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 just.so.me. 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.am.grateful. 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!


from barnesandnoble.com
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 walladen.com)

(from me!)

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