Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Gratitude Challenge

I was just thinking that most of my posts lately have been a lot of complaining. Then, my lovely friend Amanda over at Let's Take the Metro sent out a Thanksgiving challenge. 100 things you are grateful for. Sounds perfect. So, ready set, here I go.

  1. My husband. He is husband and daddy extraordinaire. 
  2. L1, he is so caring and funny!
  3. L2. He is really his own person, and won't let you forget it!
  4. L3. Even though we have yet to meet, you bring wonder to my day.
  5. When new recipes are a hit.
  6. Comfy pillow arrangements.
  7. Friends
  8. The "adult" jokes hidden in kid's movies.
  9. Cute cloth diapers.
  10. "Baby" Carriers
  11. Coffee
  12. Flavored syrups
  13. Caring Midwives
  14. Awesome Doulas
  15. Yoga pants
  16. Giant closets
  17. Fleece blankets
  18. Hair color in rainbow colors
  19. Social Media outlets. I know, but I DO get a lot of good things out of it!
  20. Braxton Hicks. Trying to think positive here.
  21. My mom, now that we have things figured out.
  22. My sister, for everything she does for us.
  23. My brothers, who are awesome uncles.
  24. My dad, who is the kindest grumpy old man ever.
  25. Amazing support communities
  26. Properly cooked bacon: crisp, but not brittle
  27. Leftovers
  28. The Hunger Games series
  29. Knit hats
  30. Knit scarves
  31. Wool coats
  32. My chiropractor! 
  33. Grace. The only thing keeping me from drowning in guilt.
  34. Brothers playing and laughing together
  35. Music, to match any mood, and alter them as well.
  36. Tea. From soothing and warm to robust and iced!
  37. Sleep. Uninterrupted, warm and cozy sleep.
  38. Family bed. Knowing my whole family is tucked and safe in arms reach.
  39. Washer and dryer in my house. Dirty diapers don't make friends in laundromats.
  40. My camera, so I can have more memories on record than my mind can hold.
  41. Belly Buddies: Jorje, Shannon, Dionna, Roxanne, Lauren, and even those whose babies weren't ready for this world.
  42. Freshly made beds. 
  43. The health of my family.
  44. Scented candles
  45. The Library
  46. My neti pot
  47. Restaurants, especially ones  that work with our food sensitivities.
  48. Bubble baths
  49. People who can have respectful conversation, even if our ideas don't match.
  50. Yarn
  51. Being able to create things from yarn.
  52. Irving Berlin, for writing a soundtrack to this list. 
  53. Klesick Family Farms for their organic produce delivery
  54. Homebirth
  55. My husband's job.
  56. Health insurance
  57. My ability to sew
  58. Living in a mostly like-minded area
  59. Disney
  60. Le Leche League: for helping me find my tribe and giving me a place to help others
  61. Yoga, for helping my body stay loose and able to breath.
  62. People who fight for what is right, in hopes of a better future for all
  63. The family spa at the rec center.
  64. Massage
  65. The holiday season and its reminder to us to think of others.
  66. Intuitive parenting and how it helps our family
  67. Learning acceptance of my emotions
  68. Trader Joe's. 
  69. Zumba
  70. Babylegs, sometimes the only thing my kids will wear.
  71. Skype playdates
  72. Pickles: can't be sad while eating a pickle!
  73. Cheese, and it's many personalities and combinations.
  74. Movies. A great break from reality.
  75. Slipper socks
  76. Hot showers
  77. Public Transportation. It saves us so much!
  78. "Traveling" maternity clothes, so we don't all have to buy a new wardrobe.
  79. Stores who recognize the need for allergy sensitive foods.
  80. Candles
  81. Children's joy of learning, always inspiring more learning for all of us.
  82. My Crock Pot
  83. "Vaginas at Christmas"
  84. Good microbrews
  85. Good wine
  86. Hugs, even though I am still learning to accept them.
  87. Children's programming I can watch with my kids.
  88. The Natural Parents Network team.
  89. Blogger, for the space to share myself.
  90. The support and readiness I feel after my Mother Blessing.
  91. Christmas music
  92. Holiday movies
  93. Gorgeous maternity portraits
  94. My garden
  95. Nutritional supplements that help when food is not enough.
  96. New batteries in my car key clicker after 2 years without.
  97. Home
  98. Bedtimes
  99. Friends who can explain bloggy tech speak to me
  100. That my life is amazing enough to have 100 things to share I am grateful for!

Check out some other grateful people this Thanksgiving and holiday season, and feel free to share yours!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Wordless Wednesday November 23rd, 2011: Mother Blessing

Pictures by HoboMama and by my mama.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Meal Plan Monday November 14th, 2011: The Thanksgiving Special

Because we have enough leftovers from last week, and plans with family coming to town this week, I decided to take this chance to share how we do Thanksgiving. We have used this plan for almost the entire time my husband and I have lived together, once we realized that dinner hopping, and spending a lot of time stressing about timing is just not fun. So, our baking and cooking starts Monday, and come Thursday all that is left is turkey in the oven while we relax and watch the parade and movies with the family (we are not football people).

Monday: Breads
This will be more important this year, since we need to make some gluten free options. Rolls mostly, as well as the pie crusts to be prepped. Also, preparing stuffing bread.

1 Pie Crust
1 cup (16 Tbs.)  Jules Gluten Free™ All-Purpose Flour 
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Tbs. shortening, butter or non-dairy alternative
3 Tbs butter or non-dairy alternative
2 – 3 tablespoons cold water
egg wash (1 egg + 1 Tbs. water) OR milk (dairy or non-dairy) for brushing on crust
In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.  Cut in the shortening and butter using flat paddle attachment on a stand mixer OR a pastry cutter.  Add the water gradually to make the consistency you need to form a ball – err on the side of it being wetter rather than crumbly.  Form a disc with the dough, wrap in plastic* and set aside on the counter for 30 minutes while you make your filling.
After allowing the dough to rest, roll the pastry out onto a surface dusted with flour. Roll to a diameter at least 1 inch larger than your pie pan.  Gently lift an edge of the rolled out crust over your rolling pin and use the pin to lift the crust so that it is supported by the rolling pin as you lift it onto your pie plate.  Pat into shape and fill with your desired filling.
*This is where I would stop on Monday, and put in the refrigerator overnight.

Tuesday: Desserts
You just can't have a Thanksgiving meal end without pie. We typically do Sweet Potato, Pumpkin, and an Apple. The sweet potato pie I make is demanded by those who have had it in the past. I love that this recipe comes from Mike's Grandma Dell's only cook book, that has since been passed to him. It is a 1961 publication of Betty Crocker's New Picture Cook Book. It is such a lovely collection of recipes and interesting quips on proper wifely behavior.

Perfect Sweet Potato Pie
Sweet Potato Pie (9" pie)
1 3/4 cup mashed cooked sweet potatoes
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups milk
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
1 tbsp butter, melted
Heat oven to 425. Beat all ingredients, pour into prepared shell and bake 45-55 minutes or until knife inserted 1" from side of filling comes out clean. Center will set later. Serve after set or chilled.

Wednesday: Sides
All these dishes are prepared in oven safe containers so that all they need is to be cooked through before eating. It also allows flavors to combine, especially in the cranberry sauce, which we like to serve chilled.

Green Bean Casserole: Not that mushy fair you might remember.
We blanched and froze green beans from the garden just to have for this dish. Usually we would make our own cream of mushroom soup (it really is pretty easy, and WAY better than the canned stuff) but this year we are using Pacific Foods condensed cream of mushroom. Topped with homemade gluten free french fried onions, and I finally have a green bean casserole I don't have to force feed people.

Sweet Yams
I love the pretty color combination by using both sweet potatoes and yams. Peeled, chopped, tossed in a baking dish. Then I drizzle with some maple syrup, add a little water to the bottom, cover and cook until soft. Then, of course, we top with marshmallow and broil to crispy brown.

Cranberry Sauce
Now, my siblings insist that it isn't cranberry sauce unless it is shaped like a can. I am learning that I like fresh, as long as it has ample time to chill and the flavors to meld.

2 bags (12 oz each, ) Cranberries
1  1/3 cups water or juice (cranberry, pomegranate, and orange are good)
2 cups of Sugar or honey

Combine and cook until berries start to pop. Chill, and serve!

6 cups Gluten Free bread cubes
1 cup carrots, diced
1/2 cup celery, diced
1/2 cup onion, diced
1 apple, diced
1 tsp sage
1 tsp celery seed
1tsp thyme
1 tsp rosemary
1/2 cup water or white wine (more or less depending on how moist or dry you like your dressing)

Saute carrots, celery, onion, and apple until bright colored and slightly softened. Add seasonings. Deglaze pan with water or wine. Quickly toss with bread cubes, cover and bake until heated through.

Thursday: Turkey Day!

And it really IS all about the turkey today. Since we started using organic, free-range birds, Thanksgiving has tasted even better.  I know brining is what all the top notch chefs tell you to do, but we have not seen that the added time and effort makes a big enough difference for the results achieved. Instead we rub the whole thing down with butter, getting some under the skin, and stuffing it with apples and aromatic herbs. (In the pictures above, we also threw some extra carrots, celery, and potato for making gravy from the drippings.) Heat up oven to 500, bake for about 30 minutes, lower heat to 300 and cook until internal temp reaches about 160. IF turkey starts to brown faster than temperature is rising, cover with foil to finish. Remove from oven, cover with foil if you haven't already, and leave to rest for 15-20 minutes.

While the turkey is roasting and resting it is time to heat up the sides made on Wednesday, as well as making the mashed potatoes and gravy (Sorry I can't help you with the gravy, that is Mike's forte). Ends up making for little more than an hour of actual kitchen time on the big day itself! Trust me, it is great.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Wordless Wednesday November 9th, 2011: Yoga!

I have a prenatal yoga DVD from the library. L1 loves to join in, though it doesn't usually last very long. This time, I think we made it about 30 minutes!

Making use without a yoga block.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Children with Knives! (And other Kitchen Tools)

Welcome to the November Carnival of Natural Parenting: Kids in the Kitchen
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by" target="_blank">Hobo Mama and" target="_blank">Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how kids get involved in cooking and feeding. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

I'll admit, I laugh a little inside when people tell me that kids in the kitchen is dangerous. That they shouldn't "play" with knives. Well, ok. No, they shouldn't PLAY with knives. They should be taught the right way to handle a knife. So, we have our Rules for Knives and we offer a few versions of knives, to work up to and practice these skills.

Rules for Knives
1. Only adults get out knives. The only time you may have a knife is if you are handed one.
2. Knives stay on the cutting boards. The end of the knife should stay on the cutting board, no pointing or moving about with a knife.
3. Don't lick the knife.

The "Play" Knife
For all manner of play foods: mostly wood and felt. Rare chance of actual damage being done, but isn't actually good for anything but play foods. The important part is trying to emphasize real knife safety in the playing.

The Practice Knife
We bought this knife with the idea that it would be a good teaching tool. Turns out, it is about the same tool you can get in a pumpkin carving kit. It is ok for teaching and letting them use on soft foods (bread, cheese, tomatoes) while we are cutting and not 100% eyes on, but it is dull. Dull knives can actually be dangerous because of the extra effort and force you need to get them to cut. Extra force can lead to loss of control and accidents. So it really needs just as much supervision as a sharp knife, so we figure "Why not teach them with a real knife?"

The Real Deal
Only L1 has graduated to the Real Deal knife skills. We stay close, doing our best to stay calm and enforce the rules. He does remarkably well, but don't kids tend to surprise us with how well they can handle things when you are patient, calm, and trusting. I have come to learn that children behave irresponsibly with knives when we make them off limits and don't take the time to teach them how to be responsible with them. Not that we haven't had to make the decision for him that he is not in a responsible mood and needed to switched gears.

He noticed the camera, next words to him were "Watch your knife and fingers."
Other Kitchen Tools
There are plenty of other tools that your child can benefit from learning how to use in the kitchen. Mandolins with good safety features, cheese graters, salad spinners, citrus juicers, you name it. Kids LOVE to try new things, help, and be with their parents! So, go for it!

Do you work with your child in the kitchen? What tools do they like to use?


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

Monday, November 7, 2011

Meal Plan Monday: November 7th, 2011

Broccoli Cheddar Potato Soup
Thai-Style Pumpkin Soup

Thai Style Pumpkin Soup (My family is already asking for this again!)

Halibut Casserole

Spaghetti with Green Sauce

Baked Spaghetti Squash and Meatballs

Breakfast for Dinner: Eggs, Bacon, and Hash browns.

Chili Cheese Baked Potatoes

Arroz Con Queso
16oz can crushed tomatoes
2 cups cooked black beans
1 1/2 cups uncooked rice
1 onion-chopped
1 cup cottage cheese
4oz chopped green chilies
2 tbsp oil
3 tsp minced garlic
2 cups Monterrey jack cheese - shredded, divided

Combine all ingredients in crock pot, leaving out 1 cup of cheese. Cook on low until liquid is absorbed. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.

What's for dinner this week at your house?  Find other great menu plans at Organizing Junkie.