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.)