us beyond words.

So what's funny about that? Nothing. However, the giggles started when the little one prayed. "Dear Lord, thank you for daddy going to work. And brother going to school. And for mommy and me here at home together. Amen." Grant and I both raised our heads, opened our eyes and smirked at each other. Yes, thank you that daddy went to work and left mommy and the little one at home together. Yes, thank you that daddy and big brother went away today. It was hard not to bust out laughing. I know he didn't mean it the way it sounded, but it sounded like the little one was so glad to be rid of daddy and brother for the day!

In actuality, he was showing gratitude for daddy's job, that big brother has a wonderful school with kind, skilled teachers, and that mommy's career is flexible enough that mama and the little one can spend most of their days together. He was, in fact, repeating what he had heard often--Grant's and my prayers of thanksgiving that God has made this all possible for us.

And so, he repeats this "prayer from your heart" quite often now and we continue to giggle just a little. He'll learn to articulate things some day soon enough.

If you ever want to know what words you use too much or just how you speak in general, listen to your kids. They are little sponges with playback recording devices. They are our mirrors. If you don't like how your kid is acting, adjust your attitude and see what happens. We were playing with various Schleich animals, Playmobil people, baseball guys, and aliens the other day and Grant asked the little one the names of his "family". Daddy was "Grant" and mama was "Honey". One of them fell out of the car they were driving and the other asked, "Are you okay? I kiss it where it hurts?" The answer was, "Why yes, please! Thank you! I lub you." We grinned at each other. And then sighed with relief. Phew! If your kid is going to imitate you there are worse things than being called "honey" and showing love and care! Along with his "prayer from the heart", this was also a good reminder that we are the example. These kiddos are listening and watching and then taking what they learn out into the world. Think about that a little while and it will make you feel like kind of a big deal. I mean, really. We parents are shaping the world, one little person at a time. Want to create world peace? It starts between you and me. In our home. With our children. Who will then go out into the world and share your messages with others. Oh, the pressure. Do your shoulders feel heavy? The good news is that you are only responsible for yourself and your family. And the actions and events of today. You can worry about tomorrow, well, tomorrow.

My little mirror is starting to wake up from his nap. I think I'll go up and give him a good example of love and happiness. I hope you get a good dose of the same today, too!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Thoughts on Mother's Day

Life is Good: thanks to our mamas

Happy Mother's Day! You can give birth and be a mother, but it takes a lot more to be a mama. And I hit the jackpot when God chose my mom to be my mama. God knew that my talkative, dramatic, idea-filled, bubbly, brain with no off button, worse yet, mouth with no off button, imaginative, sensitive, reactionary, did I say talkative? self needed a calm, wise, supportive mother. And my mom is. She is our family's rock. She is understanding and forgiving (almost to a fault). She is the first to offer a listening ear. She is the last to make judgements or cast stones. I have watched her turn the other cheek. And then turn the other cheek. Again and again. She is the glue and the foundation of our immediate family. You've heard of yin and yang? Well, she is the yin to my dad's boisterous yang, for sure. She is the helper, the nurse, the teacher, the peacemaker. She brims with unconditional love.

I love this pic above from my wedding. My mom is a prim, proper, reserved, shy, ladylike kind of lady. But she lets loose (a tad) when she dances. I can see the sheer joy in this photo. My parents love to dance together. There was a time when they hurried off to dance lessons every Friday night when I was a kid. I love watching them dance. They are light on their feet and effortless. You can see them both beam to the music. It is precious to me.

It is hard for me, the one of too many words, to find just a few to sum up how I feel about my mom or who she is to me or what she means to me. She is simply everything. She is not perfect. But neither am I. She is not always articulate with her words. She often wants to "fix it" when I just want her to listen. And she still thinks I should wear mini skirts like I wore in high school. There are worse things, right? And this is just one of the fine lessons that she has taught me. To be gentle with people. To accept them for who they are. To understand that we all are wired a little differently. And to be true to yourself and honest about yourself---flaws and all. And she uses this rule with me, too. She will never pretend that I am perfect or try to make the world think so. Keeping up appearances, putting on airs, or trying to be something she is/we are not has never been her goal. And I appreciate that. It means that she tells me when she disagrees. And she tells me when she is disappointed. And oh, how that kills me. Cuts me to the bone. Oh, how I do not want to disappoint my mom. But it also helps me. It keeps me humble. It keeps me honest. And that keeps the pressure off. Really. Trying to be the best me is hard enough. Imagine if you were raised to believe you had to be the best public version of what your family has pretended you are. Man, I can't even type that sentence correctly. I can't make sense of that at all.

I know women who think they have to be a "mama bear"--you mess with my kid, you mess with me. But what if your kid was in the wrong? And then you go all mama bear on someone? What message does that send? I know mothers who can't hear the eensy weensiest negative thing about their grown child without flipping their lid. Really? How about admitting that they are a grown up and they are imperfect? It'll make you happier and I bet, them, too. I don't have to worry about that with my mom. And I am glad for it. No doubt, she adores me. No doubt, if given the opportunity, she will go on and on about the silly little things I am up to. And on. She likes who I am. She likes who I am trying to be. She loves me. She is proud of me. She tells me that and I feel it. I know it in my heart. But the honest, real person she is has created an honest, real relationship with me and that has encouraged me to go out and do the same. That is how I am living my life. And that is how I am raising my children. We are not perfect. We don't have all of the answers. We are doing our best. And with God's help, we are making it through each day with smiles on our faces and love in our hearts and the world can see that...along with all of our flaws, too.

My mom also taught me the love of family and the beauty and gift of motherhood. She taught me that you can suffer great loss and somehow, remain. She taught me that all things are possible with God. Sure, there were times when I was a teenager that she showed her faith a little too loudly and early for my tastes---waking me up singing hymns while playing her antique pipe organ (subtle, not passive aggressive at all, mom), but I am grateful to have grown up living in a house with a woman who lived her faith. She expressed it through music and her words, through the ever-presence of the bible, and through her daily actions of love and forgiveness.

I get my love of cooking and baking from my mom (and her mom). I get my can-do attitude from her, too. I love flowers and koi fish and making stuff because of her. And I love a clean house. This is most likely due to being raised by a woman who once called me on the phone to say, "Oh, I wish you could see how clean my sink is. It is shining. It is just beautiful." Like I said, she isn't perfect, but she is perfect for me.

My mom recently had a scare with a dangerous bacterial infection. It came on suddenly and looked grim at times. She's had a long, hard recovery that isn't over. To say that I have been scared and stressed about this is the ultimate understatement. The thought of not being able to call or Skype her to tell her that the little one has been walking around saying, "I'm handsome!" all day, or that he wrapped himself up in a blanket like a burrito and claimed to be the Baby Jesus, or to ask her opinion about whether a bump on the head warrants a trip to the ER and countless other things makes me want to... crumble. Absolutely. Crumble. But it also makes me grateful. And thankful. And it serves as a reminder to savor each moment and enjoy each exchange. Even if it is about the weather (another thing she lovvvvvvves to talk about) or how clean her sink is. ; )

I must admit, I poo poo this holiday a little. I call it a "Hallmark holiday". Simply because I hope that I show my love for my mom everyday. I hope she knows it and feels it each day of the week. And I hope I never need a card company's invention to remind me to honor her. So on Mother's Day and everyday, I cherish you, mom. You are a treasure. You are a gift. You are the perfect imperfect mama for imperfectly imperfect me.

Happy Mother's Day,

Monday, May 5, 2014


Life is Good: and brimming over!

Today is officially the end of what we call "Celebrationpalooza" at our house! For about a month, we celebrate a couple of birthdays, our anniversary, Easter, and more! Phew. It was a good, fun time, but I am a bit pooped!

Because I try to stay "in the moment", I am overdue to reply to quite a few emails. And I apologize if one of them is yours. If you emailed me at, thank you! I always appreciate your comments, facebook likes and posts, and emails. I will answer your email quickly this week! I promise!

Many of the emails were asking where I have been and why I haven't been posting as much. I kind of took Lent off to study "forgiveness". I am so glad that I did. I learned a lot. I am trying to decide if I should write about it. I know there are things I want to express to my kids. I just don't know if anyone else wants to hear about it! : ) And as I mentioned, since Easter, I have been giving every second to these trampoline, science, Easter, anniversary, husband-who-like-to-eat celebrations and there just hasn't been a millisecond to blog about it or anything else! But I will soon! I don't know if you should consider that a threat or a promise! ; )

Thanks, again, to everyone who emailed me and also to everyone who reads this little blog. I continue to be amazed that anyone besides my mom is interested! : )

Happy Monday!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Star Wars and The Bible

Life is Good: and humbling

Well, there are those days...every once in a while...when you think, "Hmm. Maybe I am not doing such a bad job with these kids after all. Maybe I am not totally screwing them up." Like this morning, as I was playing with our 2 1/2 year old, I realized that he was reenacting the "Parable of the Good Samaritan" from the bible using his Calico Critters pandas and a couple of Playmobil dragons. I stepped back, sighed with relief and then, yes, patted myself on the back.

And then, an alien named "Obie Kamobie" and a dinosaur named "Luke Skywalcare" asked them to go to the "soccer ball planet" with them. And my patting on the back was... done.

These kids fill me up in so many ways. The joy I get from each and every discovery and adventure is priceless. We may be reading to them often from The Beginner's Bible and our new fave, The Storybook Bible, but the credit goes all to them. They are sweet, silly, loving, imaginative, thoughtful, and more. God created them that way and gave me the glorious responsibility as their usher and sidekick. I am just happy that they are bringing me along for the ride. Even if it now includes bible characters in Star Wars adventures!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Best Eggless Egg-Free Carrot Cake

Life is Good: we have a fresh start

Happy Easter! HE is risen! We'll be celebrating with church and surely gobs and gobs of Easter egg hunts. Plastic, because of allergies, of course.

We just aren't able to travel to see our family right now, so we are celebrating the holiday in the Twin Cities. The mother of some dear friends of ours invited us to their celebration and we were so, so touched by the hospitality. But, unfortunately, they planned on having the traditional hard-boiled eggs at their luncheon. Both of our little people are allergic and so we had to decline the invitation.

I had planned to bring dessert to the lunch, so I went ahead and made it for us. Grant thinks holidays are an excuse to indulge anyway! ; )

I made this eggless carrot cake with cream cheese frosting and a "homemade Krackel" bird's nest of chocolate & Rice Krispies cereal. I've used this carrot cake recipe a hundred times or more. I am so grateful to have found it soon after we discovered our big kid's egg allergy. I was inspired to decorate the cake by a couple of things I found on Pinterest. It didn't turn out exactly how I had envisioned it. Oh, come on. Let's be honest. I am just never going to be a professional cake decorator! However, our kids lovvvvvvvved it. And that was enough for me. Maybe you can take inspiration from my cake and make it better? Here's how I did it:

1. Bake and frost the cake.

Egg-free Vegan Carrot Cake 
Yields (2) round cakes (for a two-layer cake)

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce (I use organic)
2 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup canola oil
2 cups carrots, grated
1 1/4 cup crushed pineapple, plus all juice from the can
1. In a small bowl, mix baking powder and applesauce into a foamy mixture, set aside. (This will mimic beaten eggs.)
2. In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.
3. Add oil, carrots, pineapple, juice, and applesauce mixture.
4. Mix well with a spoon. Do not use a mixer as this will "toughen up" the batter too much.
5. Spoon batter equally into two cake pans.
6. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 22 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. (All ovens vary, so watch your cakes carefully after about 17 minutes.)
7. Once cooled, frost if desired. If you use my frosting recipe below, these will no longer be vegan.

Cream Cheese Frosting (not vegan)
1/2 cup of butter (1 stick), room temperature
8 oz of Philly cream cheese (1 package), room temperature
2 - 3 cups of powdered sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
water, optional
1. With an electric mixer, mix the butter and cream cheese together, about 3 minutes on medium speed until very smooth. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl to ensure even mixing.
2. Add the vanilla extract and mix.
3. Slowly add the powdered sugar, one cup at a time. Keep adding until you get to desired sweetness and thickness. 
NOTE: you might need to add a teaspoon or two of water to your frosting if your frosting has a "gritty" taste from the sugar not being incorporated well.

2. Make a "bird's nest topper".

Homemade Krackel Bird's Nest Cake Topper (not vegan)

1 bag of Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips
1/4 cup of Rice Krispies cereal (add a few spoonfuls more if you like more crunch)
1. Melt 1/2 bag of chocolate chips in a bowl in your microwave. All ovens differ, but it took my microwave about 1 minute and 20 seconds to melt them.
2. Pour cereal into melted chocolate and stir to blend.
3. Line a cereal-sized bowl (smaller than soup bowls) with waxed paper. (I ran out of waxed paper and had to channel MacGyver. I used a plastic ziploc baggie. I cut it open and then draped it over the bowl.)
4. Pour melted chocolate/cereal mixture into the lined bowl. Smooth the mixture up around the sides of the bowl. Make the borders uneven to mimic a real, imperfect nest.
5. In another bowl, melt 1/4 of the bag of chocolate chips.
6. On a separate piece of waxed paper, make irregular "sticks" of chocolate. 
7. Allow to dry 6-12 hours.
8. Pull waxed paper out of the bowl and gently remove from the "nest". Set aside.
9. Melt the rest of the bag of chocolate chips.
10. Pull "sticks" off of waxed paper and with the tip of a spoon, use melted chocolate to "glue" the "sticks" to the outside of the nest to make it look more realistic.
11. Allow to dry completely.
12. Place on top of cream cheese-frosted cake.
13. Place mini eggs (plastic, chocolate, foil-covered, etc) inside of the nest.
14. Serve and enjoy!

3. Laugh at yourself and be glad that you don't have to make your living decorating cakes!

Happy Easter! He is risen indeed!

Monday, April 7, 2014

How to Make Mondays Better

Life is Good: when we approach the day with the best of intentions

Do rainy days and Mondays always get you down? The best way to start the week off right is gently. I love that quote from John Watson: "Be kind; everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."* Indeed, if Monday is rough for you, it is for that guy who cut you off on the highway or that hipster who handed you your coffee without a smile and everyone else in between. Instead of rushing to anger or annoyance, if we would first stop and consider that the "offense" made toward us might not be personal and could be manifesting from a trial or tribulation that person is going through, everyone will feel better. If our assumption is that everyone is dealing with something (as Watson said)...if we treat everyone with gentleness and doubt we will have less blood boiling and that person who didn't hold the elevator for you just might hold the elevator for the next person.

I love so many verses from Ephesians in the bible. I feel like there are so many empowering words there. Here's a great one to start the week:

 *You may have seen it attributed to Plato, but they are not his words.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Forgive and Make Room for Happiness

Life is Good: keep it that way

I continue to be on my little study of Forgiveness. I'm finding that it helps me remember what the Lenten season is really about...Jesus' last days on this earth and the price he paid so that we could be forgiven for our sins. Forgiveness is such a big subject and there are so many layers to it. Anyone could spend years and years trying to fully understand the meaning of it all.

Often, when speaking of Forgiveness, some kind of hurt has been felt. Have you ever felt like forgiving someone is like losing a battle? Or showing forgiveness diminishes the hurt you have endured? When we choose to forgive, it is for us as much as for them. Choosing to forgive reminds us that we are not without flaws and it frees us to move on. We shirk the hurt and make room for happiness.

It's not a hyperbole to say that when we choose to forgive, we choose love over hate. And to forgive does not necessarily mean to forget, though the word, " forgive" is at least the beginning of the word, "forget".

Is there a hurt in your heart that needs healed? Today, I urge you to free yourself of it. Your heart will feel lighter. And have more room for happiness.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Thoughts on Forgiveness

Life is Good: open up your heart to it

Do you know someone who makes forgiveness a contest? Someone who thinks the first one to say they are sorry loses the battle? Someone who thinks apologizing makes them seem weak? Or someone who accepts your apology but stays angry with you anyway?

Part of loving someone completely is accepting their flaws. And oh, aren't we all so very flawed? When we learn to forgive with our whole hearts, we make space in our hearts. We make room for love, to love.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Quote about Easter

Life is Good: and there is much to ponder

During my Forgiveness study, I found this wonderful quote from C. S. Lewis. (Man, that dude was brilliant. If you haven't read his work, you should.) I find this quote both shaming and empowering. And I am guessing that is what it is intended to do. What do you think of it?

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Easter Quotes

Life is Good: and I'm thinking about it

You may have noticed that I have been a little absent from the blog beyond a recipe here and there. It's because I have been taking those quick minutes between the big kid hopping onto the bus and the little kid hopping out of his bed (that I might normally use for the blog) for a Lenten practice. As a Christian, I love Easter. I love the message of new life and rebirth. I love the excitement and hopefulness of spring. I love the pastel colors and sunshine. But before we can enjoy Easter, we must pass through Lent.

In years past, I have tried to make Lent meaningful in different ways from giving up chocolate to purging/donating 40 bags in 40 days. This year, I decided to ponder the idea of Forgiveness because that is the cornerstone of Easter for Christians.

The study of Forgiveness is not a new one for me. I have wrestled with it my entire adult life. I've delved deep into my own inability to forgive myself for mistakes made and what truly forgiving someone entails. My examination of Forgiveness so far this Lenten season has included both of the aforementioned and more. It's been both uplifting and heavy, encouraging and heartbreaking.

I've read some wonderful bible passages, a few articles, some pieces of literature and many great quotes thus far, but the one below sums it up in a nutshell and needs no further explanation.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Things to do with kids for ages 2-6

Life is Good: and full of ideas

It's official. I have fostered children who want to make the most of every minute. They want to live life to the fullest. They want to move their bodies, use their voices, and create, create, create!

Hahaha. But, seriously. I have two little boys who want to "do something" all of the time. Sure, they are able to play on their own. Sure, we love love love to read. But to be sure, they often ask, "what special project are we going to do now?" Most of the time, they are delighted with anything I suggest, but on occasion, the big kid will protest that he wants "a different fun idea".

Recently, I decided to write some project ideas on strips of paper and put them in an envelope for them to pick out. This prevents any "I don't want to do that" or "I want to do something different" objections. So far, it works great!

So much so, that I decided to make an "idea jar" to have all year round. Whenever someone (the big kid) is bored or wants something to do, just take a strip out of the idea jar! (DUH! Why didn't I think of this sooner?) Warning, though! One of the ideas might be to help your mom clean something! (Fortunately, my kids love to least I know that I have been somewhat of a good influence on them. Wink!)

And to be clear, I am sure this is not a novel idea. I probably scrolled past this on Pinterest. I am sure that many moms before me have made idea jars. They probably decorated theirs with glitter or an elaborate monogram, bedazzled it, decoupaged it, and made theirs look enormously more grand than ours. a jar. Just...a jar. Filled with strips of paper. The end. 

Here are some of our "idea envelope/jar" creations...

Above, the clay creation by our 2 1/2 year old. He said it was "a guy". (I think it looks like a bunny!) I love the Crayola Air-Dry Clay. No baking required and it dries hard within a few hours to a day. You can leave it grayish white or paint it once it is dry. Very fun.

And below, we practiced drawing cars. Here are our 5 1/2 year old's versions...

And then, our 2 1/2 year old's creation...

Then, it was time to practice writing to 100 (the big kid is obsessed with "bubble letters")...

And write some thank you notes...

And then, making houses using squares, triangles and rectangles. This is what I love about kids. I would have expected one like this example I showed our little one...

But instead, he did this...

And the big kid did this...

If you want to make your own "Idea Jar", don't stress. They can be very simple ideas. It took me about five minutes (maybe less?) to come up with ours.

Here are some of the ideas in our jar:
1. Play "Simon Says"
2. Make a collage with black and white paper
3. Create your own "obstacle course" using pillows, boxes, stairs, blocks, etc
4. Use white crayon or chalk on black paper
5. Build a city out of things from the kitchen cupboards
6. Make an "invention" out of paper towel or toilet tissue tubes
7. Have a dance party
8. Draw a picture of our family
9. Play with a bowl or container of flour, rice, or beans and measuring cups, spoons, etc
10. Practice writing your name
11. Get a big piece of paper (or wrapping paper or recycled brown grocery bags, etc) and draw out your child's body, then let them decorate it
12. Make an "invention" out of an extra box (any size...shoe box, jewelry box, shipping box, etc)
13. Clean your room!
14. Paint a picture of fish swimming in the ocean
15. Practice writing to a certain number (like 100)
16. Play dress up and make it a game with ideas like "silliest outfit" or "dress like mommy" or "dress like daddy", etc
17. Make up a story, then draw a picture of a scene from the story
18. Make a collage of your favorite animals at the zoo
19. Play "Red Light, Green Light"
20. Read a book
21. Make a piece of art using food (like carrots, celery, red pepper sticks, raisins, blueberries, banana slices, etc)
22. Help fold laundry or put it away
23. Practice drawing lions and tigers
24. Play with playdough
25. Stack something (cups, containers, blocks, etc) as high as you can
26. Make a card and decorate the envelope so that we can mail it to a relative or a friend
27. Build something with blocks or legos
28. Play "The Alphabet Game" with stuff inside of your house. Extra fun if you take pics of it all.
29. Bake some muffins
30. Blow up a balloon and try to keep it from falling on the floor
31. Make a self portrait
32. Practice drawing animals from the savannah
33. Do 20 jumping jacks
34. Bake some bread, cookies, or muffins
35. Make a drawing to leave in a neighbor's mailbox
36. Make something out of clay
37. Count as high as you can
38. Sing a song
39. Play "Mother May I?"
40. Tell a story
41. Bake some bread
42. Act like a bunny or a frog or an elephant
43. Thread pasta onto a string to make necklaces or bracelets.
44. Practice drawing cars
45. Pretend you are on vacation. Where are you going? What do you need to pack? What will you do there?
46. Practice drawing fish, sharks and dolphins
47. Make a lava lamp
48. Build a fort out of a blanket and other things around the house
49. Play a pretend game of "basketball", "football", "soccer" or any other sport. Announce your moves and shots as you go along.
50. Eat your lunch or snack in character. Flip roles---the kids get to be the parents and the parents have to act like the kids. OR everybody eats and talks/makes noises like a particular animal (dog, horse, cow, etc) OR everybody eats and talks like a favorite person, movie character, etc. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Homemade Gummy Candy for Kids with Egg & Nut Allergies

Life is Good: and gummy!

Remember my post yesterday about our egg-free strawberry cupcake decorating party? Well, some of you wanted my homemade gummy recipe, so here it is!

Homemade Gummy Candy:
1. Bring 1/3 cup of water to a boil in a small saucepan.
2. Sprinkle flavored gelatin into the boiling water, stirring constantly to avoid lumps.
3. Sprinkle unflavored gelatin into the flavored Jello & water, stirring constantly.
4. Bring your heat down to low as you continue to stir. Stir until all of the gelatin has dissolved.
5. Remove from heat and fill molds quickly before the Jello/gelatin mixture sets. If it does set, it will not look like jello, but rather like fruit roll ups.

6. Allow your molds to harden (or pop into the refrigerator to speed the setting up process).
7. When the gummy candy has set (allow at least 8 hours), gently peel the gummy candy out of the mold.

NOTE: I got the initial recipe from here. I tried it out several times before I felt confident about each batch of gummies. I ended up adjusting my recipe slightly. Timing seems to be everything with this recipe. After a try or two, it is super easy. However, you cannot be distracted. Hang up your multi-tasking hat before you start this recipe! You can use lots of things for molds...I used a sports candy mold, heart-shaped mini muffin pan, and a mustache lollipop mold. But you could pour it into a pan and then cut them with cookie cutters or use mint molds, too. This rose mold was one of my Grandma's favorites.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Egg-free Eggless Strawberry Muffin Cupcake Recipe

Life is Good: berry, berry good!

What a fun time we had with our 7-year old Goddaughter recently. We invited her, along with her 4-year old sister, mom & dad for a "cupcake decorating party". I always wanted Godparents when I was a kid. I think I just wanted two more people to shower love and attention on me. Not much has changed!

Whitney's favorite color is pink, so I made Strawberry cupcakes (they are muffins without frosting!). We decorated them with cream cheese frosting, Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips, marshmallows, sparkling sugars, and homemade gummy candy.

It was a lovely time spent together. Such a simple thing to do, but we did it together. I discover more and more that it is not about what you do, but who you spend the time with that matters.

I believe in giving credit where credit is due. I am never one to use another's recipe and then try to pass it off as my own. (Gosh, that bugs me when people do that!) I have been using this vegan strawberry cupcake recipe since I found out our 5-year old had an egg allergy. I have adjusted it slightly. I am so grateful for the cooks and chefs before me who shared their recipes and made the transition to eggless baking easier for me.

Eggless Strawberry Cupcakes & Muffins 

1 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar 
1 teaspoon baking soda 
8oz frozen strawberries including juice, thawed and mashed with a fork (I use organic)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I use Madagascar)
1/2 cup canola oil 
1 tablespoon white distilled vinegar (I use plain old multi-purpose Heinz)
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a muffin tin.
2. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda and sugar.
3. In another bowl, mix the oil, vinegar, and vanilla together. 
4. Add the strawberries (and any juice from the container) to the oil mixture, mashing the strawberries with a fork, and stir to combine.
5. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the wet ingredients and stir together being careful not to over mix.
6. Using a soup spoon, put one heaping spoonful into each muffin wrapper/liner.
7. Bake for 22-28 minutes (depends on your oven, the weather, and where you live...start checking them at 22 minutes) or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
8. Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool. When cool, you can frost the cupcakes or leave them plain as muffins.

NOTES: The brilliance of this recipe is that the oil and vinegar combination replace the eggs. Eggs aren't for taste, but rather consistency. The vinegar reacts in the batter to make them soft. The vinegar does not make them taste sour like you might think, though the batter does taste a little tart. I have made these many times and everyone really enjoys them. I have adapted this recipe into a blueberry muffin cupcake recipe, too The original recipe says that you can make this into a loaf, like a strawberry bread, but I have never tried it.

You can find my cream cheese frosting recipe here. (Scroll down halfway through the post. This post also includes my go-to egg-free carrot cake recipe.)

Friday, February 28, 2014

Best Easy Brussels Sprouts Recipe Ever

Life is Good: our bellies are full

I love Brussels sprouts. I mean, I lovvvvvvvvvvee them. I love them enough to wake up in the middle of the night, creep down the stairs, open up the refrigerator door, pull out leftover Brussels sprouts, and heat them up just so that I can sneak them before my husband does! And this is the recipe that wakes me up at night...enjoy!

Susie's Brussels Sprouts
20+ Brussels sprouts
1/4 c. water
4-6 slices of turkey bacon
balsamic vinegar, optional
goat cheese crumbles, optional
dried cranberries, optional

1. Chop up your turkey bacon and cook in a large pan. (I use this one.) Be careful not to burn it.
2. When cooked completely, remove turkey bacon and reserve in a bowl nearby.
3. In the same pan (keep "drippings"), pour in water and toss in Brussels sprouts. Cover with a lid and cook on low.
4. When sprouts are tender, remove lid and cut each in half. Continue to cook.
5. When there is no trace of water, add turkey bacon and continue to cook. Flip sprouts around infrequently.
6. When sprouts have a nice patina or "grilled" look to them, remove from pan.
7. Now your sprouts are ready to serve. Or you can give them a couple of dashes of balsamic vinegar to add another flavor level to the side dish. I like this one. For an even more decadent side dish, crumble some goat cheese and toss in some dried cranberries. mouth is watering!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Best Easy Homemade Chicken Pot Pie Recipe

Life is Good: and comforting!

To say that it is freeeeeeeeeeeeeezing in Minnesota is an understatement. This has been the worst winter that I have experienced here. It seems like they are getting worse and worse. It's a good thing that the other three seasons are so incredible or Minnie and I might have to break up. (Prayers for spring to arrive SOON are appreciated!)

As I walked to the bus stop in the cold and worse, wind (sigh) yesterday afternoon, I decided that comfort food was on the agenda for dinner. And what is more comforting on a cold winter's night than homemade chicken pot pie? It is super easy.

3 large chicken breasts
2 1/2 cups water
1 T. dried basil
1 t. dried thyme
1 T garlic
1 t. Pink Himalayan sea salt
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
1/2 pkg. frozen green beans (I use organic)
1/2 pkg. frozen sweet green peas (I use organic)
pie crust (use your favorite recipe or store-bought will do, too!)

1. Make your pie crust (or if you are using store-bought, take it out of the fridge or freezer). I use my grandma's recipe which makes enough for the bottom and top of a traditional pie. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. In a large saute pan (here's the one I use), heat water to a boil and add chicken, herbs, carrots, and salt. When chicken is fully cooked, remove it from the pan and once cool(ish), cute into chunks, cubes, or shred. (Your choice---I cut into chunks).

3. Remove half of the water, which is now a delicious, homemade chicken broth (also known as stock) and reserve in the refrigerator for another recipe (or if you are like me, give it to your children to slurp up like it is a fine delicacy! They love it!).

4. Add chicken back to the pan, along with the green beans and peas (or any vegetables that you and your family love) and cook for 5 minutes (so that the vegetables stay crisp).

5. Turn down heat to very low and one at a time, sprinkle a tablespoon of flour to the mixture, being sure to avoid lumps. The amount of flour you add depends on how your chicken cooks. This time, I added 10 tablespoons.

6. When your broth mixture turns opaque, turn off the heat on the pan.

7. Spray a muffin pan with non-stick spray (you can also use butter). Place pie crust in the bottom of a muffin tin. Make sure that there are not holes or other openings on the bottom or sides.

8. Fill the crusts with your chicken/vegetable mixture all the way to the top.

9. Cover each "pie" with pie crust. Seal the edges. Gently, cut an "X" through the top of the pie crust (this allows for steam to escape the pie).

10. Bake for 17-22 minutes. The time all depends on your oven, so start watching your pies at about 15 minutes. I used a giant, "Texas-sized" muffin tin this time. You can use a regular-sized one or even a traditional pie plate. The vessel you use will affect how long your pot pie needs to bake. This recipe made enough for 8 large muffin-sized pot pies.

11. Use a knife to carefully pop the pies out of the tin, allow a minute or two to cool and serve. We had ours with a spinach salad. And then we chased the kids around the house to work off the pie crust carbs! ; )

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

School Rules

Life is Good: and entertaining

The big kid and I have a little ritual each day when he comes home from school. We unpeel our numerous layers (oh, can this winter be over yet???) and then we sit down at the dining room table. While he eats a snack, I go through his take home folder and we talk about school. I love the way he describes some of the work he does. And he never misses a detail in reflecting on his classmates. "So and so said the "s word"." (The "s word" is "stupid", I discovered with relief! Relief that the "s word" is not a four-letter word and relief that he still knows that "stupid" is not a word to say aloud. What an awful word.) He goes on to tell me that "so and so likes to talk about 'Pokemans' a lot", etc.

Our chats can be informative, enlightening, heartwarming and even a bit hysterical.  Today, he mentioned someone who just can't follow the class or school rules so I asked him to tell me about the rules at school. I had the laptop within reach, so I typed away and this is what he said:


No head bombs, face bashes, head dives, or going so fast like a skateboard crashing into people

No hitting or kicking or pushing or chest pushing

Say please and thank you

Raise your hand

Ask permission to ring the bell to say "it's the end of play time" or "it's the end of Science class"

We eat lunch at 6:45, I think. Or maybe 7:09

No screeching, no yelping, no yapping

No talking in the halls. Other classrooms might be learning something, so you need to be quiet.

If you bring a dog, don't poke it with a fork


No bringing hammers and nails and nailing things in the wall

I agree

No talking around lunch

No goofing around at lunch

Having boyfriends and girlfriends is not allowed. (A girl in his class said so. Her dad must have told her this!)

Raise your hand. Hands and feet to yourself. Sit up nice and tall.

And finally...

You should never keep butter in your hat.

Oh, this kid! He keeps us smiling. The "butter in your hat" line was all for my entertainment. He said it with a grin that showed off his dimple. I love how silly our children are. It makes me feel so blessed. I pray that they will never take themselves too seriously and always stop to giggle. These qualities can serve a person well in life.

Today, I opened his lunch box to see that he had eaten everything in it. I was so surprised. I pack a lot into his lunch bag each day, so he usually has leftovers. I asked him if he was especially hungry or if I just happened to pack all of his favorite foods? Nope. "I usually don't have time to eat everything because I have to talk to my friends. Today, I decided I didn't have to make them laugh so much or tell them about things, so I had more time to eat."

You can't make this stuff up folks. And you can't blame it on his daddy either. Feeling the need to chat your friends up is all on mama. Oh, sheesh!

And after I wrote this, I felt this graphic was appropos...

Happy Wednesday!